It seems slightly surreal that in the last week of October, I am staring out of the window at rays of autumnal sunshine beaming down on the copper coloured leaves that are beginning to pile up on the lawn. It is 19 degrees out there, the same temperature as it was in August. Normally at this time of year, thoughts turn to warming soups, roast chestnuts, and slow braises like the Ox Cheek dish of my last post. But this year? This year is just weird. In the garden there are roses coming into flower for the third time. Geraniums that I put away a few weeks ago are now blooming again. Maybe it's time for a bbq.
By the end of October I can usually be found rummaging at the back of the kitchen cupboards searching for the fondue set which has been placed in hibernation for the summer, for the changing of the clocks signals the arrival of molten cheese season. Oh, how we welcome the day when it is deemed cold enough to fire up the burner under a bubbling blend of Emmental and Comte. Out comes a long stemmed fork, skewered with bread, to do battle in the swirling cheesy maelstrom. Into the yellow pond it goes, like a suspected witch on a ducking chair, before being raised up again and twirled, the stretchy cheese wrapping itself around the bread like bandages around a mummy. Then, when all the cheese has gone and our bellies can take no more, we scrape the golden crusty residue from the bottom of the pan and look forward to a night of crazy dreams.
If it's not fondue, then another classic at this time of year is the Savoyard dish, Tartiflette. A favourite in ski stations throughout the Alps, this is comfort food at its best. Hearty, warming, and a home to one of the great cheeses of France, Reblochon. Layers of onion, lardons and sliced potato mingle with cream and melted cheese in what can only be described as a calorific pile up. It is just sooooo good. Unless you are lactose intolerant, in which case, not so much.
At this time of year there are millions of recipes flying around featuring pumpkin, it being near Halloween and all. So here's my own Halloween treat, my tribute to Tartiflette with its own little pumpkin twist.
PUMPKIN GNOCCHI WITH FLAVOURS OF TARTIFLETTE
for the gnocchi (based on a recipe by David Everitt-Matthias of the Champignon Sauvage restaurant)
200g pumpkin flesh
½ beaten egg
100g smoked lardons
1 large onion, sliced
50ml white wine
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
200g reblochon cheese, sliced
Turn your oven on to 200°C. Place the pumpkin on a tray and drizzle with oil then cover in foil. Roast until the pumpkin is very soft then mash through a sieve into a bowl. Turn the oven down to 180°C
Meanwhile boil the potatoes gently with their skins on and when soft, peel them and mash them with a ricer. Weigh out 200g and place into the same bowl as the pumpkin. Gently mix with the flour, season well, then add the parmesan and egg and combine to form a dough. Try not to overhandle it.
Roll the dough out into two long sausages and cut each into 15 pieces. Lightly press each piece with the back of a fork to make indentations.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi until they float to the surface. Do this in three batches. When cooked, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and place in cold water, then drain well and coat with a little olive oil. Reserve.
In a frying pan, sweat the onion for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and the lardons. Cook for a further 5 minutes to render the fat from the lardons. Add the wine and allow to evaporate. Season with black pepper.
To serve, melt some butter in frying pan and toss in gnocchi. Fry until lightly covered and then transfer to an ovenproof dish. Mix in the onion and lardon mixture then pour over the cream then top with the reblochon. Place in the oven for 15 minutes until bubbling and golden. Serve hot.