Warming dishes, redolent of autumn emerged from our late October kitchen. Last year I made Halloween sweet treats for James to take to a party. This year, neither boy marked Halloween with anything more than a Netflix Stranger Things binge. It’s probably the first time they haven’t dressed up for the occasion.
A few weeks ago, Eric and I visited an elderly friend who has had a series of falls and is feeling less than his former confident, perky self. Nearing his ninetieth birthday, he’s led a very interesting life and we never tire of his stories of National Service, sporting successes and his incidental brushes with famous people. Sadly, his frailty and the location of his home causes him to be marooned for long periods. It was clear he needed an excursion and so it was that I made lunch for eight of us.
Soup is always received well. In honour of Lida, our Czech friend, I made goulash. There was only one taker for the alternative – squash and sweet potato soup – but everyone asked to try it and wanted to know the recipe. It’s simple, I told them, chicken or veg stock (whatever is lurking in the freezer), roasted veg and my secret ingredient – a tablespoonful or two of korma paste. Blitzed to a thick velvety soup, it rarely fails to please.
Returning to the goulash, prepared the day before and all the better for it, I asked Lida how it measured up to the real thing. She was too polite to make any negative comments but did ask where the dumplings were. As someone who was brought up on dumplings (it was even one of my grandmother’s pet names for me) I quizzed her about her family’s recipe. Unlike our version, it doesn’t feature suet, just eggs, milk and flour. She added that sauerkraut also regularly accompanies the soup/stew.
Rounding off the meal were winter spiced apple and plum crumbles and a creme caramel for sharing. The latter, flavoured with fresh ginger, curdled and was not a success. It tasted good but the texture was very, very wrong. In fact the only element of the recipe that pleased me was the caramel. I will revert to my tried and tested Raymond Blanc recipe in future.
I’m fickle when it comes to crumble. At the moment Felicity Cloake’s is my go-to recipe and I keep it in bulk in the freezer. However, I don’t deviate from my cooking the crumble separately routine. I love the separate crunchy morsels it guarantees.