Nigella Lawson: Dishes For Fall, Quick And Tasty

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson in London.

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson in London. Rosie Greenway/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Rosie Greenway/Getty Images

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The autumn leaves are falling — and food writer Nigella Lawson is ready to share some of her favorite autumn recipes. With ingredients like butternut squash, pears and chestnut puree, many of the flavors are mellow but tart, with an earthy sweetness.

And while many people may be sad to see the end of summer, Lawson isn't one of them, she told Steve Inskeep.

"I welcome the fall with open arms. The idea that it's going to get a bit chillier, and I can be in the kitchen stirring something, seems to me a fantastic state of affairs."

As for the ingredients she recommends for cooking dishes this time of year, Lawson said, "Pumpkin is great, but I think butternut squash is, in a way, easier for the cook."

The problem, she said, is that there are so many types of pumpkins — and many of them are more decorative than flavorful. Squash, on the other hand, are much easier to depend upon.

And squash can be easy to work with, too. For instance, Lawson said that she will usually seed them and chop them up — but she leaves the skin on.

"I'm a lazy person, so I'm always looking for ways to eat fabulously well — without too much effort," she said.

Once the roasted butternut squash comes out of the oven, Lawson crumbles blue cheese over the chunks, letting the tangy bits play against the sweet and mellow gourd. And she adds pecans, which are plentiful in the autumn.

The dish can substitute for a meat entree, Lawson said. And if you have some nice salad leaves around, you can allow the squash mixture to cool, and toss it with the mixed leaves.

"It's a great first-course salad," Lawson said. And that versatility is important.

"I think when food tastes good," Lawson said, "you should not try and limit its opportunities to be eaten."

While she always enjoys fresh vegetables, Lawson said she has gotten over her distaste for buying pre-chopped foods.

"If you buy [vegetables] that have been chopped and straight-away frozen," Lawson said, "they are actually still perfectly good for you — and sometimes we need that standby" for when unexpected guests arrive.

"My mother, however, obviously, would be turning in her grave," Lawson said. "But sometimes we have to do things that displease our mothers."

Asked to name a nice dessert to finish off an autumnal meal, Lawson seized on the Mont Blanc. The dish, she said, is what her grandfather would have called "landscape cookery."

Chocolate stands in for the soil; chestnut puree represents the mountain, with cream as the snowy peak.

"And then, as my brother would say, I apply it to my face," Lawson said. "It's so delicious."

Quickly Scaled Mont Blanc

With chocolate, chestnut and cream, this version of the Mont Blanc doesn't take a lot of time. i i

With chocolate, chestnut and cream, this version of the Mont Blanc doesn't take a lot of time to prepare. Lis Parsons/From 'Nigella Express' by Nigella Lawson. hide caption

itoggle caption Lis Parsons/From 'Nigella Express' by Nigella Lawson.
With chocolate, chestnut and cream, this version of the Mont Blanc doesn't take a lot of time.

With chocolate, chestnut and cream, this version of the Mont Blanc doesn't take a lot of time to prepare.

Lis Parsons/From 'Nigella Express' by Nigella Lawson.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 meringue nests (approx. 3 inches in diameter each), from a packet
  • 1 1-lb can sweetened chestnut puree or spread, such as Clement Faugier

This is a pared-down, lazy person's Mont Blanc, the traditional dessert of chestnuts, chocolate, and cream. Think of it as gastro-geography: Crumbled chocolate is the soil; chestnut puree the mountain; cream the snow; the final scattering of meringue, fresh snowfall. Sounds whimsical, but when something tastes like this you don't care about anything else.

I cannot have too much chestnut at this time of year, and please consider doing a variant of the Nutella Pancakes on page 374, replacing the Nutella with sweetened chestnut puree and the Frangelico liqueur with rum. You could substitute some broken pieces of marrons glacés for the chopped hazelnuts, but you could just as easily leave them out altogether.

Instructions:

Chop the chocolate with a mezzaluna, sharp knife, or in a food processor until you have rubbly shards. Divide the chocolate among 6 smallish glasses – with about 1/2-cup capacity.

Lightly whip the cream, and crumble and fold through one of the meringues.

Dollop the chestnut puree or spread, on top of the chocolate rubble. Then spoon over the cream and meringue mixture, crumbling a little more meringue over the top of each one.

Serves 6

Excerpted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson. Photographs by Lis Parsons. Copyright (c) 2007 Nigella Lawson. Published in the United States by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Butternut Squash With Pecans And Blue Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 lbs butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 stalks fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 cups crumbled Roquefort or other blue cheese

This has many strings to its bow: It serves as a vegetarian alternative to the Thanksgiving turkey; it gussies up a plate of cold leftover turkey; it adds the right balance of mellow warmth and tang to any plain wintry dish; it is a good whole meal on days when you just feel fleshed out.

Instructions:

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Halve the squash, leaving the skin on, and scoop out the seeds, then cut into 1-inch cubes; you don't need to be precise, just keep the pieces uniformly small.

Put into a roasting pan with the oil and strip about 4 stalks of thyme of their leaves, sprinkling over the butternut squash. If you can't get any fresh thyme, sprinkle over dried. Roast in the oven for about 30-45 minutes or until tender.

Once out of the oven, remove the squash to a bowl and scatter over the pecans and crumble over the cheese, tossing everything together gently.

Check the seasoning and add the last couple of stalks of thyme, torn into small sprigs, to decorate.

Serves 6-8

Excerpted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson. Photographs by Lis Parsons. Copyright (c) 2007 Nigella Lawson. Published in the United States by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Books Featured In This Story

Nigella Express

Good Food, Fast

by Nigella Lawson and Lis Parsons

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