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October 26, 2009

There is something really rather wonderful about the light in autumn. The sun draws a low arc in the sky and the light filters through a greater thickness of atmosphere, embuing a warmth to the spectral palette. It’s low tragectory puts obstacles in the path of the light: trees, clouds, umbered leaves and frigid morning mists, all colouring, fracturing, refracting the solar glow.

The autumn light is a particularly flattering, not harsh and bleaching like the summer sun, nor the flat milk of winter. As it plays across the soft, furled greens of the kitchen garden it flatters the form and colouration of the edible delights awaiting the knife or spade; the warmth, texture and structure of the sunlight has sparked a little burst of inspiration to create something similar in the kitchen. I want to try and capture a little of this light and put it on an (imaginary) plate – create a truly autumnal dish, one to eat in the garden as the October sun slips toward the horizon and a shortening day comes to a close.

We will start with a butternut squash, perhaps the most autumnal of fruits. Peel and cube it, then toss it in a roasting tin with some thick sliced potatoes, olive oil, crushed dried chilli, cumin and ground coriander. Roast at 200 degrees Celsius until cooked and a little crispy around the edges. Meanwhile, take some coarse breadcrumbs and mix with a little olive oil, parsley, and chopped hazlenuts. Throw this mix into the pan for the last 10 minutes or so, to toast and crisp up.  

The squash’s muted orange browns gently when roasted, capturing perfectly the autumn colour, while the blend of textures  (the silk of the squash, the wax and crisp of the potatoes and the nutty crunch of the nuts and crumbs) reflect the  nubby glow of an autumn afternoon. 

There is still a little warmth in the autumn sun, which warms backs at work in the garden, and so the roasted ingredients are mixed with some autumn leaves – rocket and spinach, maybe, with a little dressing – for a little nod back to the summer salads just past, while the smokey heat of the dried chilli is looking forward to the log fires and hearty food of winter.

I can almost taste it.

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