October is here! Incorporate these autumnal flavours into your weekly meals

Edinburgh’s icy wind has been picking up over the past few weeks, blowing in the first signs of autumn. There’s no escaping the approaching colder months, so to help you embrace them, why not sprinkle some autumnal spirit into your cooking?

Tackling the pumpkin

October means one thing, Halloween, and what’s more terrifying than the idea of attempting to cook a pumpkin? Fear not, pumpkin cooking need not give you nightmares if you follow some simple steps…

Don’t be tempted to pick out the biggest, shiniest pumpkin in the shop, save these for Halloween decoration. Instead, go for the sugar pumpkin, a smaller variety whose insides are softer and more flavourful. Additionally, the shinier the pumpkin, the less ripe it is – the ones with a matte surface will be much sweeter. Remember, it’s what’s inside that matters.

With this smaller, softer pumpkin you won’t have to source your nearest pickaxe to slice through it, but a sharp knife will make the process much easier. For the safest method, slice it straight down the middle, then lie one half on its flat side to cut.

After scooping out the insides (take a moment to recover from the horror you’ve just witnessed), don’t bother peeling the skin- it’s much easier to do after it has been cooked!

With these tips you’ll be ready to throw pumpkin into a range of recipes; traditional pumpkin pie, soup, curry, and it wouldn’t be autumn 2018 without pumpkin hummus.

Hot chocolate season

Despite reigning as queen of hot beverages, hot chocolate can easily disappoint with the quality of its flavour varying from café to café. Where can you best fulfil your chocolate-y cravings?

Black Medicine Coffee Co. on Nicholson Street provides a delicious setting for an exceptional mug full of hot chocolate (with marshmallows for no extra charge!). Or, for the connoisseurs, Chocolate Tree in Bruntsfield offers a range of indulgent flavours, from hazelnut to vanilla and rose.

We all know homemade hot chocolate is never quite as enjoyable as the café version, but to make it satisfyingly flavourful on a budget stir a teaspoon of vanilla extract into your steaming mug– a sweet secret that makes all the difference!

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Rejoice that it is the season of comfort food! This vegetarian lentil shepherd’s pie is the food version of the hug you need after trudging home from your 5 pm lecture. An adapted Delia Smith recipe that can easily be altered to be vegan!

Ingredients (serves four):

200g lentils

1 onion

2 carrots    

1 pepper

1 clove of garlic

1tsp mixed herbs

700g potatoes (peeled)

75g cheese (grated)

First, rinse the lentils then put them in a pan and cover them with water. Simmer for 30 minutes, until they have absorbed the water. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until soft and ready to mash.

Next, fry all the vegetables in a spoonful of butter until softened. Add the herbs, garlic, and then the lentils to the vegetable mixture and spoon into a baking dish.

Finally, mash the potato with plenty of butter and most of the cheese (add whatever your secret mash ingredient is; milk, mayo etc.) and spoon on top of the lentil mix. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top and cook at 190°C until beautifully golden.

Image: Nephentes Phinena via Flickr

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