The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been.
- English poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, 1816
Sunshine, wafer-crisp air and a cloudless sky beckon us to relish the best of autumn days.
Apples and other autumn fruits are ripe for the picking at local orchards. Plump black figs on a neighbour's tree hang lusciously over the fence. My mouth begins to water, as I can almost taste them poached in a sugar and brandy syrup. I look upon my afternoon walks as 'urban foraging'. At least, that's what I tell myself so as not to feel so guilty when I pluck a fig or two in earnest from their tree. My own have already finished bearing, you see.
In my kitchen, the fruit bowl is stacked with apples, pears, grapes and plums. A large pumpkin, soon-to-be risotto or soup, also graces the bench. Like a squirrel, I have tucked away hazelnuts and walnuts, foraged online from my favourite growers in the high country. The larder is stacked with rice, legumes, tins of tomatoes and noodles. If the cooler weather is to come, I be ready.
PUMPKIN RISOTTO WITH SMOKY BACON
100g smoky bacon (sliced thickly, fat on), cut into cubes
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
550g pumpkin, peeled and chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley sprigs, washed and finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, to serve
Have the vegetable stock simmering in a saucepan at the back of the stove. Brush the base of a heavy bottomed pan with the olive oil, then add the cubed bacon and toss over a medium heat for a few minutes. Stir in the onion and sauté until it is translucent. Now add the prepared pumpkin to the pan, and continue cooking until it begins to soften. Lower the heat a little if the onion is browning too much.
Add the Arborio rice and stir until the grains are coated with the fat from the bacon. At this point, stir in a ladle of the simmering stock. When the rice has absorbed all of the liquid, add another ladle of the stock. Keep adding the stock, a little at a time, stirring it in, until the rice begins to plump up. Finally, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley, along with the butter and a tablespoon of the shredded Parmesan. Season to taste with the sea salt and pepper, and serve, topped with more the Parmesan. This will serve 4.
Note: This is a long-time favourite recipe for pumpkin risotto, first shared in my newspaper column in the 1990s. It's a keeper.
It's your turn now, dear readers. Are you a fan of urban foraging? And are you ready for the change of season in your neck of the woods?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.