The thing that made me realise it was autumn was when I noticed spiky green balls all over my driveway. Yes you've got it in one, it's conker time! CM has been having a whale of a time jumping on conkers. I have to plan an extra 20 minutes every time I need to go anywhere because the minute I open the front door she runs out shouting 'flatten it, flatten it!', something I guess I must have said when I introduced her to the art of conker collecting. Just like she runs around flapping her arms and saying 'kill it, kill it!' every time she sees a spider or an insect! Another phrase she must have learnt from me!
Collecting conkers is one of the most vivid memories from my childhood. My journey home from school included walking through a very long avenue if horse chestnut trees. Every day in conker season I used to rummage around finding the biggest, shiniest conkers and putting them in my pockets for safe keeping whilst my childminder stood patiently watching and waiting. She never once tried to hurry me or tell me I had enough even though it was approaching tea time and my coat pockets were starting to scrape the ground. It's one of those special memories you hope will stay with you forever.
But autumn also allows me to eat my favourite meals. Tasty, hearty comfort foods. My cooking is not particularly seasonal but I do follow a few patterns. Apart from the odd spring lamb casserole I rarely cook red meat in summer. But I do love lamb. We try not to eat red meat too often for health reasons but I think as long as it is lean meat once a week is fine. This recipe is delicious. A slight twist on a classic bolognese with thick ribbons of pasta and a sauce laced with the last of the summer rosemary and mint from our garden.
And while it is simmering it gives me a chance to take CM out for some more conker collecting. I only wish I was patient as my childminder when CM asks for the millionth time
CM: "What's dat mummy?"
Me: "It's a conker darling"
Me: "Because it has fallen from a horse chestnut tree"
Me: "Because it's autumn"
Me: "Because. It. Just. Is!"
Lamb Ragu with Papardelle Pasta
(Serves 2-3 | total prep and cooking time minimum 1 hour)
- 1 onion - diced
- 3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
- 1 carrot - diced
- 2 sticks of celery - finely sliced
- 8-10 mushrooms - sliced
- 400g lamb mince
- 1 lamb stock cube dissolved in 200 ml of water
- tablespoon chopped mint
- 1 sprig of rosemary - chopped
- 120-150g dried Papardelle pasta
- olive oil
- cook pasta according to packet instructions
- brown the mince in a frying pan, draining off the excess fat
- heat the olive oil in another large frying pan or sauté pan
- fry the onions for a few mins until softened
- add the garlic, carrots and celery and stir for a few minutes
- add the mushrooms and stir for a few minutes
- add the browned mince and mix well
- add the herbs and stock and stir
- simmer for a minimum of 40 minutes, but the longer the better. Keep adding water if it starts to dry out
- add the drained pasta