Summer is over… The warmth still lingers, but the leaves turn all shades of bronze and start to fall. The nights draw in, and the weather brings misty mornings and cooler days.
Whether you are in town or in the country, there is melancholy in the air.
I love walking in the forest on a crisp day. The trees display a riot of colour – bronze, golden yellow, hues of burnt orange… The noise of leaves breaking underfoot and the smoky mist add a touch of mystery to the whole scene… Magical!
Autumn also brings changes of appetite and new riches to the table – an array of wild mushrooms, plump squashes, pumpkins, juicy apples, sweet pears, plums…The game season is under way with grouse, pheasant, partridge, wild duck and pigeon. After a bracing walk, one looks for roast dinners, comfort food with big flavours – hearty casseroles, vegetable packed pies…
Pack up your hamper, pull on your wellies and escape to the hills for a country adventure. After a long walk across the fields, everyone is famished. A picnic is the answer.
Here are some of my tips for a jolly picnic:
1. Folding tables and chairs are more comfortable, but I prefer a woollen blanket and some colourful cushions thrown on the ground.
2. A few vintage china plates can add a touch of class when you mix them with paper plates.
3. Do pack some glassware. Wine tastes so much better than out of plastic.
4. The food should be simple and fuss free, easy to prepare and easy to transport.
- How about making your own sausage rolls? Moreish! (see recipe)
- A chunk of good cheese and some country bread will go down well with a glass of red wine, or a hot spiced apple brew.
Here are a few delectable suggestions:
- Potato salads can be prepared well in advance – smoked mackerel or trout, or ham and saucisson, red onions and lots of herbs
- Chick peas, tuna and black olives is another easy-peasy one
- Green salads require the dressing to be added just before serving
In or out, you still need to set the scene. Over the table, spread a cloth of rich colours – orange, red, yellow. A bare wooden table can be dressed with linen sets and scattered with dried leaves. Hessian can create a more rustic look. Dripping candles or tea lights add to the warmth of the atmosphere.
available from www.waiterose.com £85
mini jacket potatoes with lardons and grated cheese
The occasion can be a Shoot, a Harvest or a Wine Festival. It can be served in the kitchen or in a barn with hay bales to sit on. If the weather permits, an outdoor tea can also be a treat.
I like using apples as tea light holders
candles in a wine box make an original table display
The food should be truly comforting – heart-warming soups, game casseroles, spicy curries… and to finish, seasonal fruit pies. All washed down with good wine, cider or beer served, if possible, in pewter goblets to add glamour to the occasion.
I like to serve Pumpkin Soup in its shell
1. Bouquets of wooden branches mixed with sunflowers, red and yellow dahlias, red and orange roses placed on the mantle piece set the scene.
2. On a rich coloured tablecloth, create an arrangement of copper beech leaves, bronze daisies, red and yellow dahlias, chrysanthemums…candles – lots of them. But you can also replace the flowers with an abundance of fruits – oranges, lemons, pumpkins, assorted dried nuts… in a sort of Caravaggio style.
A piece of antique bronze can be the centre piece of the table
3. The food should be rich in flavour – game soups, roasted venison, wild mushroom omelettes, terrines, truffle risottos and for desert apple and plum tarts and sweet compotes… and some good wines to wash it down.
oil painting by Bridget Langley www.cricketfineart.co.uk