Simple autumn pleasures

After the long hot summer I always look forward to the arrival of autumn. Sad though it is to say goodbye to cool, refreshing, summer food for another year; autumn brings its own delights. The days may start to get a little shorter but on the food front there are plenty of culinary compensations to be enjoyed. The flavours are more powerful and pronounced, as the ingredients lend themselves to more robust, earthy dishes with game, root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin and wild mushrooms all coming into season. So don’t let the prospect of those winter months ahead depress you, the changing weather is a good excuse for treating yourself to some hearty slow-cooked dishes and classic comfort food.


When I’m looking for an easy option for classic, simple, comfort food at home; I often turn to pork belly. Still a relatively cheap cut, pork belly yields beautiful soft flesh and crisp crackling when slow-roasted. Fatty and rich, pork belly becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender after some time in the oven or on a barbeque. Paired with root vegetables and lentils, added to curries, or marinated and roasted until crispy, it’s as versatile as it is delicious. On a recent trip to China I enjoyed pork belly in so many different ways but when I’m cooking at home, I prefer to just slow roast a big piece by throwing it in the oven and forgetting about it for a while.


My rosemary-roasted pork belly marries well with root vegetables and I’m serving it with celeriac. It has a similar taste to celery and can be mashed, roasted, boiled, steamed or made into soup. It is available from mid-September and works well with almonds, wild mushrooms, truffles and lime. Peeled celeriac will darken so toss it in lemon juice or add a little juice to the cooking water. When choosing your celeriac try to go for roots that are less than four inches diameter, as the smaller, younger roots tend to be much more tender and less woody. Celeriac can also be baked in salt and it makes quite a fun centrepiece for the table.




Ingredients         serves 6


2 kg boneless pork belly

4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

60ml olive oil

1tbsp sea salt flakes

4 rosemary sticks, roughly chopped


Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F).

Rub the olive oil and sea salt into the pork skin and leave to marinate for 2 hours.

Arrange the crushed garlic cloves over the base of a baking tray. Place the pork belly skin-side down on top of the garlic and cook for 1-½ hours. Increase the heat to 180°C (355°F). Turn over the pork belly and sprinkle with the chopped rosemary. Cook for a further 45 minutes or until the skin is golden and crunchy. Slice into portions and serve with celeriac & potato mash.


Celeriac & potato mash


400g potatoes, peeled and diced

600g celeriac, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, peeled & crushed

40g butter

150 ml cream or crème fraîche

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook celeriac in large pot of boiling salted water 5 minutes and then add the potatoes and garlic cloves to pot; cook for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain well and return the vegetables to the pot; stir over medium-high heat until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the butter. Mash the vegetables until the butter is incorporated. Add the cream and puree until almost smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.







Salt baked celeriac



1 medium celeriac, base sliced off, green top left on

3 free-range egg whites

700g table salt

5 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped

110ml olive oil

Sea salt flakes, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper



Preheat the oven to 190C/350F/Gas 5.

Place the celeriac in a roasting tray.

Mix the egg whites, table salt and rosemary together in a large bowl until the mixture forms a paste.

Cover the celeriac in a 2cm thick layer of the salt paste, ensuring there are no gaps. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes.


When the salt-baked celeriac has cooked, remove it from the oven, place on a plate. At the table, chip away the salt crust and scoop out the baked celeriac into a bowl. Add a splash of olive oil to the celeriac, then season, to taste, with sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Mix the celeriac with a fork until combined and enjoy!

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