It’s here. The long days have gone and the heating is on. I could prattle on about my adoration for autumn (reader, I will) but the arrival of a new season always leaves me a bit out of sorts. Nature is a celebration of being alive, so just as the changing colours bring me joy, they also make me sad. Autumn is the most melancholy time of year, a cruel mistress who leads you in with her beauty but eventually leaves you cold – literally.
I’ve talked to friends and I know I’m not the only one feeling a bit down in the dumps. Maybe it’s the sudden flurry of activity. The back to school season is a welcome wake-up call after somnolent summer days but it’s a shock to the system, like the sharpness of early morning frost.
All we can do is to be kind to ourselves and to others. Talk, listen, spend time alone. Go for walks or sweat it out at the gym, get some sunlight, and when it’s dark, hunker down with books and boxsets. The Danes might be on to something with that hygge stuff.
And eat well. I haven’t really had the time or inclination to cook recently but you don’t have to slave away in the kitchen to make a comforting and nourishing bowl of something. This is where spaghetti comes into its own and when I (politely) tell the pasta police to jog on. This is not the time of year for diets. If Eat Pray Love, a film I have actively avoided until recently (the yoga and the AWOL commas did it for me), has taught me anything it’s that enjoying your food really is a lot more fun than counting calories. Mind you, the scene in which two skinny women try to ‘squeeze’ into jeans is mildly irritating.
Anyway, if you’re feeling a bit lost, the film might cheer you up a bit – much like these spaghetti dishes which will be ready in under ten minutes. They can be made for a solo supper or to feed a family of four and you can use as much or as little of the ingredients as you want. I recommend that you always serve generous portions.
I’ve been using wholemeal spelt spaghetti because it feels a bit healthier but any version will do. If you’re hungry and want a heartier meal, add a tin of lentils or chickpeas or some crushed nuts.
For this, I used some home-grown tomatoes (thanks to Sarah and Nick for trusting me to keep a plant alive – and to Helen who actually kept it alive) but there are loads of sumptuous seasonal varieties in greengrocers and supermarkets right now.
Bring a pan of water to the boil (add salt if desired). Take as much spaghetti as you need and cook for 8-10 minutes, depending on how al dente you like your pasta. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan then add some cherry tomatoes and gently squash down into the pan. Add a sprig of thyme and half a sliced chilli and cook for a few minutes. Drain the spaghetti, add to the pan, stir, and serve with a big squeeze of lemon juice, torn basil leaves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
I love the freshness of this. The lemon gives zing to the woodiness of the mushrooms and the chilli adds extra fire to the peppery watercress. If you want a life-affirming dish, this is it.
Bring a pan of water to the boil (add salt if desired). Take as much spaghetti as you need and cook for 8-10 minutes, depending on how al dente you like your pasta. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan then add sliced mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes. Squeeze over a bit of lemon juice, then add half a sliced chilli, some black olives and capers (you can add a bit of the water or brine from the jar too) and some flaked almonds. Cook for another couple of minutes, then add the watercress and stir in. Drain the spaghetti, add to the pan, stir, and serve with another squeeze of lemon juice, torn basil leaves and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.