Clinging on to Summer

Autumn is, without a doubt my favourite season.  I love the changing colour of the trees, the chill of the morning air, the first day you can see your breath, and most of all, the golden evening light.  These are the days I want to spend my whole life outside.  As soon as autumn rolls around I feel rejuvenated, refreshed and ready for whatever happens next.

This year, however, autumn hasn't followed its usual pattern.  Yes, the leaves are falling, and yes it's getting cooler.  The light of the evenings is still as golden as ever, and yet it's not giving me the same amount of pleasure it used to.  My yearly love affair with the season isn't as thrilling as it used to be.  Instead, I feel very restless.

It took me a while to figure out why I felt like this, but it was actually quite simple.  For the first time in my life, autumn doesn't mean back to school.  I've graduated, and so have no new term to throw myself into.  I have no coursework deadlines or exams looming.  The only thing stretching out before me is my life.  My future.

This prospect is, of course, far too terrifying for me to comprehend, so in the logical manner I usually conduct myself in, I simply refused to acknowledge the end of summer.  This appeased the restlessness, and the fear of what-on-earth-do-I-do-next abated.  A little.

And what better way to immerse yourself in somewhere you are not, or something than does not exist, than with food?  The dinner that follows is my meagre, but rather successful, attempt to create summer within my flat.  Sure, me and my guests were wearing woolly jumpers as we ate, and we had to try to ignore the fact it was dark at seven, but as we ate a long, slow and shared dinner, with bright, warm flavours, drank plenty of soft, warm wine and huddled round the expanse of candles (as much for warmth as they were for decoration) it felt like summer.  It felt like a holiday, and life paused, just for a night.

An Inauthentic Borek
makes six

six sheets of filo pastry
200g grams of feta
one egg
a big handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
150g butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 200c

Crumble the feta into a bowl.  I like to use my hands to mash it up a little.  Then crack the egg into the cheese, mixing with a fork.  When it is mixed - it won't be perfect - stir through the parsley, salt and pepper.  You only need a little salt, but a healthy amount of pepper.

Lay out the first sheet of filo and brush all over with the melted butter.  Lay the next sheet on top, and brush that with melted butter.  Lay another sheet over the top, and brush.

Cut the filo into three long rectangles.  Spoon a little of the feta mixture onto the short end of the pastry and roll, folding the sides in to contain the filling.

Repeat until you have six cigar-shaped parcels.

Lay on a baking tray and brush all over with more melted butter.

Bake for twelve to fifteen minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp.

good served with a little tzatziki 

Prawns with Harissa and Feta
enough for four

olive oil
four cloves of garlic, finely chopped
three big teaspoons of sugar
a tiny, thumnail sized piece of ginger, finely chopped.
a large glass of white wine
six large vine tomatoes, roughly chopped
two teaspoons of oregano
two teaspoons of harissa
one tin of peeled cherry tomatoes
400g raw tiger prawns.  If peeled, fine.  If not, peel and reserve the shells.
200g of feta, crumbled into chunks.
5 spring onions, thinly sliced.
the juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 220c

If you happen to have the shells of the prawns, place them into a saucepan with a little olive oil.  Let them caramelize slightly before pouring in the wine and letting it reduce.  Then strain the wine into a jug, jar or bowl, whatever you have around, ready to use later.

Warm the oil in a big, oven proof pan,  I use a cast iron casserole, over a low to medium heat.

Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the ginger and the sugar.  Leave for another two or three minutes, without stirring, before pouring in the wine.  Turn up the heat and let the wine bubble for a few minutes.  Then add the fresh tomatoes.

Let the tomatoes cook and steam in the wine for about five minutes before stirring in the oregano and harissa.  Pour in the can of chopped tomatoes and leave to simmer for a good twenty minutes.  Have a taste and make sure you like it. It should be saucy rather than a stew, slightly spicy, and slightly sweet.  Keep in mind when seasoning that the prawns will add sweetness, the feta will add saltiness, the onions freshness and the lemon will keep it sharp.

When the sauce is delicious, thick and slightly syrupy, toss in the prawns, and scatter over the feta and spring onions and slip it into the oven for 3-5 minutes.  The prawns should be just cooked and the feta slightly browned.

Finish with a squeeze of lemon and serve with some crisp lettuce leaves and warm bread.