One of my stocking fillers this year was an empty glass bottle with the words ‘Home-infused Olive Oil’ on it. Right, better get to it then. I decided to use the classic combination of punchy raw garlic and fragrant rosemary. The scent of rosemary is evocative, for me, of childhood summers spent running around the garden, pulling up reams of herbs and flowers in a very destructive manner.
The herb pot outside the back door has been stripped of its overflowing summer bounty by the inclement weather. However, the woody rosemary clings stubbornly on, its tough stems bracing against the fierce winter wind. I plucked the reluctant leaves from the plant, gave them a wash and squeezed them to release their aroma.
This is only one possible ‘infusion’- I have also tried chilli oil, where one or two (depending on your spice threshold) dried chillis are added to the oil. You could also try another herb, such as basil, oregano or thyme. The oil is best if left for at least a day to let the flavours infuse. As it is used, keep topping up with more oil, giving it a good shake, and it might even last until next Christmas.
I love autumn. The first evening snuggling up in front of a roaring fire, the wood still hissing with damp. The trees slowly turning, the tips of their leaves tinged with amber. The earthy smells of rotting leaves, woodsmoke and misty air. The return to substantial, comforting food, rather than flighty summer salads.
This pie epitomises the kind of food that I look forward to as the summer draws to a close. The kind of food I crave on a cold night, that provides solace and reassurance. There’s something about a rich, meaty filling topped with buttery pastry that sometimes just hits the spot, when nothing else will do.
This pastry recipe is a Delia (bless her) revelation. The butter is frozen, then grated into the flour, making a very quick flaky pastry that dispenses with all of the folding, rolling and resting that making puff pastry requires. The result is a pleasing mid-point between shortcrust and puff pastry.
I love the combination of lamb and chestnut mushrooms, and I added rosemary to the pastry as well as the filling. The red wine gives the filling an intensity and depth of flavour. I don’t usually drink red wine, as it seems to give me the mother of all hangovers, but I felt it was necessary to have a glass (which magically kept refilling itself) to accompany this meal.