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fall table - autumn decorations for harvest festival or halloween

I dearly love, and seize upon, any excuse to celebrate. Especially if it involves decorating. Or eating. Or both.

But it seems positively ages until Halloween. Eons. Too long, in fact, for this impatient soul. But we had eight guests due to join us for the inaugural roast of the year at the weekend and I wanted to get into the autumnal spirit. And so to Clissold Park to gather a satisfyingly crisp pile of dip-dyed fallen leaves, the shiniest of conkers and their spiky shells. A pumpkin and a squash, who have been spared the pot temporarily while I rejoice in my fall fantasy, complete the picture along with two splendid heathers, displaying every graduation of orange from ochre to burnt umber. Like Christmas, autumn deserves a riot of fabulous jewel-rich shades. It is not a time for pretty pastels and cool whites.

But the star of the show has to be the rescued runner. This is my precious chiffon of many colours. The self-same chiffon that was irredeemably paint splattered and ripped during the works and can no longer serve as a net curtain, but is too pretty to throw away.

And how much did it cost for total autumn immersion? £2.50 for the heathers, £3 for a pair of Halloween candle-holders that gripped me with their promise of better days to come while I was feeling in need of good cheer in Waitrose and £2.50 for the pumpkin and squash. £8 in all, which I will justify thus: it is less than a really nice bunch of autumn flowers and will last a lot longer. Plus, I will be eating the pumpkin and squash, the Halloween candle-holders will last forevermore and the heathers will sit nicely in my rather sad and defeated-looking borders. And it has made this rather tired, rather emotional and almost defeated blogger keep the smile on her face for another day. Bring on Halloween!

fall table - autumn decorations for harvest festival or halloween

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Sometimes you have to leave London to appreciate what time of year it is. August is just another month in the city but in the countryside the harvest is in full swing and huge balers are working flat out to bind up the straw into enormous golden wheels.

The sight of these huge mountains of hay reminded me of the many nights I spent at Yellow Bar as a student in Florence. We’d scoot into one of the booths, order a vat carafe of house red and a steaming plate of paglia e fieno (straw and hay). No this isn’t some strange student pre-loading ritual – paglia e fieno is the Italian name for green and yellow tagliatelle. In Yellow Bar, they served it with cream, pancetta and mushrooms. It was delicious.

Serves: 2

4 nests of tagliatelle ‘paglia e fieno’

1/2 tub mascarpone

100g bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces. Please note, the fine side of bacon you see above is from Sainsbury’s basics range. 670g for 99p. Yes, really. Amazing how posh it looks when you take it out the shrink wrap and pop it  in a wicker basket.

1 punnet chestnut mushrooms (reduced to 49p), peeled and sliced

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

A spring of thyme

A splash of olive oil

Lashings of parmesan to serve

Salt and pepper to taste

Plunge the pasta into salted boiling water and let it bubble away for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the bacon bits until crispy and brown, then set aside. Then fry the mushrooms, garlic and thyme in a splash of olive oil. Turn off the heat and add in the bacon and mascarpone and stir to a smooth silky sauce.

Drain the pasta, pour into the frying pan to coat with sauce and serve with a bowl of grated parmesan at the table.

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