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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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pie in the sky: roast chicken pie

The husband was dispatched to take care of the ingredients for last week’s supper club. I was too tired, too broke and had run out of every last scrap of inspiration.

I wasn’t surprised when he walked in with a roast chicken. The husband loves a roast chicken. I love a roast chicken. We all love a roast chicken. I was slightly surprised that he’d bought a roast chicken that was bigger than the average turkey. ‘Value,’ he pronounced proudly. ‘Great value compared to the smaller ones.’

It took two and a half hours to cook; supper club was more like breakfast club – but even after us four gannets had done our worst there was still a ridiculous amount leftover. Enough for a pie, no less. And now the evenings are drawing in and there’s a distinct chill in the air, the wind whispering ‘autumn’s here’ as it whistles past, a pie is in order.

Can anything be more pleasurable than stripping down a roast chicken? Especially when you scoop out the oysters, quickly glance over your shoulder to check no one’s looking and then pop them in your mouth. Consider it the cook’s privilege. Don’t worry mum, I washed my hands afterwards!

The husband was right, this chicken was good value. Roast chicken for four, pie for six (one large, two individual) and the stock I will make from the bones in due course – not to mention the gravy, all for £6. I am pretending to myself that this chicken lived in a little wood with plenty of space to roam free and was administered no growth hormones at all. Beggars can’t be choosers, as the saying goes.

pie in the sky: roast chicken pie

Serves: 6

The meat stripped from a large roasted chicken (I had two legs, wings and the odd scrap of breast plus the oysters that may or may not have made it into the pie. Ahem.)

1 punnet mushrooms, peeled and sliced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 glass white wine

A couple of sprigs thyme or rosemary if you have some in the garden

1 tub of leftover chicken gravy (I keep leftover gravy in the freezer)

1 tube pre-rolled puff pastry (no, I don’t make my own. Too time consuming and more expensive)

1 egg, whisked to brush over pastry

Preheat the oven to 200C. Fry the onion and mushrooms until soft, add in the chicken, then pour over the wine and gravy. Leave to simmer for a few minutes, until warmed through. If you have thyme in the garden, chuck in a couple of sprigs while it’s simmering.

Pour into a pie dish (individual or large), then top with a layer of pastry. Use any leftover pastry to decorate your pie top, pierce a couple of times to allow steam to escape while cooking, brush with egg then bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown

Serve with new potatoes and broccoli.

Postscript: I have a huge roast planned to celebrate the start of autumn, so if you are wondering how I go about making roast chicken and/or gravy, then all will soon be revealed!

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