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These homely dishes are guaranteed to warm up these autumn days

Delicious: Pear and almond tart
Delicious: Pear and almond tart

September is a time when we turn to some of our favourite comfort foods that remind us of positive memories of meals made for us by our loved ones.

One supper I always looked forward to was Mum’s cottage pie, but I have adapted the recipe to include a creamy garlic mash that is a great hit with adults and children alike. Sometimes I make the mash using root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and parsnips, and I sometimes use sweet potatoes instead. 
My second recipe is for a pear and almond tart, made with some sweet pears in frangipane on a sweet pastry base, topped with delicious toasted flaked almonds. This is a lovely treat, especially served warm with some custard, or cold with a scoop of your favourite ice-cream.
I would normally recommend blind baking the pastry case before adding the filling, but in this case it’s not necessary as the filling isn’t runny or likely to make for a soggy base. Apples, plums or blackberries can be used at this time of the year if preferred.
These recipes are sure to make warm memories in your home too.
Pear and Almond Tart (Serves 4 - 6)
  • 6-8 pears, peeled and halved
  • 450g shortcrust pastry (see below)
  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 25g cornflour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • Apricot jam, to glaze
  • 2 tbsp water
For the Poaching Syrup
  • 900ml water
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • for the Shortcrust Pastry
  • 350g plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 175g butter
  • 1 level tablespoon sugar
  • 6–8 tablespoons ice cold water 
  1. Peeling and removing the seeds from pears, slice each in half. In a large saucepan, add 1½ pints of water, 200g caster sugar and a lemon sliced into wedges. Bring the mixture to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the pears. Cook for 10-12 minutes until the pears have softened, remove the pears from the syrup and allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. Lightly grease a 9” tart tin, line the tin with the pastry and trim the edges. 
  3. To make the frangipane place the butter, sugar, almonds, cornflour and eggs into a bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture over the pastry, and place the halved pears on top. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  4. To make the glaze, mix 1 tablespoon of apricot jam with 2 tablespoons of water and heat over a moderate heat until the jam has dissolved. In the meantime, remove the tart from the oven and glaze immediately.
  5. To make the pastry, sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the salt. Cut the butter into pieces and add this to the flour and salt. Using the tips of your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sugar. Mix in the water, gradually, until it all comes together into a ball. Knead lightly to achieve a smooth pastry and then wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour but for longer if time will allow.

Roasted Garlic Cottage Pie (Serves 4 - 6)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 3–4 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme
  • 750g minced  beef
  • 2 tsp tomato puree 
  • 200ml red wine or 150ml beef stock
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
For the Garlic Mash
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • Olive oil
  • 6–8 potatoes, chopped
  • 25g (2 tbsp) butter
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • Salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°C/Gas Mark 5. First, make the mash. Put the potatoes into a large saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are softened and cooked through. Strain and return them to the saucepan for a minute or two, then add the butter and milk. Squeeze in the roasted garlic and season with salt and black pepper. Mash until completely smooth.
  2. While the potatoes and garlic are cooking, make the pie filling. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme and saute for 3-4 minutes until the onion is just beginning to soften but has not yet coloured.
  3. Stir the meat into the pan and cook for 5–6 minutes until browned. Stir in the tomato puree and the red wine or stock and cook gently for another 15–20 minutes. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, if using.
  4. Place the beef in an ovenproof casserole dish. Pipe or spoon the mashed potato on the top of the meat mixture.
  5. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the filling is bubbling hot and the topping is golden. Serve with some crisp green veg.