A much-needed autumnal dose of sweetness and spice

Again, more dishes that have autumn written all over them. Not just in their golden and caramel colouring, but also in their rich stickiness and sweetness. I see no reason for not including fruit in two out of a meal's three courses, particularly when the cold weather comes around and you need the sugar to revitalise your spirits. 

To begin with, though, a mushroom, bacon and cheese tart. I can't take credit for this - it was kindly made by my lovely friend Jonny. Cooked mushrooms, pieces of bacon, grated cheese, and chopped parsley, all on a buttery flaky pastry base. I could probably have just eaten this and nothing else for dinner.

To follow, braised pork, Eastern-European style. This is wonderful and perfect for a chilly evening. Cubes of pork shoulder are braised with onion, celery, thyme, bay, cider, mixed spice, and dried fruit (prunes, figs, apples and cranberries) soaked in cold tea, until the meat is tender and falling apart. I always think the best part of a casserole is when the meat comes apart in strings as you pull it with a fork. What really makes the dish though is the addition of brown sugar and vinegar, giving it a sweet-and-sour flavour that fits perfectly with the rich meat. It really is fantastic and takes very little effort. Lovely served with brown rice to soak up the sticky sauce. This may join lamb tagine at the top of my "favourite stews" list. I can't resist the combination of fruit and meat, particularly when the sweet and savoury elements marry as well together as they do in this.

Finally, a fig tarte tatin (see first photo). This is a Nigel Slater recipe and an attempt to enjoy one of my favourite fruits before they go out of season. It involves a very crumbly pastry made with a large ratio of butter to flour, and a couple of egg yolks. First you melt some butter and brown sugar in an ovenproof frying pan, then add some halved figs and cook for a couple of minutes. Then roll the pastry out into a circle and press down over the figs before putting the pan in the oven for half an hour or so. The result is amazing: a buttery, thick pastry base into which have soaked all the syrupy, sticky, fruity, caramelly juices from the figs and butter. There is immense satisfaction to be had from the moment when, after removing the pan from the oven, you put a plate over the top and flip it over to reveal the golden stickiness that is the caramelised fruit on top.

I also made a vanilla yoghurt ice cream to go with it, which involved mixing vanilla yoghurt with icing sugar and churning it in the ice cream machine. It has a slight sourness which is good with the very sweet figs, though vanilla ice cream would be nice too, or creme fraiche.