To Autumn

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There’s a lot to get excited for when that first leaf hit the ground…crisp sunny days, candle-lit dark cosy nights, warm knits and parks shrouded in shades of burgundy and gold.

It’s a time when everything slows down a little, where FOMO turns into the Joy of Missing Out and it’s a few weeks of calm before the furore of Christmas hits us sideways.

But my favourite by far is the wonderful harvest that comes with Autumn. The leeks, carrots, pear, apple, squash and of course: pumpkin.

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With pumpkin and pear on the brain, we made our way to Garson farm in Esher to pick up supplies for upcoming Autumn, Thanksgiving and Halloween grazing platters and tables.

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Goodies nestled safely in the boot, I excitedly set off back to London to create the first Autumn-themed grazing table of the season!

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Pear, fig, pumpkin hummus, beetroot dip and persimmon all feature on this gorgeous little metre-long table. Along with buttery flapjack bites, chocolate bark topped with roasted nuts and cranberry, fig jam, cranberry and apple sauce, dates stuffed in goats cheese and honey, charcuterie and dark chocolate dip.

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Roquefort, vintage gouda, red pepper infused cheddar and comte all make cameos.

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All beautifully decorated with foliage, gold and orange chrysanthemums, physalis berries and of course: pumpkins!

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Whatever your favourite thing about Autumn is, make the most of it! The Nudge has a handy little guide to get you out and about over the next few weeks because before you know it, winter will roll around and we’ll be counting down the days till temperatures hit double digits again.

Seasonal eating: The fig issue

Sweet, decadent, juicy and best eaten plucked straight from a tree on a Turkish foothill, the fig is hands down my favourite fruit. Though technically speaking, figs aren’t a fruit but rather inverted flowers! Figgin amazing.

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Every year, as summer begins to draw to a close and I begrudgingly root around my wardrobe for long-forgotten turtlenecks, one of the few silver linings is that fig season is upon us! 

Man’s love affair with the fig dates back millennia, with the fruit mentioned in religious scriptures and folktales. In the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted a fig tree in the Garden of Eden, suggesting that Adam and Eve might’ve traded immortality for figs, and not actually an apple. And quite frankly, who can blame them? An apple seems a measly trade, but figs I can get behind. 

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Given their versatile nature, figs can be baked into cakes and pies, roasted, grilled, added to salads or turned into jam. They work well paired with goats cheese and yogurt or with punchier flavours like blue cheese and honey.

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At Platter Up, fig season means brie topped with fresh figs, homemade fig jam, honey and an array of chopped nuts. This little showstopper will be a mouth-watering addition to our grazing tables going into Autumn. Sweet, nutty and gooey all in one mouthful. Get yours here!

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To make most of the season, I've rounded up some of my favourite tried and tested fig recipes, most of which take less than 15 minutes to whip up. Give ‘em a go and tell me what you think!  

Syrian Delight

A small warning… this post will be entirely self-indulgent as it combines two of my favourite things: gelato and goats cheese.

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When my mother told me about this place, it took every ounce of self-control not to hop into the car and high-tail it there straightaway. That lasted for about a day.

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The first time I visited Levant, a wave of nostalgia hit me. As a teen, summers were spent at my Grandmother’s house in a little town just outside of Damascus, where balmy evenings were spent sitting outdoors under the twinkling fairy lights of a gelato parlour, with Fayrouz playing on loop. 

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Levant is new in town, bringing with it a slice of Damascus to an unassuming part of West London and introducing Londoners to the delight that is bouza- a Syrian gelato made with sahleb, flour derived from orchids, and mastic, a tree resin that’s the key ingredient in chewing gum. The bouza is pounded relentlessly with a wooden pestle to give it its unique elastic consistency and the end result is a chewy, nutty ice cream, coated in pistachios with rose water undertones. 

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Mohamad Ramadan opened this joint in June, out of a love and longing for home, to create a community and a positive representation of his Syrian heritage, away from the politics and conflict. “A lot of people think Syria is just war and Syrians are all victims of war, but we are more than that. This place shows our culture, our food, our education.”

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Stood in Levant’s thoughtfully decorated café, you hear the familiar pounding of the pestle coming from the kitchen- a kitchen that has the words 'No diets allowed, no excuses' painted above it in Arabic. A mantra I can get behind! The furnishings were all shipped in from Syria; chairs that used to sit around Mohamad’s grandfather’s dining table, a century old olive tree and a grand wooden door that was procured from the Old City in Damascus.

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The café is filled with books, mosaiced pottery, incense burners and other relics from the motherland, some of which are available to buy. The books are all free to borrow, with patrons entrusted to return them when they’re done, and this attitude is very much the heart and soul of Levant. It’s less of an ice cream parlour and more of a cultural hub. "We didn’t make this place out of a huge budget, we made it with heart and soul," says Mohamad as he shows me a coffee table book on the origins of the bouza, pointing to a page detailing how Syrian chefs of time past would collect snow from the mountains to make it.

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Although bouza is the most popular item on the menu, Levant also serves up a host of other Syrian desserts, including baklava and a sweet milk pudding called sahlab.

Insiders tip: order the pistachio bouza stuffed in the baklava, and thank me later.

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 Best yet, it’s open till 2am. Perfect for a late night fix. Just remember to wear your best pair of elasticated trousers.

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As much as i'd love to include bouza ice cream in our platters, the rules of thermodynamics dictate otherwise. So instead, I've taken a little inspiration from Levant and come up with my own platter-friendly take on bouza: goats cheese crusted in pistachio, topped with dried rose petals and rose-infused honey. 

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A divine mix of nutty, creamy and sweet...

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And a gorgeous little addition to our platters!

You can find Levant here, and tell them you got the scoop from us!

A mid-summer picnic

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It seemed like just yesterday that summer was a distant fantasy. The promise of double-digit temperatures getting us through what felt like an endless winter. And yet somehow, we’re already half-way through August and in full panic mode trying to tick off the impossibly long list of summer activities we had planned.

In an effort to milk what's left of the summer, eating is an alfresco affair until further notice, and what better way to do that than with a picnic and a platter! 

Paper plates and carrot sticks? Forget it! Sometimes, it’s worth going that little extra mile. 

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The Spot
A park, the beach, your nan's garden, a patch of grass by the side of the M25…anywhere can be a great setting for a picnic with a bit of imagination. I chose Queens Park in London- a lovely local park that has its own petting farm! The National Trust has plenty of suggestions for gorgeous locations if you’re feeling adventurous. Pick a spot and drop anchor.

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The Set Up
To make the floor table, I repurposed a wooden pallet by giving it a quick sanding down (because splinters. Ouch) and a lick of paint. If that sounds like a little too much work, throw a table cloth or a bit of fabric over the pallet, and no one will be none the wiser. Having a low table really does make a big difference to your picnic experience. No more balancing cups on uneven grass or backache from hunching over. 

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With the white blankets and table providing a blank canvas, the table was styled using seasonal flowers in a vase and scattered foliage to contrast with the stark white and to give it a little rustic feel. A few bright cushions made it that little bit comfier. 

Crumpling paper plates and plastic forks that snap under the force of a grape were left at home in favour of metal utensils, china plates, wooden cheese knives and linen napkins.

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summer picnic set up

The Food
Food that can sit outside for a few hours without wilting or melting is key. It’s difficult to go wrong with a grazing board loaded with cheese, fruit and dips served on a wooden board. Check out @platteruphq for platter inspo or order one right here! 

This little platter featured a wheel of French brie and goat’s cheese, accompanied by fig jam, muhamara (a red pepper & walnut dip) and a medley of fruit.

Alongside the platter; a freshly baked baguette, marinated olives and grilled artichokes were ideal grazing nibbles and a classic Victoria sponge made for a perfect dessert.

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summer picnic platter

We made sure to stay hydrated with a bottle of sparkling pink lemonade, or if you fancy treating yourself, a cheeky bottle of prosecco.

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If you have yet to throw a picnic- don't fret! There are still a few weeks left to head out and enjoy the balmy temperatures before it cools off and you have to dig around your drawers for your long-forgotten jumpers.

Share your very best picnic tips below and tag us @platteruphq in your beautiful picnic spreads!