We are definitely in Autumn now, and the weather is turning cold. There is great abundance of produce available this time of year – get he best out of it.
This root vegetable has an intensely earthy flavour. There are three main colour varieties available – deep red, golden and candied (stripy). Beetroot can be eaten raw and is delicious grated in a salad with carrots, apple and pecans.
Beetroot is also delicious roasted with spices, such as cumin, fennel or spices used in Indian cuisine, such as ginger, Garam masala and chilli. As for herbs, beetroot goes particularly well with oregano, marjoram or dill. For example, one traditional Eastern European salad is simply cooked beetroot, soured cream and dill (I would be tempted to add freshly grated pepper and lemon zest to really bring out the flavours!). Beetroot can also be sliced thinly (using a mandolin) and lightly pickled in vinegar, honey and salt for a zingy side salad. Red beetroot in particular has a very strong flavour and tends to dominate the dish. I would not serve beetroot with light white fish, as it risks overpowering the dish. For more beetroot facts check out the amazing health benefits and maybe try a beetroot and salmon tart.
This is a great season for all pumpkins/squashes. They can be treated in very similar ways; some have thicker skin and require peeling, whereas some do not. Butternut squash can be turned into a warming soup with lots of ginger, chilli and a dash of coconut milk for an indulgent treat. A surprisingly great flavour combination can also be created by adding a hint of vanilla to a pumpkin soup. They are also great in curries to enrich the sauces. You can also make them into gnocchi by substituting the potato with cooked pumpkin flesh (a very tasty tip!), which is great boiled or roasted with sage butter or blue cheese! Carving pumpkins can be quite watery and so not great to cook with, other than a soup with lots of flavourings. However, don’t waste anything:
– roast the cleaned seeds at 180C for 30 minutes to dry them out and then toss with oil, soya sauce, chilli powder, smoked paprika and turmeric and toast for further 20 minutes
– boil the flesh offcuts (and the skin) in stock, season and add fresh sage, blend with a zest of a lemon and a little honey to taste!
Other things in season include: artichoke (steamed and served with melted butter), carrots (great with cumin and hazelnuts), celeriac (raw in a slaw), cucumber (try our smashed cucumber salad), fennel (raw with orange and black olives), wild mushrooms (cooked in ghee and served on toast with chives), sweetcorn (delicious cooked with chilli, lime and lots of butter, ghee or coconut oil), kohlrabi (raw in a salad).
An incredibly sensuous fruit – fit even for Cleopatra – figs are rich and sweet in flavour with an intensely dark purple skin. This time of the year, you can get hold of French black figs – large, plump and juicy. They are best eaten raw or just warmed through. For best results, cut them into quarters from the top, without actually cutting all the way through, grill for a few minutes and serve with ice cream or even double cream. They are also great in salads with cheese such as mozzarella and a balsamic vinegar dressing. You can also stuff them with mascarpone, wrap in parma ham and grill until the cheese has melted and serve with almonds and a drizzle of honey (or truffle honey for extra indulgence).
This pear-like fruit is native to South-West Asia, Turkey and Iran. It is said that in Ancient Greece brides would nibble on a quince before the nuptial kiss to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Various parts of this fruit are used around the world for medicinal purposes, in treating ulcers, throat ache and even indigestion. Try stewing peeled and chopped quince with grapes and honey and serving hot with natural yoghurt. You can also add them to a lamb tagine for an intensely rich sauce. If you have a few left over at home, make a jam or a savoury puree to preserve them.
Autumn is also THE time of year for game is in season, such as grouse, guinea fowl, mallard or partridge. These meats can hold their own against rich flavours such as black pudding, plums or even chocolate. Fish and seafood is also available in abundance. Try fresh oysters, simply steamed mussels or dressed crab. Crab meat is also delicious with tagliatelle, lemon juice and a hint of chilli. Turbot is the king of the sea and quite meaty for a white fish. It goes very well with truffles, rich meaty sauces and butter.
Please don’t forget to visit your local food market and talk to your local procurers to discover the treats available to you.