autumn

AUTUMN

Just a few tweaks to your menu is all it takes to keep it fresh and seasonal. Game, slow cooked meats accompanied with squash and root veg are great to add that autumnal feel. Moroccan spiced pulled duck; falafel and roasted sweet potato together are just awesome! 

Best in Season

Fruit

Bramley Apples (early autumn)

are the perfect apple in pies and crumbles, or bake them whole with some brown sugar, butter and spices.

 

Discovery Apples (September) Gala Apples (October)

early on in the season, sweet and fragrant apples such as Discovery and Beauty of Bath are brightly coloured and juicy; later varieties such as Cox, Blenheim Orange and Spartan are nuttier, drier in texture and fuller-bodied in flavour.

 

Figs

naturally have a high sugar content, making an ideal match for equally intense ingredients, such as salty prosciutto – a classic Italian combination. Another delicious recipe is to bake them until tender and drizzle with honey and crème fraîche or yogurt, or poach them in alcohol and serve with cream. Equally delicious served with cheese, or sliced into wedges and caramelised lightly before tossing in salads with bitter leaves.

 

Blackberries

have a rich, deep, purple-black tone which make an attractive addition to desserts as well as savoury dishes; they are delicious in pies, crumbles, ice cream, fools and summer puddings. They partner perfectly the first of the cooking apples. The slight acidity of blackberries is an excellent foil for rich or gamey meat such as venison, lamb or pheasant.

 

Pears (September)

are delicious in both sweet tarts or crumbles, or poached in spicy wine. However they are equally at home in combination with strong cheese, salty hams, or crisp roasted nuts.

 

Plums (early autumn)

are as nutritious as they are delicious. Try them halved and caramelised in butter and brown sugar with lashings of proper custard.

Vegetables

 

Fine and Runner Beans (early autumn)

are gems among the many wonderful vegetables available in Britain. There can be few better ways of serving runner beans than piled onto a plate alongside meltingly soft roast lamb, roast potatoes and gravy, with a good glass of claret.

 

Beetroot (early autumn)

goes perfectly with goats’ cheese and walnuts; try dressing this salad with a little walnut oil and balsamic vinegar. The fabulous colour is best shown off in soups and risotto, paired with earthy spices and a dollop of cooling soured cream. Young beetroot leaves make attractive additions to salads.

 

Broccoli and Purple Sprouting Broccoli

are both delicious simply steamed with a little seasoning or combined with some fried garlic, lemon zest and toasted flaked almonds.

 

Brussel Sprout

The Brussel sprout has polarised popularity. Try them shredded, either eaten raw in a salad or flash-fried with bacon and plenty of butter or a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche. Throw in some chestnuts for a particularly seasonal treat or blanch whole sprouts briefly in boiling water, douse in cream and bake in the oven for a luxurious gratin.

 

 

 

Autumn, Red, Savoy & Winter White Cabbages

Try stir frying a shredded mixture of these varieties adding a dash of soy sauce, sesame oil, some cooked noodles and roasted cashews.

 

Carrots

are big with sweet earthy flavours by now. Boil them with a whole garlic clove, then blend with a little cream and cumin and serve as a delicious colourful puree.

 

Cauliflower

is a fabulous vegetable for absorbing other flavours. Brilliant combined with potatoes in a vegetable curry, or deep fry the battered florets and serve with a tapenade dressing.

 

Celeriac

is a starchy root with an intriguing flavour. Combine with cream and potato in a beautiful purée that compliments all types of red meat or game.

 

Kale

is fantastically nutritious and withstands quite rough treatment. Deep fry thinly sliced kale then sprinkle with roasted red chilli and toasted sesame seeds and season well.

 

Marrows

are more watery and bland than young, sweet courgettes, but they’re a wonderful blank canvas for spiced or strongly flavoured foods. Add marrows to curries to soak up the flavours of the spices, or stuff them with braised meat, pungent cheese or hot chorizo.

 

Parsnips, Swedes and Turnips

all lend themselves to roasting or as the base for soups. Try a seasonal parsnip and apple soup topped with some slices of fried chestnuts.

 

Maincrop Potatoes

are fluffy and light. They yearn for butter and cream, onions, garlic and chives. The perfect comfort food for cold, dark evenings.

 

Pumpkins & Squashes

Stir meltingly sweet cubes of fried pumpkin into risottos or curries, offsetting the flavours with fragrant herbs such as sage or thyme, or warming spices such as ginger. Alternatively, serve pumpkin stuffed into pasta, pasties or gnocchi, or use it to beef-up warm salads. Sweet dishes need not be limited to pumpkin pie. Stir puréed squash into a cheesecake filling for a different take on this decadent dessert.

 

Spinach

is a powerhouse food that is packed with nutrients. It benefits eyesight, blood pressure, and Popeye was right – it strengthens muscles! Use young leaves in salads, or cooked in soup, lasagne, pizza toppings or casseroles. Spinach has a special affinity with fish, nutmeg and cream.

 

Sweetcorn (early autumn)

late season sweetcorn should be cooked in boiling water with a little sugar but not salt, which can make the kernels tough. After cooking, season the cobs with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve with lots of melted butter. Alternatively, cut the kernels straight off the cob and use in a recipe for a spicy salsa, with heaps of chilli, coriander and lime.

Meat & Game

Autumn Lamb

tends to have more flavour than spring lamb owing to the maturity of the meat. The lambs, having fed on sweet summer grass, have richer and sweeter meat with a slightly darker hue. It is the perfect partner to other autumnal produce such as orchard fruit and root vegetables, such as turnips. The stronger flavour compliments tapenade and spices like cumin.

 

Beef (early autumn)

is perfect as the temperature drops and nights draw in. Make a pie rich with lean beef, celeriac, chestnuts and shallots. Try a suetcrust pastry flavoured with herbs, and make sure it has plenty of rich gravy.

 

Pheasant (Oct 1 – Feb 1)

has a lean and gamey flavour. For perfect pairings, think of other fruit and vegetables that are in season now, such as chestnut mash, sticky honey-roast parsnips, spiky apple chutneys or celeriac purée.

 

Guinea Fowl

meat is high in protein and low in cholesterol. It is a good source of vitamin B6, selenium and niacin. Rather like a small chicken it is best pot-roasted or braised. Braise with loads of garlic, in a creamy sauce and serve with sweet roasted beetroots.

 

Woodpigeon (Oct 1 – Jan 31)

get tougher with age and are best braised slowly with vegetables, or used for stock. The richness of the flesh is complimented by other strong flavours, such as gin, brandy and port, and by dried fruit, such as prunes. It is good served with braised red cabbage, lentils or cabbage and bacon.

 

Duck & Goose (Sept 1 – Feb 20)

both make a fabulous roast. Serve with roast parsnips, a rich red wine gravy and some dark green winter cabbage.

 

Venison – Deer, Stags and Bucks

Cook venison as you would beef. It is best to offset the lower fat content by using moist-cooking methods, or by marinating before cooking. Good quality steaks and tenderloin can be pan-fried but avoid overcooking and serve with a sauce. Excellent partnering flavours for venison include juniper, gin, red wine, port, rosemary and redcurrant.

FIsh

Cod, Coley and Haddock

are the perfect British white fish. Succulent flakes of tender flesh lend themselves to poaching or baking. Try fish fillets topped with a Parmesan, breadcrumb and fresh herb topping, or baked rustically in a rich tomato and olive sauce.

 

Herring

are very high in long-chain omega 3 fatty acids as well as being a rich source of vitamin D. They are a robust flavoured fish that are traditionally coated in oatmeal and fried. However herrings are eaten in a wide variety of ways. Try them raw with chopped onion, as pickled rollmops with sour cream on rye bread, or baked with a sharp rhubarb stuffing.

 

Mackerel

is a tasty oily fish that is often smoked and as such makes perfect pâtés and salads. Fresh mackerel is delicious baked with a lemon and olive stuffing and served with lemony couscous.

 

Pollack

is gaining in popularity and is a sustainable choice of fish. Its flesh is white and tender and it can be substituted for cod or haddock. It makes excellent Thai fish cakes when mixed with garlic, chilli, coriander, spring onions and a little fish sauce.

 

Oysters

renowned as an aphrodisiac; really the only way to eat fresh oysters is raw with lemon and a dash of Tabasco sauce.

 

Mussels (late autumn)

can be baked with a topping of garlicky breadcrumbs. This makes a change from moules marinière but try both whilst they are at their meatiest best.

 

Scallops

UK waters are a source of very fine scallops and some of the best are found off the coast of western Scotland. Scallops are delicious with salty bacon or creamy sauces, but best of all their flavour is complimented with an oriental twist of chilli, lemon grass and ginger.

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