Stella Turi, Tuesday 04 September 2012
Whilst the supermarkets will be continuing to commit seasonal sacrilege throughout the year, we thought it might be nice to get back to our English roots and see what is meant to be growing over here.
This season is one of the richest for food, but particularly for British produce. Apple pies, plum tarts, good old Sunday roasts and game pies, it is as if British cuisine was invented in autumn. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
This is when the classic British apples and pears are at their best so go for the Cox, or if you like your apples intense the Russet, which has a rough bitter skin and a sharp crisp delicious crunch. One thing you will definitely start to see in the supermarkets is plums by the dozen and on the berry front, the long dry spring combined with the drizzly summer created ideal conditions for longer pollination and bigger juicier berries; however I hear autumn has come quite a few weeks early this year so grab them while you can.
It is the time for root vegetables like carrots, parsnip and turnips as well as red, white and Savoy cabbage, and whilst we may think of these as supermarket staples all year round, the autumn crop from a local supplier will be the tastiest, as with less sunlight the vegetables grow at a slower rate producing a sweeter flavour.
The next great autumn delight is wild mushrooms. Woods are abundant with mushrooms at this time of year; however beware of tempting fate if you dare to pick your own. Particular favourites are Porcini (curiously from the Italian meaning piglet as they supposedly resemble the young porkers); the king of the wild mushrooms with a nutty flavour and creamy texture, Black Trumpets; soft and slightly chewy with a woody yet buttery flavour, and chanterelles; a whole family of mushrooms golden in colour with a rich flavour notoriously hard to describe so I’ll just say try them.
Chestnuts! The time has come- the smells of them roasting will be wafting through the air any day now, and they will be joined by hazelnuts and walnuts so get your squirrel on.
If you know a good specialist butcher, try and get some game meat, strong tasting, amazing if you like the offal flavour. Not only is it lean and healthy but also a very sustainable meat source. Game meats you will find coming up this season are: venison, grouse, partridge, mallard and pheasant.
So be spoilt for choice this season by getting into the autumn spirit; go check out your local farmers markets and specialist suppliers and get cooking people...
If the cooking prospects for all those wild mushrooms are a bit daunting, try something simple and let them speak for themselves, like this Penne with wild mushrooms pasta. Use about a handful of mushrooms per person, either a combination or whatever you can get your hands on, if you can’t get a variety stick to chanterelle but don’t worry too much. Simply fry the mushrooms in garlic and olive oil, season, add to penne pasta, salted and cooked al dente. Stir in a little chopped parsley and grated parmesan, serve and top with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan. If you fancy adding a twist you can also add one soft to medium boiled egg per person roughly chopped and stirred in. Light, simple, easy and delicious.