In season for May and June
It’s time to select and cook with the best that autumn has to offer and what better place to be than in the cosy warmth of kitchen.
The view from my kitchen at the moment is of a large deep sea fishing trawler that has run aground on the beach in front of my home. The poor souls on board are hoping that the rainy and windy weather will improve sufficiently for the large tugs that are on standby, to be able to tow them back into the water. But I digress; it is time for me to focus on food.
My autumn box of produce has arrived, filled with lovely things from which to create some warming autumn meals, and a friend who is a regular guest for dinner, brought me a pheasant and a beautiful piece of fresh skinned and boned fillet of cob.
The way I like to prepare this fish is to cut it into portions and place in a baking dish, generously drizzled with olive oil. To this I add anchovies, rosemary sprigs, Kalamata olives and the juice of two lemons and season with a little salt and some pepper, then cover the fish with thin slices of lemon and bake in a hot oven to cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.
For the pheasant, I simply roast the bird whole with a prune stuffing and some sage butter tucked under the skin and baste frequently throughout the cooking process. Another good way to cook pheasant is to pot roast. Pheasant legs can also be braised with butter, shallots, Calvados and tart green apples and finished with a little crème fraîche.
Also in today’s box are half a dozen apples. A hardy fruit with a long shelf life, the apple can be harvested in summer and kept in cold storage during the winter months. Apples form the basis of many of my desserts, from the English apple Charlotte to the French tarte aux pommes. It is also a classic match for pork and a good counter point for bitter type cheeses such as cheddar.
Apples in my home are eaten raw, grated, sliced cooked, poached, stewed or baked into puddings, pies and tarts. Stewed and pureed they can be used in sweet and savoury sauces. Ring the changes and serve apple as a vegetable. Preheat the oven to 200C. Cut and core unpeeled apple into wedges, cut peeled Spanish onion into wedges, place in a roasting pan. Scatter with sage leaves, drizzle with olive oil and cider vinegar and season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a light sprinkling of brown sugar. Roast for about 30 minutes until golden and tender. This accompaniment is nice to serve with roast pork or pork sausages.
Lemons are one of my favourite ingredients. They invigorate food, add colour, good to squeeze over roast lamb or stuffed into chicken either fresh or as a preserve. Lemons also make wonderful desserts such as saucy lemon pudding, lemon soufflé or lemon posset. Now is a good time to preserve lemons in salt, they will be ready to use when winter sets in and until then they will brighten up the kitchen shelf looking like little jars of sunshine.
In the markets you will find lots of baby cauliflower, large and colourful ones too. This is an understated vegetable that can be fantastic if cooked with a delicate hand and some imagination. Serve cauliflower cheese with lamb or as a gratin, blanched then laid in a pan and covered with a thin layer of béchamel sauce, flavoured with bay leaf, nutmeg, a sprinkle of gruyere cheese and a few blobs of butter; this is a good accompaniment to steak or chicken. Or sauté in olive oil and butter together with some onions, and potatoes until cooked, add a dash of cream and seasoning then blend into a soft creamy puree.
Look for sweet purple bulbs of green garlic; much milder than mature garlic and nice to cook in a frittata. Just soften the garlic in butter, and then add eggs, parsley and chives and you have a wonderful quick and delicious meal.
Meat wise now is the time to seek out a good butcher who should have really good supplies organically farmed pork and beef.
Also in season are:
Apples, avocado, bananas, cumquats, custard apples, grapes, grapefruit, kiwifruit, lemons, limes, mandarins, melons, nuts, oranges, papaya, passion fruit, pears, persimmons, quince, rhubarb
Asian greens, beans, beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, capsicums, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chillies, cucumbers, daikon, eggplant, fennel, garlic, ginger, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuces, mushrooms, okra, olives, onions, parsnips, peas, potatoes, pumpkins, shallots, silver beat, spinach, squash, swedes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, witlof, zucchini.
My dinner this evening will be ….
Fettuccini served with Baby Beetroot and Bitter Greens.
500 g Fettuccini
3 baby beetroot with leaves, washed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve
100 ml water
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
50 g butter
100 g stinging nettles (or baby spinach)
Crumbled soft goats cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the beetroot, trim the leaves and reserve. Place the baby beetroot in a roasting pan, drizzle with half the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the water to the pan, cover the pan with foil and roast the beetroot at 220C until tender, this will take about an hour. Once the beet root is cooked let cool, then peel and slice and set aside.
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for the time specified on the packet.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over medium high heat, add the rest of the olive oil, butter and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds, add the nettles, and beetroot leaves and cook until leaves wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the beetroot slices and toss together. Scatter over goats’ cheese, drizzle with a little extra olive oil, check for seasoning and serve immediately.