My 5 foodie reasons to look forward to Autumn
I have highlighted below the ingredients I most look forward to in late summer and early autumn, including some of the lesser known which can provide some surprises. Allowing your cooking to be guided by the seasons, like all good things, will deliver far more satisfaction in both approach and flavour.
As we find ourselves on the brink of autumn, I can’t help but think back to some of my most cherished mushroom picking sessions. Most have been in early September when I have foraged for English ceps or late girolles in the far north of the UK. I have had my fair share of chicken of the woods mushrooms, a delight I shall be keeping firmly under my hat as these are fantastic mushrooms—truly robust things of beauty that grow on large oak trees. This is when the forager’s season is in full swing, and is a wonderful opportunity to partake in a new pastime, with ultimate fulfilment!
Of course fresh water pike, crayfish and river eels are just coming to an end but with watercress as an accompaniment, all three of these delightful creatures belong on the same plate. I favour watercress mayonnaise. Simply blend the watercress with vegetable oil then make a mayonnaise in the same way you would normally, but with a bright green peppery watercress oil replacing the vegetable oil.
In late August I enjoy sweetcorn, I have fond memories of driving through France at the end of the summer holidays seeing the maize fields packed with glorious yellow corn ready for picking. So versatile for late summer lunches, it’s ideal party food simply wrapped in tin foil with some butter, black pepper and fresh thyme.
September and October are the start of the game season for me, but wait for the first cold snap for the best wild fowl, teals and widgeons. Although the grouse season has begun, we rarely delve into these in a big way until September, so they can fully fatten and develop in flavour. Wood pigeon is another indigenous ingredient which this country has ample supply of and although considered feathered game, meat on a pigeon is a dark red colour and has a deep flavour that is not overly gamey.
When hosting an autumnal lunch with friends and family, I like to make Fried Goose Egg with Pan-fried Wood Pigeon. I’ve chosen to use goose eggs here as they are rich and have a sublime flavour, however; if they are unavailable a duck egg or a good quality hen’s egg will suffice. There is something incredibly moreish about dipping protein into soft egg yolk, and this combined with a nice slice of toast makes a hearty lunch to suit any occasion.
English apples and pears begin to be available in full force and due to many years of heritage growing we produce some of the most amazing and full flavoured fruits known to man with hundreds of varieties available from the soft and powdery russet apple through to the Pink Lady, a crunchy tart apple perfect for cooked fruit puddings. For a simple and gorgeous dessert to serve at your lunch gathering, I would recommend a simple Spiced Apple Tart Tatin. This is a great autumnal dessert that is sophisticated in its simplicity. Here, the star anise and vanilla accentuate the caramelised apple to create a dessert that’s fun, elegant, romantic, and above all—delicious.
One of the lovely aspects to cooking, writing menus and living your life by the seasons is the sense of anticipation of it all. Fairly obvious really but despite my love of some of these cracking ingredients, by October I really don’t want to see another strawberry. By May I am well and truly over asparagus and by February I am over the deep aroma of game birds that constantly hangs in the air during the winter. But it is with child-like excitement that I call my farmers and suppliers for the first of the seasons’ offerings. Watching the changing sun in the sky is purely a selfless act that will determine when I will finally see these highly anticipated local, seasonal offerings appear in the restaurant. Cooking in this manner shapes our lives, determines our viability and as chefs, we are simply at the epicentre of it all.