Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, owner of the British Larder pub and restaurant in Bromeswell, Suffolk, looks ahead at November’s seasonal delights
The clocks have gone back and we’re well and truly into autumn now, with the warm sunshine of the Indian summer behind us. But it’s not all bad news – with a snap of cold and frost the aroma and flavour of root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, celeriac and swede will improve.
Cabbages of all varieties are abundant now, from red, white and Savoy to pointed sweetheart cabbage. Brussels sprouts are also making their comeback for yet another season and along with chestnuts and good quality smoked bacon, make a tasty accompaniment for the plethora of game on offer. Pheasants and partridges are plentiful, and wild rabbits, woodcock, hare and teal are also dominating menus as we celebrate the game season.
Other interesting seasonal produce such as quince and medlar are ready to be harvested, along with apples, pears, pumpkins and butternut squash, which all store well if kept in a dark, cool and well-ventilated space.
Mussels from Norfolk are sweet and plump, while pollack from the south coast and stone bass from the east coast give us plenty to offer on our tantalising autumn menus.
Wild rabbit has a subtle gamey taste, however with hanging, the flavour can be improved. It is available all year round, but wild rabbit is at its best from September until late December.
The meat is lean and can easily be dry and tasteless if cooked too fast at too high a temperature or if overcooked. The legs require a long period of cooking at a low temperature whereas the loins or saddle should be cooked quickly.
There are vast numbers of pear varieties on the market but most of these are imported. However, we are seeing an increased selection of local varieties at farmers’ markets.
An important site is Brogdale in Kent, home to the National Fruit Collection, which includes more than 3,500 pear, apple, plum, cherry, bush fruit, vine and cob nut cultivars. The work they do is vital to protect and prevent old varieties from dying out.
This humble root vegetable is much underrated. Turnip leaves can also be cooked and have a mustardy flavour.
This beautiful, rustic and superb tasting winter vegetable is versatile and seen as the king of the cabbages. It is one of the few cabbage varieties that tastes best when cooked quickly – the colour remains vibrant green – where white and red cabbage is best cooked for a long period of time to extract the best taste.
The liquorice plant is a legume and not related to anise or star anise even though it is similar in flavour. The roots are harvested in autumn and can only be collected three years after planting. They contain a natural sweetener that is more than 50 times sweeter than sucrose.
FLAVOURS OF NOVEMBER
Beetroot, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, celeriac, celery, chard, chicory, clams, clementines, crab, cranberries, Dover sole, duck, goose, haddock, hake, halibut, John Dory, kale, langoustines, leeks, lemon sole, lobster, monkfish, mussels, oysters, parsnips, pears, plaice, pollack, pomegranate, pumpkin, quince, salsify, satsumas, scallops, sea bass, skate, squid, stone bass, swede, Swiss chard, tangerines, turbot, turnips, winkles