Fresh food produce supplier James Wellock and British Larder chef-consultant Madalene Bonvini-Hamel provide ingredient inspiration and recipes with the late-summer haul in mind
September is the month that will pay massive dividends if you’re working with the seasons and want the best when it’s available – but you’ll need to be on the ball. There will be so much local produce coming at you that it will make you dizzy, and there will be some real beauties from Europe too.
Mushrooms are always a winner this month and the Scottish offers of chanterelle and girolle take centre stage. The quality and flavour are outstanding and the price makes them accessible to all. The graded cep bouchon and black trompette, which are all at the mid-£20 per kilo mark, are also worth looking out for.
Stone fruit will be at its best with many varieties of plums, such as Excalibur, Jubileum, Marjorie’s Seedling, Opal and everybody’s favourite, Victoria. If there’s a time to have plums on the menu it’s now – not when they are travelling halfway around the world – but make sure you get them when they’re ripe.Don’t store them in a fridge. Keep them outand they will just ooze juice and flavour. Weather permitting, there will still be some damsons in September, but be quick.
From France, we also expect some amazing grapes. The Chasselas de Moissac and Muscat de Hambourg with designated Appellation d’Origine Protégée are the sweetheartsof local growers. Both have great heritage, being grown in rich soil on the Moissac slopes that also produce lots of plums, melons, apples and cherries. Although they have pips – something we’re not keen on in the UK – they are juicy, flavourful and the aroma and crisp pulp are just outstanding.
Fresh almonds are finishing, but you’ll have the chance to do some foraging as local walnut trees should be laden. When the nuts begin to appear on the ground with split hulls, it’s time to get cracking. Once you have collected them, pull the hulls. If they are ripe, the tissue between the hull and kernel should be brown. After storing for a couple of weeks in fresh air, the hulls will start to break in a crisp manner. Hey presto, you can now use them!
A few years ago, I was amazed to see fresh walnuts in France presented in a berry punnet. So full of moisture and with a distinct flavour – another a great example of ‘fresh is best’.
We’ve not finished with nuts, as the first cobnuts will be available in September. If you live in Kent, where they are mainly grown, you could be onto a winner. When they are first available they taste deliciously coconut-like, but later in the season they taste more like hazelnuts.
So-called forgotten vegetables will all be coming back on board this month: red meat radish, crapaudine and white beetroot, chervil and parsley root and the much-neglected fruit quince. From the same family as the apple and pear, the quince is now making a concerted comeback. It’s bitter and should not be eaten raw. It is very high in pectin, especially when it’s unripe, and so is perfect for jams, jelly and quince pudding. It hasa very strong perfume and, when added to desserts like apple pies, it really enhances the flavour. One of its most popular uses is in making a paste or membrillo – perfect to serve with cheese.
We’ll also have the fantastic Provence black fig, which is my favourite. Although I tend to promote using local produce when it’s in season, this really is another gem that I think we should be using, especially as the onlyfig variation available is from Brazil.
The fastest-moving fruit of all in September is the local apple crop. The varieties that will be coming at you are numerous. This month, my favourite is the Worcester Pearmain with its distinctive strawberry flavour.
Fresh beans will still be abundant and, though English runners are nearing their end, there are some lovely French varieties. The French Tarbais bean is a classic example. Brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus, it took to the sunny, dry climate of southwest France brilliantly. The Bishop of Tarbes introduced the bean to farmers in the Tarbes region at the foot of the Pyrenees where it flourished. They are available fresh or semi-dry. Picked from late August through September, they are perfect in a traditional Gascon cassoulet.
The Tarbais bean is a pole bean, and is planted in May alongside corn so that the corn stalk can support the bean vine, as these can grow up to eight feet. Tarbais beans are picked by hand, but in the 1950s a switch to industrialised farming led to a huge decline. By the 1980s, this decline was so apparent that a group oftraditional farmers feared the bean woulddisappear altogether. Along with the department of agriculture, this group set out to cultivate and protect the Tarbais bean and it became the first bean to be granted the ‘Label Rouge’ and given protected geographical status.
Today, there’s only a small, closed co-operative in Tarbais that is allowed to use that name for their beans, and production is tightly regulated. They all grow a single strain, Alaric, which is harvested entirely by hand. True Tarbais beans are identified as Label Rouge on the packaging, so you can be sure it’s a traditional product of outstanding quality.
Miso-glazed scallop with creamed sweetcorn
Serves 6 as a starter or an intermediate fish course
For the scallop roe tea jelly
Scallop roes and muscles from the scallops, washed
1tsp sunflower oil
300ml cold water
2 gelatine leaves, bloomed
For the creamed sweetcorn
2 heads of corn on the cob, husks removed
1tbs sunflower oil
2 banana shallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
5 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
125ml Gewürztraminer white wine
500ml cold water
Sea salt and finely cracked black pepper
For the miso-glazed scallops
6 medium-sized hand-dived scallops (keep the roe and muscles for the tea)
30g brown rice miso paste
2tbs sunflower oil
For the candied chicory
1 white chicory
1tsp icing sugar
1tbs rapeseed oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 button mushrooms, finely sliced
1 medium courgette, finely sliced lengthways
Red mustard frill cress
First prepare the scallop roe tea jelly. Prepare the scallops by removing the roe and muscle, then wash them under cold running water and drain. Wash and drain the scallops and place them on a kitchen towel in the fridge until needed. Heat a medium saucepan over a medium heat with the oil and sauté the roes and muscles with the seasoning for 4-5 minutes until golden brown. Then add the water, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid to bring the stock to boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to infuse for 45 minutes. Pass the stock through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Measure 250ml of stock, dissolve the gelatine and add to the scallop roe stock. Pour into a container and set in the fridge for a minimum of six hours.
For the creamed sweetcorn, use a serrated knife to remove the kernels from the core. Set the kernels aside. Cut the core into 3cm-long pieces. Heat a large saucepan with the oil over high heat and sauté the corn core, shallots, garlic, thyme and bay leaf with seasoning for 7-8 minutes until golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium, add the wine to de-glaze the pan, and simmer until reduced by half. Add the water, cover the pan with a lid and bring the stock to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes. Pass the stock through a fine sieve into another clean pan and add the kernels over medium heat. Cover the pan and simmer the kernels for 15 minutes until tender. Purée the mixture until smooth and transfer the creamed sweetcorn into a squeeze bottle. Keep warm.
For the miso-glazed scallops, heat a medium non-stick frying pan over medium heat with the oil. Roll the scallops in the miso paste to coat them lightly and evenly all over. Place the scallops presentation side down in the warm pan and cook them for one minute, then turn them over and continue cooking for another minute on the reverse side. The scallops should be golden brown and evenly glazed with the miso paste. Drain on kitchen paper and keep them warm while sautéing the candied chicory.
For the candied chicory, shred the chicory and mix with the icing sugar and seasoning. Heat a pan over high heat and sauté the chicory for 30 seconds in the hot pan with the oil, then drain on kitchen paper.
To serve, garnish six plates with the warm sweetcorn purée, followed with the candied chicory. Slice each scallop into three even slices and place onto each plate. Use a melon baller to place two scallop roe tea jelly pearls on each plate. Garnish with the sliced button mushrooms, courgettes, cress and a scattering of nigella seeds and serve.
Peaches and almond cream
For the peach jelly
275ml clear white peach juice
50g caster sugar
2 leaves of gelatine, bloomed
For the almond foam
300ml unsweetened almond milk
50g caster sugar
100ml double cream
2 leaves of gelatine, bloomed
1 shot amaretto liqueur
For the amaretti biscuits
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
75g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1 shot of amaretto liqueur
For the peach sauce
200g peaches, skin and stone removed, roughly chopped
100g caster sugar
100ml clear white peach juice
For the almond cream
50g ground almonds
75ml double cream
75g mascarpone cream
Seeds of one vanilla pod
25g icing sugar
3 firm peaches
First, prepare the peach jelly. In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the peach juice until the mixture reaches 70°C. Remove the pan from the heat and add the drained, bloomed gelatine and stir to dissolve. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve and pour it into a small container. Set the jelly in the fridge for a minimum of six hours.
For the almond foam, dissolve the sugar in the almond milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture starts to boil, remove from the heat and add the drained bloomed gelatine and amaretto liqueur. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve. Pour the mix into a cream whipper, secure the lid and charge with two gas pellets. Shake vigorously and then refrigerate for a minimum of six hours.
For the amaretti biscuits, preheat the oven to 170°C and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Whip the egg white, salt and sugar until it has doubled in size and is a glossy meringue with firm peaks. Fold in the ground almonds and amaretto liqueur. Transfer the mix to a piping bag with a 5mm nozzle. Pipe ½cm diameter amaretti biscuits onto the lined baking trays, leaving 1cm gaps. Once all the mix is piped, heavily dust with icing sugar and set aside for 10 minutes. Bake them in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until cooked and lightly golden in colour. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
For the peach sauce, place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for five minutes,
stirring occasionally. Blend the sauce until smooth, pass through a fine sieve and transfer to a squeeze bottle. Chill until needed.
For the almond cream, preheat the oven to 170°C. Scatter the ground almonds on a lined baking tray and cook for 20 minutes until golden brown, stirring twice during the cooking time to ensure even colouring and to prevent the edges from burning. Set aside to cool completely. When the baked almonds are cooled, place the cream, mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar in a mixing bowl and whip until ribbon stage, before folding in the baked almonds and transferring the mix to a piping bag.
Use a mandolin to slice the peaches into thin slices; you need four per portion. Sandwich two slices together with almond cream in the centre.
Make two ‘peach raviolis’ per portion. To serve, garnish each plate with the peach sauce. Place two peach raviolis on each plate and garish with the peach jelly, amaretti biscuits, blackberries and basil leaves. Dispense a dollop of almond foam on each plate.