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What's in season – August/September

08 August 2014

With the current heatwave, it's hard to believe that we shall soon be heading into autumn. Fresh food produce supplier James Wellock looks at September's offerings, while the British Larder's Madalene Bonvini-Hamel cooks up some seasonal recipes

If you are working with the seasons and want the best when it's available, September is the month when you need to be on the ball.

There will be so much local produce it will make you dizzy, and on top of this, there are some real beauties coming from Europe.

As I mentioned last month, stone fruit will be in abundance, with many varieties of plum coming on to the market, such as Excalibur, Jubileum, Marjorie's Seedling, Opal and, I think everybody's favourite, the Victoria. Make sure you get them picked when they are ripe and do not store them in the fridge - this way they will just ooze juice and flavour.

There will still be some damsons, weather permitting, but be quick. Your menus should have moved on from peaches and nectarines by now as they are starting to get woolly.

As the fresh almonds are finishing, you can get out and start squirrelling for nuts again as your local walnut trees will be laden. When the nuts begin to appear on the ground with split hulls, it's time to get harvesting . Once you have collected them, pull the hulls apart and the tissue between the hull and the kernel should be brown, showing they are ripe. Peel and store for a couple of weeks in fresh air. If after that you get a crisp break, hey presto, you can use them and they are free!

The first cobnuts will also be available and, if you live in Kent where they are mainly grown, you could be onto a free winner. When they are first available they taste very coconutty; later in the season they are similar to a hazelnut.

The so-called forgotten vegetables - red meat radish, crapaudine and white beetroot, chervil and parsley root - will all be coming back this month. Worth highlighting is forgotten fruit: the quince. It comes from the same family as the apple and pear and it is making a concerted comeback. It is bitter and shouldn't be eaten raw, but is very high in pectin, especially when unripe, and therefore perfect for jam, jelly and quince pudding.

It has a very strong perfume and, when added to dishes such as apple pies, it really enhances the flavour. One of its most common uses is in a paste or membrillo, which is perfect to serve with cheese.

We will also have the fantastic Provence black fig - my favourite. I know I bang on about using local produce when it is in season, but this really is a gem that we should be using now - especially when the only other figs we have available are from countries like Brazil.

To finish with, the fastest-moving produce of them all: the local apple crop. The varieties are too numerous, so play about with them and find your favourites. Mine this month is the Worcester Pearmain, which has a distinctive strawberry flavour.

Star anise crème caramel, blackberries and celery

Serves 12

For the caramel

550g caster sugar

50ml cold water

For the star anise crème caramel

2 star anise

100ml double cream

700ml full-fat milk

3 large whole free range eggs (approx 225g)

5 large free range egg yolks (approx 115g)

100g caster sugar

For the blackberries and celery

200ml stock syrup

50g celery, sliced

24 blackberries

Celery cress

Place 12 classic ceramic ramekins on a large tray. To make the caramel, dissolve the sugar in water over a low heat. Once dissolved, increase the heat and turn the sugar into a golden dark caramel. Pour the caramel into the prepared moulds and leave to set at room temperature.

Toast the star anise in a hot saucepan over a high heat, then reduce the heat and pour in the cream and milk. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and set aside for 20 minutes to infuse. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl. Pour over the warmed, infused milk, mix and then chill for six hours.

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Pass the custard through a fine sieve and then pour into the prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins in a large, deep gastro tray and pour warm water into the tray until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Cook in a preheated oven for 20 minutes and then turn the heat down to 110°C for a further 20 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.

In the meantime, prepare the blackberries and celery. Heat the stock syrup with the celery, leave to cool and then pour over the blackberries. Leave to steep for 10 minutes. Turn the crème caramel out onto a serving plate, garnish with the blackberries in celery syrup and place a few sprigs of celery
cress on top.

By Madalene Bonvini-Hamel

Slow-cooked sirloin, creamed corn and smoked shin of beef croquette

Serves 8

For the smoked shin of beef croquette

1kg smoked and cooked shin of beef, flaked

4tbs of shallot confit

2tbs chopped soft herbs (chives, tarragon, chervil and thyme)

Seasoned flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

Panko breadcrumbs

For the saffron-cooked golden beetroot

1kg small round golden beetroots, washed and skin scrubbed

Coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1tbs extra virgin olive oil

Juice and zest of one lemon

200ml cider vinegar

200g caster sugar

Pinch of saffron

2 star anise

For the creamed corn

20g unsalted butter

2 banana shallots, diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

300g fresh corn kernels

Coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

125ml dry white wine 100ml double cream

For the slow-cooked sirloin

2kg whole strip loin

Coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1tbs unsalted butter

First prepare the smoked shin of beef croquettes. Mix the flaked smoked shin of beef with the confit shallots and chopped herbs and season to taste.

Shape tablespoons full of the mixture into croquette shapes and dip each croquette in the flour, then the egg, and then roll in the Panko breadcrumbs. Refrigerate until needed.

Next, place the beetroots, seasoning, olive oil and lemon juice and zest in a vacuum pouch, seal on hard vacuum and place in a large gastro tray. Steam in the oven for one hour then leave to cool in the vacuum pouch. In the meantime, make the pickling liquor.

Place the vinegar, sugar, saffron, star anise and seasoning in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for two minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool at room temperature.

Once the beetroots are chilled, remove from the bag and place in a clean vacuum pouch with the pickling liquor, and seal and chill until needed.

For the creamed corn, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and sweat the shallots, garlic and corn with seasoning. When softened, and as soon as the mixture starts to colour, deglaze the pan with the wine. When it has evaporated, add the cream, bring to the boil and reduce by half. Blend until smooth, taste and adjust the seasoning and pass through a fine sieve.

To cook the sirloin, remove all the fat and connective tissue from the strip loin. Shape it into a cylinder, wrap it tightly in clingfilm and vacuum in a bag. Leave to rest for one hour.

Cook in a preheated water bath at 57°C for one hour. Remove from the bag, drain on kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a frying pan with the butter over a high heat. Once the butter turns nutty brown, roll the beef in the hot pan to colour all over, then rest it for 10 minutes before serving.

When ready to serve, fry the croquettes at 160°C in a deep-fat fryer until golden brown, drain on kitchen paper and season with coarse sea salt. Reheat the creamed corn.

To serve, drain the beetroots and cut in half. Arrange on the plate with the creamed corn, slice of beef and the beef shin croquette.

By Madalene Bonvini-Hamel

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