What's in season: September/October

19 September 2014
What's in season: September/October

As we head into autumn, fresh produce supplier James Wellock looks at October's offerings, while the British Larder's Madalene Bonvini-Hamel cooks up some seasonal recipes

Now we are moving into autumn, thoughts are turning to darker nights and wholesome food. The main crop potato is in full flow and there are so many choices you really can set your stall out and highlight this product on your menu.

It used to be that chefs just ordered a bag of potatoes and hoped they did all things, but now it is a truly specialised choice.

The best mashed potato option is the Red Rooster, which has a yellow flesh and a deep, earthy flavour. I also use this in dauphinoise with the skin on, or another option is the Dutch Bintje, with its smooth, yellow waxy skin and creamy flesh.

Different potato colour and appearance give you even more choices, with varieties such as Apache with its red and white skin. It's not just eye-catching - it has a sweet, buttery, chestnut flavour and makes a great change to conventional roast pots. The Heritage Mayan Gold has a rich gold-coloured skin and flesh and, roasted in olive oil, is truly sensational!

Salad potato options just get more crazy. My favourite is the Pink Fir and its cousin the Anya. I describe them as wriggly worms with their pink and white skin and yellow flesh.

They have a very distinctive, nutty flavour and a firm, waxy texture, and are always a French favourite. They are now being grown in their heritage forms by Carolls.

The purple - or Vitellote in France - is a long oval tuber that keeps its fantastic purple-veined flesh when cooked. Options grown in this country are Salad Blue and the Purple Majesty.

A massive renaissance in the past few years has taken place with the pumpkin and squash family, as chefs have realised how healthy these vegetables are. Again, there are so many choices that the traditional lantern pumpkin has been resigned to the carving knife. It is tasteless compared to the now commonly used French Muscade, which is sensational: a dry flesh that packs loads of flavour.

There are numerous shapes, sizes and colours and these include Table Star, Orange Kabocha, Crown Prince, Blue Ballet, Pattinson Strie, Sunburst, Casperita, Gem, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, Wee be Little, Sweet Lighting, mixed gourds and Munchin pumpkins - the list is endless! All these varieties sell at around £1 per kilo and don't forget to use the seeds as these are so healthy too.

Jerusalem artichokes are in season now and the price should be down to around £1.50 per kilo. Salsify season also gets under way.

Parsley root and chervil root have taken off in the last few years and are a great twist on root vegetables.

Another wriggly worm, the Crosnes or Chinese artichoke, will make a comeback and these juicy little tubers enhance any salad or stir fry.

The so-called forgotten vegetables, including my favourite the golden turnip, red meat radish and the beetroots, are all in their pomp, but we will highlight these and the kales next month.

Sprouts will be here, but I always think they need a slight frost. Two gems that will be nearing the end of their season will be Scottish chanterelles and
the French black fig, which I think just gets better the nearer it gets to finishing. I would use black figs now, but then not use them for more than six months.

There are plenty of choices of apples and pears as UK and French growers come to the market. A ripe Comice does it for me, as well as a really crisp Cox's Orange Pippin from a local grower or a GoldRush from France.

There are also lots of quince about now too, so if you want to make your jellies, now's the time to do it. The exciting thing is that whichever product
you are looking to use for your menus, you have so many options now compared to only a few years ago. So please don't just accept what you have always used; have a play around and ask your supplier for some options and decide what is best for your dishes.

Roasted grouse, bread sauce and faggot, sloe jelly

Serves 2

For the sloe jelly
(Makes a batch of 250g)

100g sloe berries, frozen
200ml water
50g caster sugar
Ultratex (amount as required; each mix requires a different amount)

For the grouse and faggots
100g raw game mince (venison, grouse, etc)
60-80g grouse giblets and livers, chopped
1tsp chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and sage)
1tsp confit shallots
¼tsp ground mace
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Soaked pig's caul
2 oven-ready grouse
30g clarified or unsalted butter
6 slices of pancetta

For the bread sauce
150ml milk
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 clove
Couple of scrapings of nutmeg
2 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
1 star anise
80g fresh breadcrumbs
1tbs unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

First prepare the sloe jelly. In a medium saucepan bring the sloe berries, water and sugar to a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the berries collapse and the mixture become a purée. Pass it through a sieve and discard the stones. Place it in a mixing bowl and whisk in Ultratex until the required texture is achieved. Place the sloe jelly in a squeezy bottle and refrigerate until needed.

To prepare the faggots, in a mixing bowl, mix the minced game, grouse giblets and livers, herbs, confit shallot and mace and season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into even-sized small balls, wrap each in pig's caul and then in clingfilm, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To prepare the grouse, place three slices of pancetta over each grouse and truss the grouse with butcher's string.

For the bread sauce, bring the milk, shallot, clove, nutmeg, peppercorns, bay, thyme and star anise to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

Once boiling, remove from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes to infuse. Pass the milk through a sieve and add the breadcrumbs.

Mix in butter until fairly smooth, season to taste and set aside until needed. To cook the grouse and faggots, preheat the oven to 180°C. Poach the faggots in the clingfilm in a pan of boiling water for 15 minutes, remove and then leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the grouse all over in a hot pan with a teaspoon of clarified butter and then place in the preheated oven on a baking tray for 5-6 minutes. Once cooked, rest in a warm place for 8-10 minutes.

Brown the faggots in a small frying pan over a medium heat in a teaspoon of unsalted butter and then drain on kitchen paper. You could serve the grouse whole or remove the breast from the bone. Serve with the reheated bread sauce, faggots, the sloe jelly, Boulangère potatoes, Golden Heritage carrots and port red wine sauce.

Pecan apple fritters, sweet cheese

Serves 10-12

For the pecan apple fritters 100g toasted whole pecan nuts
150g caster sugar plus extra for dusting
250g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
¼tsp ground cloves
1 large egg
150ml buttermilk
6 medium to small Discovery or Cox's apples, core removed, skin on

For the sweet cheese 250g mascarpone cheese
80g icing sugar
Seeds of one vanilla pod
Juice and zest of one lemon

First prepare the batter. Place the toasted pecan nuts and caster sugar in a food processor and blend until the pecans are ground to a fine powder. Add the flour, salt and cloves and pulse-blend. In a small bowl, mix the buttermilk with the whole egg and slowly add to the flour mixture. Blend until just
incorporated. The batter will be quite thick - if it is too runny it will not stick to the apple. Transfer the mix to a clean container and set aside.

Preheat a deep-fat fryer with oil to 160°C, and prepare a tray with kitchen paper and a spider or tongs.

To prepare the sweet cheese, place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. If the mascarpone is a bit too thick, add a dash of buttermilk or milk to let it down slightly. Keep chilled. Cut the cored, skin-on apples into 3mm-4mm-thick wedges, dip in batter and deep-fry in batches in the preheated oil for 3-4 minutes.

Turn regularly to ensure an even golden colour and drain on kitchen paper. Immediately dust with extra caster sugar and keep warm.

To serve, place the warm fritters on serving plates with the sweet cheese.

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