James Wellock of quality fresh and dry ingredient supplier Wellocks looks ahead to the flavours of November, while the British Larder's Madalene Bonvini-Hamel cooks up some recipes using prime, seasonal produce
I did say last month that we would be looking at all the basic ingredients in November, and I truly get as excited by these as the most extravagant ones. All matter, of course, and even more so this month as trade dips in anticipation of a busy December, so the basics have an important role to play in maintaining your kitchen budgets.
Like the other brassicas, kale contains indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells. It has also been shown to lower bile acid and thus lower cholesterol and decrease the dietary fat absorption. So not only are you producing an amazing dish by using any of the kale family - Red Russian, Green or Cavolo Nero - but you will also be looking after your guests' health. I would call that a double win; add in the fact that all the kales â¨are relatively cheap per kilo and you've got a triple win.
The diversification continues as your standard offer of green broccoli all winter has been added to by the development of varieties of purple sprouting broccoli more able to withstand lower temperatures. This has led to a continuous supply, which we had all last winter pretty much anyway. Again, purple sprouting broccoli has very similar health benefits to the kales and provides a vibrancy of colour on the plate. Even more importantly, it is all usable as the stems are so tender - no waste makes it another winner.
Moving on with the brassica options, the standard cauliflower has been complemented with the Romanesque variant's yellow, green, purple and orange options, so your Sunday cauliflower cheese need not look dull. Lots of these are grown by local growers now.
To finish the brassicas, it would be remiss not to mention cabbages. Although they can be had year-round, I always think that real winter meals have cabbage, and per kilo you can't beat red, Savoy or white cabbage.
Mushrooms take a prominent role this month with the Scottish yellow chanterelle - my favourite - at approximately £16 per kilo, black trompette (above) at £15 per kilo, girolle at £16 per kilo, Pied de Mouton at £23 per kilo and cep at £35 per kilo.
Citrus really takes a step up and we start to get Spanish and Italian navel oranges (below) and easy-peel clementines. Plus we have lemons, a favourite topic of mine.
Here the choice is between the regimented Spanish product - the same size and colour with no marks and often preferred by the barman - or a real rustic Italian version that just oozes juice and makes a real difference to any dish. I would choose the Italian â¨any time.
As well as the standard UK Cox's Orange Pippin, other apples to look out for are Patte de Loup, which is used in France as a baker - they would not touch a Bramley, and after you've eaten a Patte de Loup raw, neither would you. Added to this is the Goldrush (above). If I ever give one of these to someone they are guaranteed to eat it all. It has a distinct yellow blush to the skin, but the real glow is inside: you go from slightly acidic to sweet and juicy - an apple tasting of real apple.
We also have to venture into France for our pears, and the selection gets better through the month as we move from Williams to Comice (left) and then my favourite of all pears, but we will wait until December for this one - remember, you will need your bib!
Gressingham duck breast, slow-cooked aubergines, girolles (Serves 6)
For the slow-cooked aubergines 2 aubergines, roughly diced, skin on
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1tbs minced ginger
40ml olive oil
1tbs tomato purée
1tsp cumin freshly grounded
100g golden sultanas, soaked in 100ml â¨white wine
2tbs chopped mint and coriander mixed
3 plum tomatoes, concassé
For the duck breast 6 large Gressingham duck breasts
3 sprigs of thyme, snapped in half
1 large garlic clove, sliced into 6
To serve 2 baby aubergines, finely sliced
200g girolles, cleaned
1tbs unsalted butter
200g Cavolo Nero
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Reduced veal or poultry jus to taste
First prepare the slow-cooked aubergines. Deep-fry the diced aubergines until dark and deeply coloured, drain in a colander over a bowl, season with salt as it's coming out of the fryer. Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in olive oil, add the ground cumin and tomato purée, add the aubergines and seasoning.
Cook until soft over a low heat for about 10 minutes, add the sultanas and wine, and cook for 10 minutes. Fold the chopped herbs and tomato concassé into the aubergines. Set aside.
For the duck breast, score the fat, place each breast into a vacuum bag and add a piece of thyme and a slice of garlic to each bag. Seal on hard vacuum and cook in the water bath at 57Â°C for 45 minutes. Remove the breast from the pouches, drain and render the fat until the skin is golden brown in a very hot pan. Rest the duck breast for about eight minutes while completing the dish.
Sauté the girolles in the butter with seasoning until golden brown, and drain on kitchen paper.
Cook the Cavolo Nero until al dente in salted boiling water, drain and toss with seasoning and melted butter.
Deep-fry the baby aubergine slices until crispy and golden brown, drain and season with salt.
To serve, place a quenelle of the warm slow-cooked aubergines on a warm plate, arrange the Cavolo Nero at the other end, scatter the sautéed girolles over. Cut the duck breast in half and place the two halves on each plate. Season lightly. Sauce with a good jus and garnish with the aubergine chips.
Floating island, rowanberry custard (Serves 12)
For the rowanberry custard 250g ripe rowanberries
200ml cold water
200ml double cream
Seeds from one vanilla pod
150g caster sugar
6 large free range yolks
For the sugared almonds 100g flaked almonds, toasted
100g caster sugar
For the floating islands 200ml milk
100g free-range egg whites
100g caster sugar
12 rowanberries, dehydrated
First, prepare the rowanberry purée for the custard. Wash the berries and place in a small saucepan with the water and salt, bring to a â¨rolling boil over a high heat and cook for about eight minutes until the berries burst and become soft. Pass the liquid through a sieve and push through the pulp.
Prepare the custard. Place the warm rowanberry pulp, milk, cream and vanilla in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil. In a separate bowl whisk the yolks and sugar, add a couple of ladles of the hot liquid to the yolks, whisk and then pour it all back into the saucepan, over a low heat, stirring continuously until the mixture thickens, but don't let it boil. Pass the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl over ice to cool. Keep chilled until needed.
Make the sugared almonds. Make a caramel with the sugar, add the toasted almonds, toss and pour the hot caramel onto a lined baking tray, and leave to cool completely. Once cooled, chop it into smaller pieces.
For the floating islands, bring the milk in a â¨small saucepan to a gentle simmer over a medium heat while whisking the whites. Whisk the whites until they are foaming, add the sugar a little at a time and whip till the meringue is glossy and forms soft peaks.
Use two dessert spoons to quenelle spoonfuls of the meringue and poach the islands in the simmering milk for about five to six minutes; do this in batches and turn them carefully a couple â¨of times. Drain the cooked floating islands on to â¨a plate.
My suggestion is to serve these as a pre-dessert. Pour the custard into small serving glasses, approximately 100ml per serving, place a cooked floating island onto each glass of custard, garnish with the chopped sugared almonds and use a microplane to grate the dehydrated rowanberries over the top, and serve.