Here’s a handful of ingredients we’re really looking forward to seeing in our kitchens and on our menus in the next few months. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to put them in your shopping basket or pick them off our menu.
Wander down the garden, through the crimson leaves and hanging mists and you realise autumn is every bit as alive as spring. These aren’t new beginnings, to be sure, but nature throws a party full of big flavours and vibrant colour as the year closes. Forest fruits, gourds and game will fill our bellies, and perhaps a pheasant or two. They’re at their peak in October with rich flesh that makes for a smashing pot roast with chorizo, lentils and sherry. These birds might not be cheap but you can squeeze every drop of goodness out by boiling the discarded bones for a hearty stock. Add any leftover veg you have lurking at the back of the fridge and a dash of wine.
One autumn character to pair with pheasant is the damson. These wild plums grow in all sorts of places. They’re there for the picking, free of charge, if you can find them. Try your luck in autumn woods, urban allotments and any overgrown likely areas. All you need is a punnet and a pair of long arms. Damsons go well with game, especially in a jelly but they’re just as good for dessert. If you’re stuck for ideas, you can’t beat a damson fool with macarons. For something a bit more involved, you can bake them so they hold their shape and turn them into a clafoutis. If all else fails, save yourself some hard work by steeping them in vodka and serving as a digestif.
The cold air makes haddock flesh firm and more delicious – its best from November onwards. This is wonderful news in the kitchen because smoked haddock, with its strong flavour, was made for comfort food – just so long as it’s not yellow, garish and stained with chemicals. Haddock should be smoked the natural way and added to fish pies smothered with grilled cheese, or stirred through risottos with a glug of white wine. Though sometimes, you just can’t beat slicing into the yolk of a poached egg and letting it pool over a plain grilled fillet.
Beautiful brussel tops – once popular only among allotment enthusiasts and otherwise discarded at harvest time. Now they’re finally gaining the respect they deserve. Even the staunchest opponents of brussel sprouts are being won over. This is because those leafy tops taste of young spring greens, unlike their sulphurous partners. Last year, Young’s bought 85% of all the brussel tops that came into New Covent Garden Market, so we know a thing or two about what to do with them. Try them in a soup with potato and polish sausage or sauté them with lardons and have them with Sunday lunch. If you’re having Christmas lunch with us, expect to see them on your plate.