Do you love to crunch into the flesh of a British apple in the autumn? This season is a feast of riches when it comes to fresh produce, with the last of summer fruits and plenty of root vegetables coming into season. All those red and russet tones leaves mean the start of comforting dishes featuring new seasonal produce and earthy autumnal flavours, perfect to devour on a chilly evening around the fire.
There is a wonderfully simple joy in the first taste of a new seasonal fruit that we haven’t tasted for for many months. 50 years ago, we had to eat within season as we didn’t have a choice, but didn’t that make eating the first strawberries of summer an even more special experience? We can bring back this appreciation for ingredients by respecting their place within the calendar.
Eating seasonally is at the heart of our ethos and it shines through in our ever-changing menus. There are so many benefits to eating seasonal produce. Not only does food taste at its best when it is in season, but it is also much better for the environment. If you focus on picking up seasonal, British grown produce on your weekly shop – you can avoid unnecessary food miles. As consumers, we have the power to create change by adapting our buying habits – and avoiding the needless importation of food to fill off-season demand.
The cherry on the cake? Food that is in season will almost certainly cost less, meaning more bang for your buck as well.
Below are a selection of our favourite ingredients this season.
PUMPKINS AND SQUASHES
We’re ramping up for autumnal celebrations such as Bonfire Night and Halloween. You might think your Halloween Lantern looks jolly adorning your doorstep but you might also be interested to know that 18,000 tons of perfectly edible pumpkin gets wasted at this time every year in the UK. That seems a shame when your pumpkin could end its life as a beautiful soup, stew or sweet treat.
Pumpkins and squashes come in many delicious varieties. Here at Priory Farm they grown a wide variety of squashes and pumpkins, but we’re particular fans of the Crown Prince and Turk’s Turban – and we’ve been featuring them in plenty of our autumnal menus.
To get the most out of your pumpkins and squashes during the festivities here are some ideas to inspire you in the kitchen.
- Keep your seeds! They are delicious tossed in a spice mix of your choice and toasted in the oven.
- Roasted wedges are a delicious accompaniment or a fantastic centrepiece for a vegetarian meal, sprinkled with fried garlic, chilli, coriander and toasted pumpkin seeds (check out our recipe here).
- Pickle them – we’ve been pairing pickled squash with lots of seasonal dishes.
- If using smaller squashes or pumpkins, slice them whole and grill them over the fire or on a griddle pan. Or, you can even coal bake them whole.
- The ultimate classic – pumpkin soup. We love it served with toasted seeds, fresh herbs and sourdough garlic breadsticks.
- Pumpkin makes a delicious addition to curries, stews or tagines.
The 1st October marks the beginning of pheasant shooting season in the UK (and finishes on January 31st). Easily recognisable in the wild by their beautiful vibrant green and red plumage, if they appear too gaudy to be a native British species, it’s because these beautiful birds were originally introduced from Asia.
Pheasants are not farmed intensively like other poultry we are most familiar with, such as chickens and turkeys. They are generally reared for shooting, an activity that is viewed as controversial these days. We no longer export much pheasant to Europe and, as a result, wholesale prices at peak season are ridiculously low.
We need to remember that a lot of the meat we consume these days is mass produced. Pheasants, by contrast, are raised outside of factory farm conditions and, as such, represent a free range food source that is killed quickly and humanely without an abattoir or processing plant in sight.
This helps to explain why chefs and home cooks are turning to game as a more sustainable source of meat. Pheasant is without doubt an economical meat; a single bird, plucked and dressed, can feed two people for around £4.
Whether you are a keen game chef, or just learning, pheasant is simple to cook. Simply think of it as a more flavoursome, and sustainable, chicken. Delicious in pies, stews, sausage rolls, stir fries, and so much more. Don’t forget to use the carcass to make stock!
You can buy pheasants in the feather, but not many people know how to pluck and dress a pheasant these days. We run regular fur and feather cookery workshops throughout the year, where we teach our budding chefs to pluck and butcher a variety of game birds and meats.
On a cold autumn night, it doesn’t get much better than a gypsy style pheasant baked in a dutch oven, with lashings of bacon, apple and cider, finished with a hint of brandy and lemon.
An iconic fruit throughout history from the moment Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden to Newton’s discovery of gravity (not to mention the fruitily named devices we carry in our pockets. The apple is seen as a truly British fruit. But you may be surprised to learn that 70% of the apples currently sold in the UK are actually imported. Of course, Brexit may change that but next time you’re doing your weekly shop look out for British varieties such as Cox or Russet.
The UK once held the crown for cultivating the most apple varieties, a whopping 2500! No wonder we’re a nation of cider drinkers and our favourite dessert is apple crumble. October is also a great time to forage for crab apples. Their tart flavour makes them unpalatable raw but they have a delicious flavour once cooked. They are perfect for making jams and jellies due to their high pectin content.
For more kitchen inspiration, check out our recipe for burnt apple sauce, a delicious smoky accompaniment to meats and pâtés.