For foodies and cooks, there is no better season than autumn. As a crispness enters the air, a cornucopia of colourful vegetables emerges from British fields. Not only is autumnal food delightfully vibrant, it tends to be low-fat and filling, full of potassium, Vitamin B, folates, calcium and zinc.
So how to make the most of this new brightly-coloured bounty? Jane Baxter, chef at the Riverford Kitchen in Devon, says: “Autumn is an inspirational time to cook, especially vegetables. You’ve got sweet corn, squashes and outdoor tomatoes starting to be ready, along with French beans, leeks, chard and spinach.
“The key is to think creatively: people tend to do the same things with veggies and it gets boring. What we do at the Field Kitchen is combine vegetables in different ways – it’s not about doing a vegetarian dish, it’s about doing something with enough going on in its own right not to need meat.”
One of Baxter’s favourite autumn dishes that is both creative and simple is Riverford’s divine-sounding creamed sweet corn. Rather than boiling it, she braises the corn with onion, chilli and cumin, browning it slightly so that it’s a bit caramelised. Then she adds chicken stock (or water) and cooks it down, finally blitzing it with some chard.
Note the use of braising. Baxter is passionately against boiling as it dulls the taste of the vegetables. Rather, she recommends liberal roasting: even cauliflowerwith oil, salt and pepper sprinkled over it and roasted in the oven takes on a gorgeously intense flavour.
“People also tend to be unimaginative with French beans,” says Baxter. “Try them with slow roast tomatoes and olives, or even salt cod – you need salty, full-on flavours for beans. Also, grilled leeks with tapenade are a winner”. Baxter has also been known to make six different types of pumpkin soup, one of which is a gorgeous Mexican version with corn and herbs.
Then there’s seasonal fruit: plums, berries including sloe (for sloe gin), and apples. Autumn is crumble madness.
For more inspiration, see the recipes below.
WARM CORN SALAD
WITH A TOUCH OF SPICE
by Tomasina Miers, Wahaca
4 corn on the cob
A fat knob of butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
Dried chilli flakes
A few good pinches allspice
Juice of 1-2 limes
Sit the cobs up in a bowl and scrape a knife down along the cob at a 45 degree angle to shave off the kernels into the bowl. Heat the butter in a pan over a medium heat and when it is gently sizzling add the corn, shallots, allspice and a good pinch of chilli. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the shallots have softened. Add the lime juice and cook until the corn is soft but still with a little crunch. Serve in a warm tortilla, scattered with coriander leaf, a dollop of crème fraiche and a scattering of chilli flakes.
SLOE GIN JELLY WITH
HOME CLOTTED CREAM
by Tristan Welch, Launceston Place
350ml sloe gin
4 leaves(8g) gelatine
Soak the gelatine in cold water to soften. Meanwhile, weigh out the gin, sugar and water. Bring the sugar and water to the boil, remove the soaked gelatine from the cold water and dissolve in the sugar and water. Once this is dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and let it sit and cool, but only for a couple of minutes.
Pour sloe gin into the syrup you have made, give it a quick mix, then pour it into the jelly mould and chill immediately. To make the clotted cream, pour a thin layer of double cream into a baking tray or oven-proof dish and place in the oven for 40 minutes at 120°C. When it is cooked, pass it through a fine sieve and chill so that it sets.