Fall deeply in love with food this autumn...

What should you grow, sow or forage and cook at this time of year? KATE RYAN continues her monthly feature series, A Year in Flavour
Fall deeply in love with food this autumn...

Apple and Cinnamon Fritters

THE seasonal food of October will turn your head like no other season. I revel in it and find it more inspiring than even the bounty of the summer season.

I think it might be the colours: purples, oranges, forest greens, creamy whites. This is the time when brown food comes into its own, too; the luxurious glossy brown of chestnut, the dark, unctuous sheen of slow braised meats, the myriad muted and glorious hues of wild mushrooms; the comforting aroma of cinnamon and roasted apples.

This is the time of year for breaking out the warming spirits too. A mulled cider here; the flame of an aged whiskey; the garnet glow of hot port. These are the things we can indulge in after a bracing walk on the beach, recapturing our youth as we crunch through leaves; our cheeks ruddy, our bodies wrapped in soft woollen clothes, and the prospect of an evening beside a fire nestled in cosy blankets.

October is dominated by Halloween, and so our food is dominated by pumpkins and squashes, apples, potatoes, kale and cabbage.

Green Tomato Salsa Verde
Green Tomato Salsa Verde

In the garden, I’m waving goodbye to radishes and harvesting the tomatoes that haven’t managed to ripen. In the wild, there are hints that this year could be a very good one for chestnuts, and it has been a spectacular year for wild mushrooms too.

GROW IT YOURSELF

October has been unseasonably warm, wreaking havoc on my gardening plans. By rights, all the late summer crops should be done, and the floral garden should be waning, but instead my little plot of heaven is awash with every shade of verdant green imaginable and still growing with fervour!

It’s great to still be out picking runner beans so late in the year. The last of the radishes are just past their peak for eating raw. Switch things up flavour and texture wise by roasting them with olive oil, lemon zest, grated garlic, salt, pepper and a bit of fresh chopped rosemary. Gorgeous!

My tomatoes did start ripening in the end, but I was left with a lot of unripe green spheres. But, hooray for me, green tomatoes are a great substitute for tomatillos in salsa verde. See recipe below.

My Pak Choi is ready to harvest, and they are things of beauty! Somewhere between chard and cabbage taste wise, it’s a vegetable synonymous with Southeast Asian cuisine and is brilliantly versatile. This month, we have eaten it chopped into a veggie stir fry with egg fried rice, poached in a Kimchi Broth from My Goodness with wild mushrooms and noodles, and steamed then lashed with oyster sauce and garlic. See recipe below.

FORAGE FOR IT

Where to start? Right now, it’s all about hazelnuts, chestnuts, crab apples, sloes, and mushrooms.

Underground, horseradish and dandelion roots are ready too; but remember that birds, small mammals, pollinators, and insects are at their busiest now making their winter stores. They need the wild food more than we do, so tread lightly this month.

Happily, I found out that my neighbour is something of an ace mushroom hunter, and she handed me a Tupperware box full of the most wonderful mustard yellow chanterelles. A few years ago, I went on an organised mushroom hunt, but every mushroom I picked turned out to be inedible! Now I leave it to the experts to find them, while I enjoy cooking with them.

Squash Garlic Sage
Squash Garlic Sage

Incidentally, the first recipe I ever shared was for a Wild Mushroom Risotto. I’ve tweaked it over the years, but I do think that this years’ recipe is the best so far. See recipe below.

It’s a good year for sloes this year, too. They’re pretty inedible eaten from the bush but have an uncanny knack for pairing particularly well with alcohol. Sloe Gin is an old-fashioned drink that has a new found popularity in recent years, but, for a change, try infusing dark spirits with sloes. Dark rum and whiskey work particularly well, and if you set things going now, it will be ready for Christmas.

SHOP FOR IT

Squashes and pumpkins are of the moment in October, but it’s a season that stays with us all winter because, like apples and potatoes, they store amazingly well.

Variety and versatility are key to never getting bored eating squashes for months on end. Roasted, steamed, pureed, baked, or made into soup, I rejoice when pumpkin season arrives! I have a lot of pumpkin recipes up my sleeve, but one I go to regularly because its so easy and packs in flavour is my Garlic and Sage Roasted Squash with Blue Cheese Orzo and Hazelnuts. See recipe below.

Apples and October is like bacon and eggs or fish and chips – they are just meant to be together! I love Apple and Cinnamon Fritters, and with one simple recipe you can make two fritter styles – one with cooking apples and the other with eating apples. They are perfect eaten with custard, or for the adults, some brandy whipped cream. See recipe below.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms

We should not forget about the humble pear either. Fewer things are more decadent than a perfectly poached pear. I like to poach mine with fresh rosemary and vanilla and serve it with a salted caramel sauce and a scoop of ice cream. Divine!

COOK IT

Green Tomato Salsa Verde

This is the best way I’ve found to eat green tomatoes. This recipe is inspired by Linda Ly of Garden Betty blog. Serve the salsa on top of Blanco Nino Lime and Ancho Chilli tortilla dips and crumble over some Dunnes Simply Better Ardsallagh Goat Salad Cheese.

Ingredients (serves 2 – 4 people)

450g unripe / green tomatoes

Olive oil Salt and pepper

2 green chillies

1 clove of Drummond House Elephant Garlic Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 organic green chillies, seeds included 1 tbsp each coriander and cumin seeds

15g coriander

170g bag Blanco Nino Lime and Ancho Chilli Tortilla Chips 75g

Dunnes Simply Better Ardsallagh Goat’s Salad Cheese

Method:

Turn the grill on maximum heat. Cut the green tomatoes in half and place on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place under the grill for 15 minutes.

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan. Set aside.

Spoon the cooked tomatoes into a food processor and add all ingredients, except the chips and cheese. Blitz into a rough pulp.

Arrange the tortilla chips over a sharing platter, and top with salsa. Crumble the goat’s salad cheese all over, and finish with a final handful of fresh, chopped coriander.

Squash
Squash

Pak Choi, Oyster Sauce and Garlic

This simple three-ingredient dish is a great side with chicken, duck, or tofu.

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 Pak Choi, halved

1 large garlic clove, finely sliced

100ml Oyster Sauce

1 tsp sunflower oil

Method:

Steam the Pak Choi for 5 minutes.

While the Pak Choi is steaming, place a wok over a medium-high heat, add sunflower oil, drop in the sliced garlic, and cook until golden brown. Remove garlic from the oil using a slotted spoon and dry on a piece of kitchen paper.

Remove the Pak Choi from the steamer, place into the garlic flavoured oil, and stir fry for 1 minute. Add oyster sauce and stir fry for 2 minutes. Ensure Pak Choi is slicked with the sauce.

Serve topped with the golden slices of garlic.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

This recipe is versatile, so play with combinations of mushrooms, swap sage for thyme, and cider for wine or, for an extra touch of luxury, marsala.

Ingredients (serves 2)

500g of mixed mushrooms (I used chestnut, yellow and golden chanterelles)

1 tbsp each Olive Oil and butter

1tbsp celeriac, grated

1 medium white onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, grated

1 cup of risotto rice

1 glass of dry cider

1 ltr of good quality vegetable stock

2 tsp Burren Balsamic Umami powder (optional)

2 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped

Parmesan cheese

Knob of butter, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Place a sauté pan over a medium heat, add the butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, add celeriac, onion, and chestnut mushrooms only, and cook until softened and transparent.

Add the garlic, then add the risotto rice and stir to coat. Add cider to deglaze, stir until liquid is absorbed by the rice.

Slowly add the stock a ladle at a time. Keep stirring and wait until liquid has been absorbed before adding more. Repeat until all the stock has been incorporated and the rice is cooked but retains a tiny amount of bite.

When cooked, turn the heat off and add sage, butter and, if using, the Umami Powder. Stir and check seasoning. Add salt if needed and a crack of black pepper.

Heat another frying pan over a medium high heat, add a knob of butter and cook the chanterelles for 3 minutes.

Plate up the risotto and top with the cooked chanterelles. Finish with some grated fresh Parmesan.

Garlic and Sage Roasted Squash with Orzo, Blue Cheese and Hazelnuts

Ingredients

250g squash / pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded and cut into roughly 2cm pieces

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

Handful of dried sage leaves 250g

Orzo pasta

1 tbsp hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Olive oil, salt and pepper

15g blue cheese

Method:

Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place the prepared squash piece on the tray, place the smashed garlic cloves and sage leaves around, drizzle over olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until soft and slightly caramelised, turning once during cooking.

Meanwhile, fill a saucepan with water, salt it well and bring to the boil. Add in the orzo pasta and cook until to packet instructions. Drain, set aside.

Into a warmed serving bowl, place the pasta and the pumpkin (leave out the garlic), and combine. Crumble over the blue cheese and chopped hazelnuts. Check for seasoning and adjust.

Give everything one last mix and serve.

Apple and Cinnamon Fritters
Apple and Cinnamon Fritters

Apple & Cinnamon Fritters

I’ve suggested two ways to make these fritters using the same base batter mix, but two different types of apples and serving suggestion too: ring and dumpling. Naturally, the fritters made with the dessert apples are sweeter and may appeal more to kids, but both are delicious.

Ingredients

For the batter:

100g plain flour

½ tsp sea salt o 1 medium egg

150ml whole milk

Apples: either 4 Bramley cooking apples or 4 eating apples or 2 of each.

Icing sugar and ground cinnamon

250ml Sunflower Oil for frying

Method:

In a bowl mix together the ingredients for the batter. Set aside and let rest for half an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the apples. Peel and core the apples. If making apple rings, slice about half a centimetre thick. If making apple dumplings, cut into cubes about half a centimetre too.

In a bowl, mix together icing sugar and cinnamon. Toss the apple slices or pieces in this mix to coat all over.

Into a deep saucepan, add sunflower oil and place over a medium heat to 180 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop some batter into the oil and if it starts to fry and go brown, its ready.

Dip each apple slice in the batter, shake off any excess and gently lower into the hot oil. Two at a time is enough else the temperature of the oil will drop. Turn over after a minute to brown all over. Remove from the hot oil using a slotted spoon, and place on kitchen paper to drain. Repeat until all the rings are done.

If making dumplings, place the apple cubes into the batter and mix.

Take a large spoonful at a time a slowly lower into the hot oil to ensure they stay together and form a dumpling. Turn over after a minute to brown all over. Remove and drain on paper towel.

To serve, dust with more icing sugar and serve with either custard, or for adults, some brandy whipped cream.

You can catch up on Kate Ryan’s “A Year in Flavour’ on EchoLive.ie


or adults, some brandy whipped cream.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

summersoaplogosml

Called Droid, our next story is about a boy who designs a robot at UCC and chaos ensues. It was written by Margaret Gillies, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC.

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more