Eat with the Season: October

Autumn Mushrooms
Autumn Mushrooms Pumpkin Elderberries Watercress
By CharlotteJones November 26, 2009
Mushrooms are a simple, rustic pleasure which treats all five senses.  While they can be added to more or less anything from casseroles and stews to soups and stir fries, they are most rewarding when their flavours are allowed to take centre stage on the plate.  In this case the Italians certainly got it right as mushroom risotto is by far the most delicious way to enjoy mushrooms… Ingredients 1 white onion, chopped finely 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 tbsp olive oil 20g butter 250g mushrooms 350g risotto rice 100ml white wine 500ml chicken stock 150g parmesan, grated Method Heat the butter and oil in a pan and gently fry the onion until translucent Add the garlic Stir in the rice Add the white wine When the wine had nearly all evaporated, add the stock slowly and constantly stirring When the stock has nearly evaporated add the mushrooms Add the parmesan, stir and serve
It’s criminal that pumpkins take centre stage in October for all the wrong reasons.  Children and parents carve them out, fill with candles and use to light up driveways, in the imported American Halloween tradition.  Instead the pumpkin should be a celebration of everything that is wonderful about the impending winter season.  Adaptable for risotto, soup, pie, tarts and cakes or simply baked in the same way one would a baked potato.  Help fight off the colds and sniffles with this garlic and pumpkin soup…   Ingredients 1litre chicken stock 1kg/2¼lb pumpkin (or butternut squash), seeds removed, sliced into 2cm/1in thick slices Olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper Few sprigs fresh thyme 1 bulb garlic 1 tbsp butter 1 head celery, finely sliced 2-3 shallots, finely sliced For the parsley oil Bunch fresh parsley Pinch salt Lemon juice Extra virgin olive oil For the parmesan croutons 1 baguette Olive oil, for brushing Freshly grated parmesan Method 1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. 2. Spread the pumpkin slices out on baking trays, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and torn sprigs of thyme. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Test that the slices are cooked through - the edges should have taken on some colour and the flesh will be tender. Remove from the oven and set aside. 3. Meanwhile break open the bulb of garlic and place the cloves with their skins on into a pan of boiling water. Boil for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the water, and squeeze them out of their skins. Heat the butter in a small frying pan and fry the cloves gently for 2-3 minutes. Set aside with the roasted pumpkin. 4. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the shallots and celery for 5-6 minutes, then set aside. 5. Place the roasted pumpkin, cooked garlic, shallots and celery into a food processor and blend thoroughly. You may need to do this in batches. Adding a little liquid from the stockpot will help achieve a smooth consistency. 6. Add the stock to the purée and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep the soup warm but do not allow to boil again. 7. For the parsley oil, place the parsley into a food processor with a little salt and lemon juice and blend. Stir in enough extra virgin olive oil to make a thick pouring sauce. 8. For the parmesan croutons, preheat the grill to medium. Slice the baguette into small rounds about 1cm/½in thick and toast under the grill on both sides. Using a pastry brush, brush one side of each crouton with olive oil. Turn the grill up to its highest setting. 9. To serve, ladle the soup into heatproof bowls. Float a crouton oiled-side down into each bowl of soup. Sprinkle the croutons with freshly grated parmesan cheese and place the bowls of soup under the grill, until the cheese is melted. Just before serving, drizzle a little of the parsley oil into each bowl of soup.
While not commercially grown, elderberries are readily available if one is happy to forage.  Pick the heads of the berries and wash before cooking.  Elderberries must be cooked thoroughly as raw elderberries contain a poisonous alkaloid.  Like elderflowers, the berries can be simmered to make a cordial or syrup which can be shaken with ice and vodka for cocktails.  If elderberry wine takes one’s fancy, do not forget that it can be used to deglaze the roasting tin for a rich, fruity gravy.  Alternatively, for those with a sweet tooth, the berries can be added to a variety of fruit pies such as elderberry and almond pie…   Ingredients (Serves 8 in an 8 inch pie/flan tin) ½ pack frozen pastry (either shortcrust or puff) 20 sprigs of elderberries 200g sugar 200g ground almonds   Method Roll the pastry out into two rounds - one large enough to form the base of the pie, the other for the lid Wash the elderberries thoroughly Gently pull the berries off the stalks, either by rubbing along the stalk with your fingers or using a dinner fork Put the berries in a pan with 2 tbsp water and half the sugar Simmer gently for 10 minutes and taste to test the sweetness Add more sugar if you need to When the berries are soft (about 20 minutes) and the juice has thickened, the syrup is ready Push through a sieve to remove the pips Line the pie dish/flan tin with the larger circle of pastry Push down well Fill with the ground almonds Pour the sieved syrup on top There's no need to mix Use a pastry brush and brush water onto the rim of the pie base, before securely pressing the pastry lid in place Make a small hole in the top of the pie to allow steam to escape If you want a browned top to your pie, brush the top with a little beated egg Bake at 180 deg C for 35-45 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and the top is brown Serve warm with fresh yoghurt or cream
Watercress, renowned for its mustardy bite, makes it the ideal accompaniment to game, egg and cheese.  The pleasant peppery taste makes watercress also perfect for a soup as good warm as it is chilled!  A real dinner party piece, try this watercress soufflé…   Ingredients 55g/2oz Dolcelatte cheese, chopped 2 free-range egg yolks 2 tbsp chopped watercress 3 free-range egg whites salt and freshly ground black pepper 25g/1oz unsalted butter Method 1. Preheat two ovenproof blini pans or small frying pans in the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. 2. Place the cheese, egg yolks and watercress into a bowl and mix well. 3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. 4. Fold the egg white mixture into the cheese mixture and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 5. Remove the pans from the oven, divide the butter between the pans and spoon in the soufflé mixture. Return to the oven and bake for ten minutes, or until risen and golden-brown. 6. To serve, place the pans onto plates.
The last of the autumnal sunshine has shone and the dreery rain has set in once again. However, there is plenty of cheer to ward off the despair with hearty mushroom, warming watercress and meaty pumpkins.
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