In September a new season is embarked upon. Autumn heralds a wonderful time in the culinary world. Listening to the music of Mozart, in particular the ‘Four Seasons’ brings to me the excitement of the most wonderful time to be involved with food. The fields planted some months ago with different crops are now coming, or are at, their peak. The sweet taste of just harvested vegetables and fruit excite the senses like at no other time.
Here in Somerset apples, of hundreds of varieties, are now ripening ready to be picked (whether from the tree or ground) and will soon be turned into wonderful varieties of cyder or cider. Cyder is the harder to get hold of drink as it is made with the juice from the first pressing of the apples (on par with extra virgin olive oil).
At this time of year we see the celebration of the harvest festival at, a joyous event where the best examples of the growing season are presented, usually in the local church. In years gone by this was to say thank you to whoever’s God might be responsible for these wonderful offerings. In modern times the harvest festival has changed considerably in terms of what is presented. The occasional bag of supermarkets carrots is quite often accompanies by a tin of pineapple chunks!
This month a magnificent event occurs with the one of the most extensive food festivals. The Exmoor Food Festival allows us to dine in umpteen restaurants that extol the wonderful virtues of this amazing part of the nation.
The web-site says :
“Participating restaurants across the region will offer 2 courses for from £10.00 / 3 courses for £15.00 between 1 and 28 February. A wide range of events will be celebrating local food and drinks at various locations across Exmoor, culminating in a two-day-food extravaganza in Dunster.”
Check out that list, great restaurants with great food at a great price!!
So, what does September bring us?
It is tempting to say everything! But as a chef it is this thing that we can use to the utmost perfection. For me, one of my all-time favourite ingredients is, the whelk . The ingredient that most people that can remember is them being served at a stall near the beach (usually drenched in malt vinegar) and eaten with a cocktail stick. The French, who seemed to buy most of the British crop of whelks, don’t just boil them in just water. They treat them with respect. When eating them at a restaurant in Honfleur I was taken aback at the tenderness and flavourful little package that the whelk is. I returned every day for the rest of my week there and ate the same dish every lunchtime. Steamed in a manner very akin to moules marinière and left to cool a little in their shells a huge bowl of whelks is accompanied with a dish of freshly made mayonnaise. The best thing was that they were so cheap!!
Here is my list of things to look out for this month ……
Artichoke, aubergine, beetroot, broad beans, broccoli, carrots, chillies, courgettes, cucumber, fennel, french beans, garlic, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce & salad leaves, mangetout, marrow, onions, pak choi, peas, peppers, potatoes (maincrop), radishes, rocket, runner beans, spring onions, sweetcorn, tomatoes, turnips, watercress, wild mushrooms
Apples, apricots bilberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, damsons, figs, grapes greengages, loganberries, melons, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries.
Beef, grouse, hare, lamb, pheasant, rabbit, venison, wood pigeon
cod, coley, crab, dab, Dover sole, grey mullet, haddock, halibut, herring, lemon sole, mackerel, monkfish, pilchard, plaice, Pollack, prawns, red mullet, salmon, sardines, sea bass (wild), sea bream, sea trout, shrimp, squid, turbot, whelks.
A seasonal dish of baby vegetables with pork tenderloin and a ‘pint’ of curry foam.