Flavours of October

Thursday 30th September 2010 10:48

As the autumn chill creeps into the air, there's plenty of delicious produce around. Madalene Bonvini-Hamel, creator of the online recipe diary Britishlarder.co.uk, looks at the best food that October has to offer.

After a few cold nights and a touch of frost the sloes are ready to be picked and the game is oven ready. There is plenty to harvest in the hedgerows alongside the sloes, with rosehips, the last few elderberries and good quality wild mushrooms nearby after a fair bit of autumn rain. The nuts are also ready: wet walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts and almonds in their shells are in abundance.

Wild sea bass from the east coast is a bit pricey, but superb. Mackerel from the south east coast and halibut from Scotland are at their best. Brancaster mussels from Norfolk are coming into season and are perfect for a timeless classic such as moules marinière, served with a pint of St Peters Golden Ale and a hunk of freshly baked brown bread.


PARTRIDGE

There are two types of partridge: grey and red-legged. The grey partridge is smaller than the red-legged variety, and produces tender and delicate meat early on in the season, but as the season progresses the meat becomes richer and stronger. Red-legged partridges have a delicate flavour. As they are fairly small game birds, one per portion makes an ideal starter.


FRESH OR WET WALNUTS

Walnuts have two lives - one as a green walnut at the end of June to the beginning of July. Pickling them the old-fashioned way in brine is a brilliant way to preserve them, or alternatively, you could make a lovely liquor de noix, also known as Nocino.

Their second life is the wet walnut, with its wonderful creamy texture and sweet taste, which appears towards the end of autumn. If you can get your hands on wet walnuts, keep them in the shell and cover with a damp cloth in the fridge for up to two weeks. They can be pan-fried in butter, sugar and sea salt to make a delicious accompaniment to partridge.


MALLARD

We are still early on in the season and it has only become cool enough over the past week to start game shooting. The birds only feed once it's cool - if it's too warm they do not graze sufficiently to become plump for being cooked.

Mallard is the largest and most common wild duck followed by the smaller teal and widgeon. It is strong in flavour, and with its rich meat, a large mallard could easily serve two people. Cook mallard as pink as possible as the meat can easily taste livery if overcooked.

For the mallard with apples and shallots cooked in cider with celeriac mash, the mallard was cooked at 64e_SDgrC for 45 minutes to ensure the most tender meat. This method also produces good portion control and ensures that every portion is cooked to perfection.


PARSNIPS

Parsnips are a good source of dietary fibre and are particularly rich in potassium - they are also richer in vitamins and minerals than their close relative, the carrot. Parsnips are very versatile and can be used for plenty of sweet or savoury dishes.

Parsnips also make an interesting alternative to mashed potatoes. Puréed, roasted and diced pan-fried parsnips are used for the truffled parsnip and borlotti bean salad.

For extra interesting texture, make parsnip crisps by shaving parsnips finely and deep frying them in vegetable oil until golden and crisp.


GIROLLES

Cantharellus cubarius is referred to in professional kitchens as the girolle, although it is also known as the chanterelle or golden chanterelle. The girolle is the best known mushroom in this species and is highly prized by chefs due to its nutty, peppery and fruity flavour and firm flesh.

Look out for only the firmest dry girolles, as they are living and breathing fungi. Do not keep them covered with plastic - it's best to keep all wild mushrooms in a brown paper bag, in the fridge. Clean them gently, preferably by dusting them with a pastry brush, and if you can avoid it, do not wash them as they absorb the water and become waterlogged and soggy.

The girolles for the truffled parsnip and borlotti bean salad recipe were pickled in sherry vinegar and hazelnut oil. This is the perfect preserving method for the girolles. The natural nutty flavour of the girolles is complemented by the use of the hazelnut oil.


OCTOBER'S SEASONAL DELIGHTS
Apples, beetroot, borlotti beans, butternut squash, chestnuts, clams, crabs, curly kale, duck, fennel, figs, grouse, guinea fowl, haddock, hare, kohlrabi, mackerel, mallard, partridge, pears, pheasant, pumpkins, quince, rabbit, sloes, spinach, swiss chard, turnips, venison, watercress, wet walnuts, wood pigeon

WILD FOODS FOR OCTOBER
Crab apples, elderberries, hawthorn berries, horseradish, nettles, sea beet, sea purslane, sloes, rosehips, wild mushrooms



PARTRIDGE, FIG AND SALT CARAMELISED WALNUTS


INGREDIENTS
(Serves four)

For the partridge
• 2 red-legged partridges
• 1tbs unsalted butter
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 3 banana shallots, finely diced
• 50ml olive oil
• 1tsp coriander seeds
• 5 black peppercorns
• 1 sprig of thyme
• 2 figs, cut into wedges

For the lentils
• 300g cooked puy lentils
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 1tbs unsalted butter
• 100g trompette de la mort mushrooms
• All the cooked leg meat and shallot confit
• 1tsp of thyme leaves

For the salt caramelised walnuts
• 200g wet walnuts, husks removed
• 50g caster sugar
• 25g Maldon sea salt
• 1tbs unsalted butter

For the damson vinaigrette
• 100g damson purée
• 20ml sherry vinegar
• 100ml rapeseed oil
• 1tsp crushed coriander seeds
• Pinch of sugar
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper


METHOD

Partridge
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Prepare a saucepan filled with water, one sprig of thyme, coriander seeds and peppercorns, and bring it to the boil.

Remove the legs from the partridges; roast them in the preheated oven with olive oil and seasoning for 25 minutes. Flake the meat while hot.

Heat the olive oil with the shallots and seasoning, cook until transparent and add the cooked flaked leg meat. Cook until the shallots are tender, then taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Poach the partridge crowns in the boiling water for 3 minutes, leave to rest for 5 minutes and remove the breast from the bone.

When ready to serve, heat a frying pan with butter and caramelise the partridge breast in the foaming butter skin side down, caramelise the fig in the same pan. Serve immediately.

Lentils Heat a saucepan with the butter and sauté the trompette de la mort mushrooms for 2 minutes, add the leg meat, lentils and 1tbs of the damson vinaigrette. Cook for 5 minutes, adjust the seasoning if needed and add the thyme leaves.

Salt caramelised walnuts Heat a frying pan with the butter, nuts, sugar and salt, heat until the sugar has melted, cook until the sugar caramelises to golden brown.

Transfer the caramelised salted walnuts to a line tray, and leave to cool. Break the walnuts into pieces for serving.

Damson vinaigrette Blend all the ingredients until emulsified, season and set aside until needed.

To serve Spoon the lentils onto a warm plate, arrange the partridge breast and figs on top of the lentils, arrange the rest of the figs on the plate and drizzle the damson vinaigrette round the plate. Scatter the walnuts and garnish with cress. Serve immediately.


TRUFFLED PARSNIP AND BORLOTTI BEAN SALAD WITH PICKLED GIROLLES AND HAZELNUTS


INGREDIENTS
(Serves four)

For the truffled parsnips and borlotti beans
• 2 large parsnips
• 2tbs unsalted butter
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 200g fresh borlotti beans
• Few drops of truffle oil
• 1 sprig of thyme

For the thyme roasted parsnips
• 2 large parsnips
• 50ml rapeseed oil
• 1 sprig of thyme
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the parsnip purée
• 4 large parsnips
• 2tbs unsalted butter
• 200ml milk
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the pickled girolles
• 100ml rapeseed oil
• 60ml hazelnut oil
• 60ml sherry vinegar
• 1 sprig of thyme, leaves only
• 200g girolles, cleaned
• 1tsp Dijon mustard


METHOD

Truffled parsnips and borlotti beans Cook the borlotti beans in seasoned water with the sprig of thyme until tender, drain and set aside.

Peel and dice the parsnips into 1cm cubes. Heat a large non-stick frying pan with the butter, then once it's foaming sauté the parsnips with seasoning until they turn golden brown. Reduce the heat and leave the parsnips until golden, caramelised and tender but not mushy.

Add the cooked borlotti beans and truffle oil and season. Set aside until needed.

Thyme roasted parsnips Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a roasting tray with parchment paper. Peel the parsnips and cut each into 6 long wedges. Lay the parsnips on the tray, season and add the oil, mix. Roast the parsnips for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Once cooked, chop the thyme and scatter over, set aside until needed.

Parsnip purée Peel and cut the parsnips into 2cm dice, heat a saucepan with the butter and sauté the parsnips until they start to turn golden, seasoning as you cook. Once the parsnips are nearly tender enough add the milk and continue cooking until soft. While the parsnips are still hot, purée until smooth but thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Pickled girolles Clean the girolle mushrooms and cut them into smaller pieces if needed. Heat 1tbs of oil in a medium non-stick frying pan, sauté the girolles with seasoning for two minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the mustard, thyme, hazelnut and the rest of the rapeseed oil and sherry vinegar. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Let the mushrooms mature for a day before using.

To serve In a small saucepan reheat the truffled parsnips and borlotti beans with a few spoons of the pickled girolles. Heat the purée and the thyme roasted parsnips.

Spread the purée on a warm plate; arrange the truffled parsnips and the thyme roasted parsnips on top. Scatter chopped roasted hazelnuts over with a few Shipcord cheese shavings. Toss a few watercress sprigs and mixed cress with a drop of truffle oil and vinaigrette to garnish the dish. Serve immediately.



MALLARD WITH APPLES AND SHALLOTS COOKED IN CIDER, CELERIAC MASH


INGREDIENTS
(Serves eight)

For the mallard
• 2 whole mallard
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
• 1 sprig of thyme
• 2tbs olive oil

For the celeriac mash
• 1 head of celeriac
• 2tbs unsalted butter
• 200ml dry white wine
• 200ml chicken stock
• 100ml double cream
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the apples and shallots cooked in cider
• 3 banana shallots
• 2tbs unsalted butter
• 200ml Aspal cider
• 200ml white chicken stock
• 2 Coxes apples
• 100g smoked pancetta
• Salt and freshly cracked black pepper


METHOD

Mallard Preheat the oven to 200°'C and preheat the water bath to 64°C. Season the mallards, brush with oil, and roast them for 3 minutes only.

Vacuum pack the whole birds with the thyme and cook them in the water bath for 45 minutes. Rapidly cool them in iced water.

Remove the legs and breast from the bones, and trim the legs.

To reheat, roast the legs in the oven for 15 minutes. Pan fry the breast in butter on the skin side until the skin is crisp, and serve immediately.

Apples and shallots cooked in cider Slice the peeled shallots and dice the pancetta into small pieces. Core and cut the apples into wedges.

Heat a non-stick frying pan with the butter and caramelise the shallots, apples and bacon until golden, deglaze the pan with the cider. Cook until the cider becomes sticky, then add the stock and simmer until tender. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

Celeriac mash Peel and dice the celeriac into 2cm cubes, heat a saucepan with the butter and sauté until it starts to turn golden. Season as you cook.

Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook until the wine is completely absorbed by the celeriac. Add the stock and cook until tender, then add the cream.

While the celeriac is still hot, pass the mash through a ricer, taste and adjust the seasoning as required. Keep warm until needed.

To serve Blanch the chard in salted boiling water, season with olive oil. Spoon the celeriac mash onto the plate and in a separate pile spoon the caramelised shallots and bacon and place the apples on the plate.

Slice the pan-fried mallard breast and place it over the shallots, and place the roasted leg next to the celeriac mash with a game chip intact. Arrange the chard on the plate and glaze the mallard with a game red wine sauce.



MY FAVOURITE SUPPLIERS: PAUL FOSTER, TUDDENHAM MILL, NEAR NEWMARKET

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