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Autumn’s rich bounty

Wednesday, 23rd October, 2019 4:13pm

The seasons of the year have inspired artists over the centuries like Vivaldi with his beautiful music and French artist Nicolas Poussin with his four paintings (The Four Seasons)– so it is no wonder that the seasons also inspire chefs and home cooks.

Autumn is such a rich season with the harvest happening and the horn of plenty being full to the brim. Any chef worth his or her salt will be changing the menu to include the best of the season like game, root vegetables and fruit like apples, pears and plums.

Please don’t add things like strawberries or asparagus to the menu – these are imported and will probably taste of next to nothing.

Cauliflower, broccoli, kale, celeriac and leeks are at their best right now and go so well with game that becomes available at your local butcher again, proving that nature knows best what food matches.

In case you are not quite sure what is best in season, head over to the Bord Bia website – they have a seasonal list available.

You may be scarred from childhood memories – like me – of overcooked cauliflower mush, grey looking broccoli or utterly tasteless celeriac but fear not, with a few simple tricks and recipes, you will be turning into a seasonal champion in no time.

Cork chef Denis Cotter wrote a beautiful book many years ago called ‘Paradiso Seasons’. This is a well-used book in my house and it still gives me great inspiration like the potato, parsnip and wild rice cake (it’s delicious) or the pumpkin gnocchis (I serve it with a cider cream sauce). Get your hands on this book if you haven’t got it already and you will fall in love with nature’s best.

When going shopping in supermarkets, you will rarely see what is truly in season as peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, ‘new’ potatoes and even asparagus are available all year round next to cauliflower, broccoli etc.

But if you look closer and check the label for its country of origin, you will see that these come from Holland, Chile, China etc. Holland for example is able to provide a large part of Europe with out of season vegetables all year as their farms (if you can call it that) are covered in massive greenhouses with regulated temperatures etc.

No rainwater has drizzled over the tomatoes, no wind has swept along the blueberries and no flavour has entered any of the vegetables and fruit. These are not grown for their taste but for their return on investment.

My mum used to say that tomatoes don’t taste like tomatoes anymore – and she is right if you are buying them now. But if you have grown them yourself and pick them fresh, I promise you a juicy and tasty fruit that is sweet and savoury at the same time.

I read a very interesting article a while back listing the benefits of eating locally produced food, especially honey as it would contain minerals specifically beneficial to us that are not available in imported fresh food. I am off now to prepare a tasty celeriac soup with some fresh homemade bread - happy autumn!

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