Eating seasonally and when possible locally, suggests eating food that is at its prime in terms of taste and nutritional contents, while at the same time cutting down on those food miles.
Every month, I hope to publish on my blog a guide to what’s in season the main points are going to be about fresh and locally produced (specifically British) foodstuffs and what we are producing ourselves on the balcony.
Well this is the time of year we should be reaping all the good weather produce, wonderful juicy tomatoes and soft fruits, sweetcorn should be coming in as well as new season vegetables like chard, cauliflowers carrots and kohlrabi, Pumpkin, Squash, Kale and Leeks and pickling onions should be at their best as well as damsons and Victoria plums.
It’s the start of the Mussel season, and Plaice and Haddock are very good as is farmed Salmon and Trout, all flatfish are in their prime now that the breeding season is over with until next year, Dover sole, Plaice, Dabs, Brill, and Flounder are chubby and full of flavour Skate and large Bass are in plentiful supply and the Grey Mullet is at its best.
The first of this month saw the start of the Partridge and Wild Duck season and they should be very good this year. The Glorious Twelfth in August saw the opening of the Grouse season and they should be at a good price now, and Venison and Pigeon are good too.
Beans Runner and French, Chillies, Marrows, Peppers, Sweetcorn, Watercress, Tomatoes, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Egg Plants, Radicchio, Rocket (Arugula), Lettuces, and Globe Artichokes are superb. Moreover, just coming in are, Leeks, Pumpkins, New Season Parsnips, Brussels, and Fennel and whether you buy them in the shops or pick them in the woods and fields, a variety of different fungi are available from late summer onwards. Ceps and Chanterelles are among the most prized but other species such as parasol mushrooms and puffballs are well worth eating (you probably won’t find these in the shops, though). Plums (Especially Victoria), Greengages, Damsons and Discovery and Worcester eating apples as well as the superb cooking apple The Bramley Apple are appearing in the markets.
I have put two of our favourite recipes on the blog this month Tomato Soup this is because the Great British Tomato is now in full flow and those of you who grow your own will probably be having a glut and those who buy from the market stalls will find them coming down in price. And did I mention that it is the start of the British Mussel season and we just love the recipe for mussels I have include (see our recipes)
Fruit at Its Best
The hedgerows are abundant with boundless food, blackberries, damsons and elderberries, while the shops and markets are overflowing with juicy plums and ripe tomatoes (see our recipe for Tomato Soup). Apples, Bilberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Damsons, Elderberries, Hazelnuts, Greengages, Loganberries, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, and Plums are truly outstanding this year
Vegetables at Their Best
Aubergines, Beetroot, Borlotti Beans, Calabrese, Cabbages, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chard, Courgettes, Cucumber, Fennel, Garlic, Globe Artichokes, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lamb’s Lettuce, Onions, Pak Choi, Peppers, Rocket, Runner Beans, Salsify, Sorrel, Spinach, Squashes, Sweetcorn, Tomatoes, Watercress.
Meat at Its Best
There is plenty of game in season
so look out for Grouse, Partridge, Rabbit, Venison, Wood Pigeon, Autumn Lamb, Duck, Goose, are all at their most flavoursome now.
Fish and Seafood at Its Best
Whiting comes into season in September and should be readily available and of good quality this year, Whiting is a smaller fish from the Cod family and is of similar flavour; why not give it a try as it comes into season.
British mussels are in season throughout the autumn and winter months. The classic ‘Moules Mariniere’ is mussels quickly steamed in a mixture of white wine, shallots and herbs, and they can also be cooked in many other ways. Clean mussels thoroughly before cooking them, and discard any that have not opened.
Sea Bass and Black Bream are at the fishmongers as well as Brown Trout, Brill, Crab, Crayfish, Eels, Lobster, Mackerel, Mussels, Native Oysters, Prawns, Rainbow Trout, Scallops, Sea Bass, Sprats, Squid, Turbot and Wild Salmon.
On Sonny’s Stall in Tachbrook Street
They Are Showing Artichokes, Aubergines, Broad Beans, French Beans, Runner Beans, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbages, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chard, Courgettes, Cucumber, Dandelion, Fennel, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Wild Mushrooms, Onions, Spring Onions, Peas, New Potatoes And The New King Edwards Are Really Tasty, Rocket, Samphire, Sorrel, Spinach, Squash, Swede, Sweetcorn, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress and it all looks as pretty as a picture but you must get there early are you will miss some of the new season items we missed the discovery apples just because I thought they would have plenty of them however, there were plenty of Blackberries, lovely plump juicy British Damsons just try making a jam from them and you will never buy jam again, also on the stall were Elderberries, Juicy Plums Apples, Bilberries, Blueberries, Greengages, Loganberries, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, And Plums, A true cornucopia of fruit, vegetables and salads.
Every day the stall is on we are constantly impressed in the way they really take pride in selling and displaying only the best quality produce and sadly that is something that one of the larger supermarkets can’t, won’t do, thank goodness for Sonny’s.
Our Butcher has been getting in
Still no local butcher isn’t it sad that an area like Pimlico hasn’t a butcher to supply us with the meat we all would like to purchase locally, ok there is the supermarkets but I believe that an independent butcher serves a better quality and more locally sourced product than the supermarkets.
Our Local Fishmonger has been getting in
Anyway after Jon abandoned us for a couple of weeks, I understand he must have a holiday, we did miss his smiling face and some of the best fish in London nevertheless he has now returned to us with a picture perfect display of Wild Red Bream (try these filleted with lemongrass and chilli roasted ratatouille), Wild Black Bream, Dorset Crab, Cornish Squid, Wild Black Tiger Prawns, Sweet succulent Cockles of which I had a generous pint and at £5 you just can’t go wrong.
The Scottish Plaice Fillets which we had for dinner on Friday were superb so fat and sweet and I’ll bet Jon had his work cut out filleting more. There is also Scottish langoustines, British Lobster live and freshly boiled, the Irish Organic Salmon is plump and enjoyable and will be very tasty served up with the brilliant green Suffolk Samphire that Jon had in abundance when I wrote this however it was selling fast.
In addition we must not forget the Cornish Cod steaks and fillets, large Skate wings, South-East coast crab claws, Yellow Fin Tuna, Scottish Plaice truly delicious and plump, Scottish Scallops, Sea Bass, Cornish Dover Sole, Cornish Red Mullet, Sardines, magnificent line caught Mackerel, Scottish Brill and Turbot, Sprats, and some extremely flavoursome Hake.
Almost all Jon’s fish is from around the Cornish, Devon and Scottish coasts and don’t forget Jon’s tips to buying fish;
Fresh Whole Fish
The eyes should be clear and convex, not sunken
The flesh should be firm and resilient to finger pressure
The fish should smell freshly and lightly of the sea
Don’t buy fish with a strong ‘fishy’ or sulphurous odour, or that smells of ammonia.
Oily fish like herring, mackerel and salmon should have a light, fresh oil smell, like linseed oil. If they smell of rancid oil, don’t buy.
The surface of the fillet should be moist, with no signs of discolouration.
The texture should be firm, with no mushiness. Some separation of the muscle flakes (caused by the filleting process) is completely normal, but it shouldn’t be excessive.
As with whole fish, the smell should be fresh and light, with no ‘off’ odours.
Live bi-valves (including mussels, clams and oysters)
The general rule of not buying bi-valves during any month spelled without an ‘r’ (i.e. May to August) still holds true, as this is the spawning season and quality will be poorer. When raw, the shells should be closed tight. Any slightly open shells that don’t close up in response to a few light taps should be discarded. When cooked, the shells should open – discard any that don’t.
In The Garden
Keep on picking and enjoying your beans, cucumbers and courgettes, it’s also time to dig up those potatoes, carrots, beetroots and turnips. Once the foliage has died, unearth your onions and add them to your harvested pile of goodies.
Finally, don’t despair about your unripe tomatoes – simply pick them and pop them in a brown bag to ripen on their own.
Recipes for September
Alfredo’s Steamed Mussels
Plump fresh mussels in a tomato broth, an old favourite dish from Alfredo’s Restaurant in Morecambe this was and still is a favourite way to cook mussels, we first had it like this in 1972 in Cala Millor, Mallorca and then when we moved to Bolton-le-Sands and discovered Alfredo’s restaurant in Morecambe we found they did an almost identical dish and it is one of the most delightful ways to serve one of our favourite shellfish.
Serves / Makes: 4 servings
Prep-Time: 20 minutes
Cook-Time: 30 minutes
YOU WILL NEED
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 ½ kilos, mussels, scrubbed and debearded (see notes)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
Warm the oil in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid over low heat add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, increase the heat to high and stir for 1 minute more pour in the wine and bring to a boil.
Add the mussels, cover, and steam, occasionally giving the pan a vigorous shake, until all the mussels have opened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Discard any that do not open.
Transfer the mussels to a serving bowl and spoon the broth over the mussels and sprinkle with parsley serve and enjoy with fresh crusty bread
Mussels are truly one of nature’s most delightful delicacies; they are extremely high in proteins, calcium and iron while being low in fat and calories. They are also excellent for your heart, containing the highest amount of omega3’s of any shellfish (this is the naturally occurring fatty acid that is believed to lower blood pressure). Mussels with fries or Moules frites are a distinctive Belgian dish, you get a big bowl of steamed mussels, broth, and a side of frites.
Don’t be tricked by how upmarket they look, mussels are the definitive uncomplicated seafood. Clean them, sauté them, steam them and hey up you’ll have a dish everyone will be enthusiastic about, there are many ways to serve the mussels, but the most classic is Moules Mariniere the mussels are offered in a sauce of white wine, shallots, parsley, and butter.
You can in addition find mussels served with sauces made with beer, or cream, or vegetable stock. For the greatest authenticity, use a shell to crack open the mussels, not your fork.
Mussels are at their best in cold weather, so their season is usually from October to March. When you see them in a fishmonger’s, a sign of freshness is that most of them are tightly closed: if there are a lot of open mussels don’t bother. When buying mussels you need to allow at least 1 pint (570 ml) per person for a first course, and 1½ to 2 pints (about 1 litre) for a main course. That may seem a lot, but some will have to be discarded and, once they have been shelled, mussels are very small and light.
The ritual of cleaning and preparing them sounds more bother than it actually is. When you get them home, plonk the mussels straightaway into a sinkful of cold water first of all throw out any that float to the top, then leave the cold tap running over them while you take a small knife and scrape off all the barnacles and pull off the little hairy beards. Discard any mussels that are broken, and any that are open and refuse to close tight when given a sharp tap with a knife. After you’ve cleaned each one, place it straight in another bowl of clean water.
When they’re all in, swirl them around in three or four more changes of cold water to get rid of any lingering bits of grit or sand. Leave the cleaned mussels in cold water until you’re ready to cook them. As an extra safety precaution, always check mussels again after cooking this time discarding any whose shells haven’t opened.
The best of times to make tomato soup with your home-grown tomatoes is when they are at their most ripe and juicy, about September it will be grand. Wherever we have lived and worked we always had home-grown tomatoes and invariably a glut of tomatoes this soup was developed when we were at The Great Tree Hotel where we also made our own Tomato Ketchup and Chutney. When Lord Hanson had a chill or was just feeling a little low this was the soup he always asked for he said it always cheered him up.
Serves / Makes: 4 as a main course with bread
Prep-Time: 30 minutes
Cook-Time: 60 minutes
YOU WILL NEED
900 grams, vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 tablespoon, olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 celery sticks, chopped
200 grams, carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 large sprig, fresh thyme
½ teaspoon, sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200 mls, Passata
500 mls, vegetable stock
100 mls, single cream to finish
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion for 5 to 8 minutes over a gentle heat until almost softened but not browned.
Add the garlic, celery, carrots, bay leaf and thyme and cook for a further 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, making sure the vegetables don’t stick to the base of the pan.
Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar and season well with salt and pepper cook for a few minutes, then stir in the passata and vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme, and then blend the soup in a liquidizer or food processor (we used to and sometimes still put the soup through a mouli as sometimes the tomato seeds when over processed can be bitter), this will probably have to be done in two batches.
Pour the soup into a clean saucepan, passing it through a sieve if you want it really smooth then stir in the cream and check the seasoning and pour into bowls top with finely shredded basil if required and serve with fresh crusty bread, and Enjoy! We used to add a splash of dry sherry when serving at dinner parties.
Any remaining soup will keep in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen in individual servings. When reheating, make sure it’s heated thoroughly but don’t boil it as this will ruin the taste and texture of the soup.