Warm and hearty autumnal choices

As we move in to Autumn with the light, sunny days becoming a mere memory, my thoughts are turning to darker nights and wholesome food. The main crop of potato is in full flow with so many choices you really can set your stall out to highlight this on your menus. What used to be just order a bag of potatoes and hope they do all things can now be a truly specialised choice.

Chipping potatoes would just have been a Maris Piper, which you can still have and it is personal choice as to what constitutes the best chip, these have a creamy white flesh and a high dry matter content, essential for a crispy chip but will not stay crispy for long compared to the newer varieties which have been developed to have even higher dry matter content such as Saguitta which also have a more yellow colour but fry a lot crisper and are drier inside.

Mashed potatoes and again there are options with my best being the Red Rooster, which has a lovely yellow flesh and deep earthy flavour, I also love these for Dauphinoise with the skin left on or the Dutch Bintje with its smooth yellow, slightly waxy skin and creamy flesh.

Colour and appearance as well as flavour give you even more of a choice with varieties such as Apache with a red and white skin but as well as eye catching it has a sweet tasting buttery chestnut flavour and makes a great change to conventional roast pots when cooked whole.

The Heritage Mayan Gold has a rich gold coloured skin and flesh, truly sensational when roasted in olive oil. Your salad potato options just get more crazy as shape is introduced as well with my favourites being the Pink Fir, I describe them as wriggly worms with a pink and white skin, yellow flesh and a very distinctive nutty flavour with a firm waxy texture, a French favourite now being grown in its’ Heritage form by Carolls, another option is its’ cousin the Anya.

The purple or Vitellote as it is known in France has a long oval tuber that maintains a fantastic purple veined flesh when cooked, options grown here are Salad Blue and Purple Majesty. A massive renaissance in the last few years for the pumpkin and squash family as chefs have realised what a healthy vegetable this. Many choices here that have resigned the traditional lantern pumpkin to the carving knife, as it’s just tasteless compared to the commonly used French Muscade, which is sensational with a dry flesh that just packs loads of flavour. However local growers are savvy to this and have jumped on the bandwagon with numerous shapes, sizes and colours of gourds and squashes are made available.

Table Star, Orange Kabocha, Crown Prince, Blue Ballet, Pattinson Strie, Sunburst, Casperita, Gem, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, Wee be Little, Sweet Lighting Squashes will all be available alongside Mixed Gourds and Munchkin Pumpkins; the list is endless! All at around a £1.00 per kilo means you cannot go wrong, but don’t forget to use the seeds as these are very healthy too.

Jerusalem Artichokes which are right in their season now and the price should be down to around £1.50 per kilo. The Salsify season also gets underway. Parsley root and chervil root better known as herbs have taken off in the last few years and give a great twist on root vegetables. Another wriggly worm is the Crosnes or Chinese artichokes which make a comeback and these juicy little tubers enhance any salad or stir-fry.

It’s all about apples and pears with plenty of choices as UK and French  growers come to the market place, again the choice is endless but a ripe Comice does it for me and a really crispy Cox Orange Pippin from a local grower or a Gold Rush from France. Lots of Quince now so if you want to make your jellies etc it’s time to do it.

The exciting thing is that whichever product you are looking to use for your menus you have so many options now compared to only a few years ago so please don’t just accept what you have always used have a play around and ask your supplier for the options and you decide what is best for your dishes.

October 2014