As we become more aware of our eating habits and collectively strive to be better to ourselves and our bodies, the emphasis on a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating has become an increasingly popular topic.
As we move into the colder months and work our way into the hibernating months of December and January, our natural inclination is to hunker down with hearty foods like mac and cheese, lasagne or a bowl of beef stew. There’s nothing wrong with these foods, and a little indulgence in a plate of pasta never hurt anyone, but with all the cheese, cream and gravies we love around this time of year what other in season delicacies might we be missing?
October is especially abundant time for produce. If you’re someone who loves experimenting with new foods, cooking with ingredients in season can be a fantastic way to get inspired.So, what do you need to know about cooking seasonally?
Start by thinking locally. Northern Ireland is home to a wealth of local produce; apples, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, eggs and let’s not forget the wealth of seafood we have on our doorsteps. Eliminate the guesswork of trying to figure out what’s in season by visiting local farmer’s markets, grocers or farm stands to pick up ingredients. Our rainy climate (and the fact that we get about 30 sunny days a year!) means at least part of the year we’re buying from faraway lands, but this doesn’t mean we have to go without eating locally. In the winter months, canning and preserving can be your best friend. We sometimes associate preserves and ingredients out of cans with watery pasta sauce or canned beans. Your larder doesn’t have to be so tragic.
Buy a large batch of fresh ripe tomatoes when in season (hint hint – September/October), roast the tomatoes with tons of garlic, fresh herbs, onions and chillies (also in season at this time of year) and make a tomato sauce full of flavour that you can use all year round. Pickle any vegetable you can get your hands on, beets, carrots, beans, turnip and crack them out for use in salads, sandwiches, rice bowls or as a zingy garnish on almost any meal. Preserving vegetables at the height of their freshness helps maintain their flavour and keep for longer. Leafy hardy greens like kale and collards can be blanched, shocked and then frozen. Make jams and conserves throughout the summer and autumn for your warm scones and cakes in winter! Or freeze fresh berries for use in pies and tarts or in your morning smoothie.
So, with all this talk of cooking seasonally, what ingredients are in season this autumn?Fruits and Veg:
Artichoke, beetroot, broccoli, butternut squash, celery, chillies, fennel, garlic, kale, leeks, potatoes, pumpkin, shallots, wild mushrooms, apples, blackberries, carrots, celeriac, courgettes, cucumber, French beans, peppers, runner beans, sweetcorn, tomatoes, pears, peaches, plums, redcurrant, raspberries.Meat
Beef, duck, goose, hare, lamb, pheasant, turkey, venison
Clams, cod, crab, dover sole, haddock, halibut, hake, herring, lemon sole, lobster, mackerel, monkfish, mussels, oysters, plaice, pollack, prawns, sea bass, turbot.
With the light of awareness now being shone on sustainable eating, especially when it comes to seafood, it’s also good to note that there are many fishmongers and grocery stores which now offer sustainably caught seafood and alternatives to overfished fish such as cod and haddock, this autumn may be the time to try new things!
If you’re looking for some inspiration to get started cooking in season, follow the links below for some delicious starting points.Butternut Squash Risotto:
Jamie Oliver’s recipe is a good starting point, where he uses pancetta a substitute for hake, cod or other meaty white fish for a great way to bring in some extra, in season and local variety.
*Risotto is a beautiful platform for all kinds of ingredients. Use the base of Jamie’s recipe and add leeks, tomatoes, mushrooms, celery or whatever else you fancy.Apple, Fennel, Celery and Walnut Salad:
Food and Wine have a delicious recipe for this inventive salad, a bit of an ode to the season.Pumpkin Spice Soup:
Creamy lightly spiced delicious autumn flavours: carrot and sweet potato and perfect for those cold days, seating by the fire and watching your favourite Netflix show.