As summer turns into autumn, September marks the beginning of heartier seasonal fruit and veg. Cauliflower and swede can be added to salads on warmer days and casseroles as the weather cools. Earthy wild mushrooms and dark Savoy cabbage make delicious vegetarian cooking simple, whilst sticky figs and deep red grapes can be baked into pretty puddings.
Like its cousin broccoli, cauliflower is made up of a close network of small edible flower heads which grow from a thick central stalk. White cauliflower is the most common variety – the creamy round head should be even in colour and surrounded by tight green leaves. Roasting it brings out its sweeter taste – roast whole and brush with korma spices or paprika for an impressive veggie meal. Or use the leaves as well as the florets to minimise food waste with this cauliflower, lentil and halloumi salad. To master a classic, follow our step-by-step recipe for a melting cauliflower cheese.
This intensely flavoured member of the cabbage family has been cultivated for over 2,000 years and has long been popular in colder regions, thanks to its excellent resistance to frost. Carefully grown for ruffled leaves and a distinct flavour, it's at its best between September and February. Fresh kale should be a vivid green colour with crisp, unwilted leaves. Try a delicious baked salmon with kale pesto for a simple midweek meal, or use as a topping on these sausage and kale pizzas. For a healthy snack, roast the leaves for 30 mins for crunchy kale crisps.
This root veg is a turnip-cabbage hybrid and has a sweet, earthy flavour. Neeps, as they're known in Scotland, and tatties (potatoes) are traditionally served with haggis on Burns Night. Add swede to hearty autumn dishes such as a beef, swede and barley pie or roast with thyme and hazelnuts as an easy side. For something different, no one will guess swede is the secret ingredient in these fudgy swede and cardamom brownies.
The wide range of mushroom varieties can be categorised into two distinct types: cultivated and wild. There’s plenty to experiment with in the kitchen – roughly 15,000 different varieties of wild mushroom alone can be found in the UK. Although they grow all year round, autumn is the peak of their season. To prepare, brush well to remove any dirt, wipe with a damp cloth and store in a paper bag in the fridge. Embrace the earthy flavour of wild mushrooms with these mini wild mushroom and ricotta pastizzi, a traditional Maltese pastry, or seriously impress at a dinner party by making stuffed chicken with a wild mushroom and brandy sauce.
Fragrant figs have a rich jammy taste and a soft, chewy texture that works in sweet or savoury recipes. Turkish figs are distinctive in appearance, with a dusky purple-brown skin, and vibrant red flesh inside. Figs don’t ripen after picking, so select plump fruits with unbroken skins. Bake into a fig custard tart for a striking autumn dessert, or finely slice into a light goat’s curd, fig and beetroot salad.
Sweet red grapes are grown in fertile regions across the Mediterranean and beyond and can be used for more than just lunchbox snacks. Try threading the grapes onto skewers and then dipping in melted dark chocolate for an easy dessert. Juicy grapes complement salty flavours – they are a great match for creamy Brie on these simple flatbreads or use to stud a fragrant red grape and rosemary focaccia.
A household staple, versatile onions are the first ingredient in a whole host of dishes. Choose onions that feel firm, with papery skins and store in a cool, dry place. To avoid watery eyes when chopping onions, freeze for 10 mins beforehand and avoid cutting through the root. As well as providing the base for sauces and stews, onions can shine on their own. A generous cheese and onion pie is the ultimate hearty comfort food, or try caramelising onions until golden and sticky and serving with peppered lamb chops. Love onion rings? Go up a notch with these whole beer-battered blooming onions!
This dark green, crinkly cabbage has a sweet, earthy flavour and is great eaten cooked or raw. Savoy has slightly looser leaves than other cabbage varieties, but its head should still be compact and weighty, with crisp leaves. This dark green brassica has a distinctive, sweet and slightly earthy taste that stands up well against rich, bold or meaty flavours. Try roasting in wedges and drizzling with a bold blue cheese dressing, add to warming colcannon mash and serve with a creamy chicken and mushroom medley, or cook up a comforting savoy, chorizo and borlotti bean broth.
It makes a great side dish for a Sunday roast, too – just pair with zesty lemon and hazelnuts.
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