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What's in season?
What's in Season

Food writer, Mary Gwynn's September

As the nights start to draw in, the shorter days signal the changing season and with it comes the bounty of a good harvest. After some much appreciated glorious summer weather that has tempted us out into the countryside, it’s time to return to routine. As the kids head back to school and we pick up the reins of everyday life, the pleasures of richer foods and heartier dishes should tempt us back into the kitchen to enjoy the bounty of the harvest season.

Vegetarians and meat eaters alike can go wild this month with the wealth of produce on offer. Tomatoes, courgettes, sweetcorn, peas, cauliflowers, runner beans, cabbages and onions are all plentiful and cheap right now, making this the month to try making your own chutneys and pickles. You don’t have to make huge amounts – just a jar or two can be very satisfying and you might just get the bug. Winter squashes and pumpkins are starting to arrive and come in an amazing array of shapes and sizes, all with different flavours and textures – try in soups, curries, gratins and risottos. If the weather turns wet look out for the appearance of wild mushrooms, and also search out local cobnuts and walnuts to use in salads, cakes and breads .

Tree fruits are at their best and juiciest now so don’t miss plums, damsons and greengages. They are wonderful for eating (not damsons, which need to be cooked with plenty of sugar!) and using in preserves, ice creams, pies, and, if feeling very adventurous, even your own liqueurs and wines. (For recipes the Women’s Institute books are very reliable.) The blackberry season is also in full swing after a late start because of the cool spring, and you can find both cultivated and wild berries for crumbles, jellies and jams.

Fish and seafood are plentiful this month and very reasonably priced. Mackerel, grey mullet, sea bass are plentiful, and with an ‘r’ in the month, it’s the start of the native oyster season and the first oysters are perfect simply served with a squeeze of lemon and dash of chilli. Wash down with a glass of award-winning local fizz – English wines, especially those of Kent and Sussex, are winning plaudits worldwide. Mussels are also wonderful now. If you’ve never cooked squid this is the time to give it a go – slice into rings and stir fry with a little garlic, chilli and soy sauce, or try stuffed with herby breadcrumbs and cooked in a tomato sauce (for a recipe and step by step guide to preparing squid see my blog.

Make this the year to eat more local game, particularly venison. It’s the perfect free-range meat – minimum food miles, low in cholesterol and full of useful vitamins. You can find farmed and wild, and modern game is no longer the tough, strong meat that needs long cooking that was familiar to our grandmothers. Lean and tender, it suits short cooking methods such as frying and grilling. Look for recipes on the internet as plenty of chefs are now using British game on a regular basis. Serve a venison steak flash fried with a thyme and mustard butter, or marinade boned pheasant breasts in olive oil, lemon, garlic and chilli and cook on a griddle.

If watching budgets remember that cheaper cuts of meat such as belly pork, shin of beef and lamb shank all taste particularly good and tend to be easier to find at the market,where meat producers use their skills to ensure the entire animal is prepared for home cooks to enjoy at its best with no waste. For lighter meat, try guinea fowl, which should be free-range. Cook in the same way as a small chicken, maybe roast wrapped in streaky bacon, and enjoy the flavour, which is richer than chicken and subtly gamey. You could even use pheasant in the chicken recipe shown here – it works well….

What's Cookin'

Order Mary's latest book, commissioned especially to celebrate the centenary of the WI.
WI Cookbook

celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI

Read more from Mary Gwynn at:

Why buy seasonal food?