September Food

September, the month that bridges summer with autumn, things are in plenty and are relatively cheap. Game is coming back into season, as is eel, apparently, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for that as I’ve never tried it, other than on sushi. Now is the time to cook my more favorite foods – suet puddings, warming pies and stews, of course I should be saving them for further into winter, but I just can’t wait!

Look out for…

Vegetables: globe artichokes, aubergines, beetroot, borlotti beans, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, chard, courgettes, cucumber, fennel, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, lamb’s lettuce, onions, pak choi, peas, peppers and chillies, pumpkins, rocket, runner beans, salsify, sorrel, spinach, sweetcorn, tomatoes, watercress.

Fruit: apples, blackberries, blueberries, greengages, loganberries, melons, peaches and nectarines, plums, pears

Wild greens and herbs: horseradish

Wild flowers and fruits: bilberries, blackberries, bullace, damsons, elderberries, juniper berries

Fungi and nuts: ceps, chanterelles, chicken of the woods, field mushrooms, hazelnuts, horse mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, parasol mushrooms, puffballs, giant shaggy inkcap, summer truffles

Fish and shellfish: black bream, crab, signal crayfish, eels, lobster, mussels, oyster, mackerel, prawns, salmon, scallops, sea bass, sprats, squid, trout

Game: goose, grey squirrel, grouse, mallard, rabbit, woodpigeon

#176 Samphire

I came across some marsh samphire in the fishmongers the other week – I had been looking for it previously and thought I would have to go to extreme lengths to get hold of it – I bought it, just in case I never came across it again. Luckily, Griggers mentions in English Food that samphire can be successfully frozen by blanching briefly and then popping into the freezer.

Samphire grows on the salty soil near the sea, and marsh samphire grows in salt marshes. The word samphire is a corruption of the French Saint Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen. He was obviously looking after them by providing the coastal veg. Samphire comes/came under several names: sea asparagus, glasswort (it was used in glass production), crab grass and frog grass. Keep a look out for it when you are near the sea – rock samphire grows well on Dover cliffs, but collecting it is a precarious activity – ‘a dreadful trade’, according to Shakespeare in King Lear. Best stick to the marshes, if you want to try and collect your own.

Samphire is dealt with in two ways: pickling or boiling. Boiled samphire is generally served as a vegetable with fish or lamb or with a hollandaise sauce (which I did, along with some pan-fried sea bass). To do this, boil rapidly in unsalted water until tender, this should be just five minutes. Drain and serve.


#176 Samphire. 5/10. It seems that the blanching and freezing technique is not as successful as indicated by Griggers; they were unfortunately left all soggy and not at all crisp and tender. The flavour however, was good; salty and sweet with a mild taste of ocean ozone. I think that I shall try it again but without freezing it this time.

August Food

My usual monthly list of seasonal food that I steal from a free copy of The River Cottage Seasonal Food Guide that Butters gave me. Everything is in abundance and cheap now, whether it be familiar or usual, so now’s the time to start buying or harvesting and preserving, whether it be freezing, making jam or pickling.

Look out for…

Vegetables: globe artichokes, aubergines, beetroot, brtoad beans, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, chard, courgettes, cucumber, fennel, French beans, garlic, kohlrabi, lamb’s lettuce, onions, pak choi, peas, potatoes, puslane, radishes, rocket, runner beans, salsify, samphire, sorrel, spinach, sweetcorn, tomatoes, watercress.

Fruit: apples, apricots, blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, loganberries, melons, peaches and nectarines, plums, raspberries, red and white currants, worcesterberries

Wild greens and herbs: horseradish, marsh samphire, wild fennel

Wild flowers and fruits: bilberries, blackberries, bullace, damsons, wild strawberries

Fungi and nuts: ceps, chanterelles, chicken of the woods, field mushrooms, hazelnuts, horse mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, parasol mushrooms, puffballs, giant shaggy inkcap, summer truffles

Fish and shellfish: black bream, crab, signal crayfish, lobster, mackerel, Pollack, prawns, scallops, sea bass squid, trout

Game: rabbit, woodpigeon

July food

Probably the most exciting food month – all my favorite fruits are here in abundance. It’s also my birthday this month so I expect many gifts. I accept all major credit cards.

I managed to get quite a few seasonal ingredients last month, so hopefully I will do this month – it shouldn’t be too difficult as I’m spoiled for choice, plus I’ve got my fruit, veg and herbs growing away in my garden. Again not all of these are in the book:

Vegetables: globe artichokes, beetroot, broad beans, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, french beans, garlic, kohlrabi, lamb’s lettuce, onions, pak choi, peas, potatoes, purslane, radishes, rocket, samphire, sorrel, spinach, tomatoes and watercress.

Fruit: apricots, blackcurrants, blueberries, cherries, gooseberries, raspberries, red and whitecurrants, rhubarb, strawberries and worcesterberries (whatever they are).

Wild greens and herbs: horseradish, marsh samphire and wild fennel.

Wild flowers and fruits: elderflowers and wild strawberries (loads of these in France!).

Fungi and nuts: chanterelles, chicken of the woods, pignuts and summer truffles.

Fish and shellfish: black bream, crab (brown, hen and spider), signal crayfish, cuttlefish, pollack, scallops, sea bass, sea trout and river tout.

Game: rabbit and wood pigeon.

#158 Gooseberry Stuffing for Mackerel

Apart from Britain and the Netherlands, gooseberries are not grown and eaten in large numbers. This is because they’re not a particularly popular fruit for desserts. However, they are often served with mackerel as in this traditional English recipe. It seems to be a combination that has gone out of favour these days – I’ve certainly never eaten them with fish, though I have has tuna and rhubarb before and that was lovely, so I’ve high hopes for this one.

This makes enough stuffing for 4 mackerel:

Top and tail 8 ounces of gooseberries and cook them gently in ½ an ounce of butter until they just begin to soften and pop. Mash them with the back of a wooden spoon, and when luke warm add another 1 ½ ounces of butter and 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Season them up with salt, and both black and Cayenne pepper, plus a little sugar if the gooseberries are too tart (they need quite a lot of tartness, to cut through the oily mackerel).

Bone the mackerel, or ask your fishmonger to do it (if you want to do it yourself – and it is very easy – follow this link for instructions) and divide the mixture up between them. Place them in a buttered ovenproof dish and season the skin with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 190⁰C. I served them with salad.


#158 Gooseberry Stuffing for Mackerel – 8/10. This was a taste sensation. The piquant gooseberry stuffing cuts through the rich oily mackerel so well. This really is a recipe that needs a resurgence. Now is the perfect time to make it people – both gooseberries and mackerel are in season. Isn’t it funny how things that are in season at the same time, seem to go so well together? It’s almost as though God planted them all there for us. Unfortunately, I’m too old to still believe in God, so I assume that there’s a better explanation.

#157 Gooseberry Fool

Technically the first of the British soft summer fruits, the gooseberry is one of my all-time favourites. It seems to have gone out of favour these days and quite tricky to track down. I suppose it’s because you have to top and tail them and cook them before you eat then. It’s big shame though. It seems that some people don’t even know what gooseberries are, seeing as one woman in the greengrocers told the lady on the till that there was “something wrong with your grapes, ‘cos they’re all hairy”. I despair sometimes, I really do. Oh well, if you come across some and don’t know what to do with them, start of by making a fool. If you don’t find any, you can substitute any soft fruit for the gooseberries and still have something delicious.

This was enough for three:

Top and tail 8 ounces of gooseberries, place them in a pan with an ounce of butter, cover and cook them gently. Once the gooseberries turn a yellow-ish colour and have softened – around 5 minutes – crush then with a wooden spoon and/or a fork. Try to avoid making them too pureed and mushy; you still want a bit of bite. Now add sugar, not too much as the fruit is supposed to remain a little tart, however, this is all down to personal preference. Allow to cool. Now whip ¼ pint of double cream and fold in the gooseberries and spoon into serving dishes. Grigson suggests serving with an almond biscuit (I didn’t)


#157 Gooseberry Fool – 8/10. This is my kind of pudding; small, yet perfectly-formed, I love stewed fruit and cream (or custard) of any type, but gooseberries especially and they are such a short-lived treat that you need to show them off as best – and as simply – as you can.

Flaming June

Well May seemed to fly by in a hazy blur, I’m surprised I got so many recipes done and typed-up for the blog (though there is one pending, and it’s very special). I was pretty pleased that managed to stick with seasonal produce. I’ve found – or should I say, Butters has found – a very good seasonal guide: The River Cottage Seasonal Food Guide. If you don’t know anything about River Cottage, then look at their site. Headed by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, they are championing self-sufficiency on whatever scale you can manage. The good thing is that their guide includes wild food. Anyways, here’s the list for flaming June – again, not all appear in English Food, but all is here for completeness:

Vegetables:
Asparagus, broad beans, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, peas (including sugar snap, purslane, radishes, rocket, sorrel, watercress.

Fruit:
Cherries (European), gooseberries, rhubarb, strawberries.

Wild greens and herbs:
Broom buds, horseradish, sea spinach, wild fennel.

Wild flowers and fruits:
Elderflowers

Fungi and nuts:
Pignuts, St George’s mushrooms.

Fish and shellfish:
Black bream, spider crab, signal crayfish, cuttlefish, mackerel, pollack, salmon (wild), sea bass, sea trout, river trout.

Game:
Wood pigeon.

So that’s the list – I’ll see what I can do. The big highlights for me are gooseberries and strawberries. Keep an eye out for me folks for anything on the list you find, especially gooseberries since no bugger seems to sell them anymore!