Autumn at the Fruit Market is a treat for the senses with the scent of apples in the air and the rich colours of squash, peppers and greens. The darkening evenings and colder weather bring a need for warming and comforting food and it is a great time for getting creative with the wealth of seasonal vegetables and fruits that are on offer. Mushrooms, onions, squash, beetroot, apples and chillies are all at their best in autumn and you can find many heritage and unusual varieties at the Fruit Market. The colours of autumn are stunning and the plants and flowers that are available at the market are outstanding. This year autumn hanging baskets are real showstoppers and extend the season of colourful displays for gardens, businesses and high streets. Winter cyclamen are also perfect at this time of the year and are great as a house plant or in borders. Spring bulbs are available in a huge variety of types and sizes from small packs of one or two bulbs, to enormous bags to really make an impact in the garden.
This has been a good year for autumn squash, and they are their best from October onwards. Squash store well because of their thick skins, if they are in good condition and kept in a cool place away from any damp. Check that there is no damage to the skin and buy them now for use later in the year. Squash skin is edible but can be quite chewy on some varieties, so it is up to you whether you peel squash or not, personally I don’t because I like the texture and colours. Butternut Squash is an easy to buy option, but it is good to try other varieties because they vary hugely in flavour and texture. Onion Squash, Crown Prince, Turks Turban and Kabocha are all types of squash to look out for and to buy while they are in season.
Squash and mushrooms complement each other well and are both classic tastes of autumn. At the market you can buy an impressive array of different mushrooms from giant Portabello to tiny Japanese Enoki, with impressive mixed selection boxes as well as classic white and chestnut varieties. A top tip for cooking mushrooms is to use a very hot pan to seal them, and to avoid stirring too much when you add them to the pan. This encourages the mushrooms to release some of their moisture content and start to brown. Your nose is a good test of when this happens; mushrooms smell fragrant when they are perfectly cooked.
I love using chillies at this time of year when they are in season, and the Market there are many different varieties available from all over the world; one of my favourites are jalapeños which can be used fresh, pickled or smoked and dried as chipotles. You can buy fresh jalapeños from grocers or use a large green chilli instead; chipotles can be bought as a dried whole chilli or a pre-made made paste. Fresh jalapeños are mild and zesty, if you can’t find them you can use regular green chillies instead but be aware that they may be hotter! The only way to really know how hot a fresh chilli is to taste a small piece; it is better to find out a chilli is super-hot before you cook a dish as it is hard to calm down food that has been over spiced. Adding a little sugar or citrus, or a spoonful of yoghurt all helps if you have cooked a dish that is too spicy for your taste. If you are a fan of chillies try using a variety of fresh and dried in dishes so that you can taste the flavour as well as the spice; Mexican Soup is a classic for using the smoky depth of flavour of chipotle and the zesty crunch of fresh jalapeños.
This is the perfect time to make chutney ready for winter, or maybe for Christmas gifts and hampers. Autumn produce is brilliant for chutney, use a mix of the season with beetroot, apples, dates, squash and onions. Chutney is easy to make and keeps for months if you sterilise the jars you will be using. You can vary the types of vinegar and sugar you have and experiment with different spices.
Apples and pears are a real highlight of autumn and it is beauty to see just how many different English grown fruits are for sale. We have so many different varieties of apples and there is nothing quite like the taste of heritage varieties. Try different types and find out what you like. This season I’ve made an apple pastry that uses a mixture of cooking and eating apples so they there is a contrast between the tartness of a cooking apple with the sweetness of a cox. Use whatever apples you have available or try the same recipe with pears. These pastries can be served as a pudding or as a breakfast pastry for a special Autumn treat.
Serves 4-6 Vegan if not using Worcestershire sauce or butter Ingredients 1 leek, finely sliced 6 shallots (or one onion) peeled and finely sliced 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil 500g Butternut squash (or any other squash), cut into 1/4 cm thick slices A sprig each of rosemary and sage … Continued
Serves 4 Vegan and Wheat free (if using corn tortillas) Ingredients 1 red onion, finely sliced 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil 1-2 fresh jalapeños (depending on your taste) or regular green chillies 2 tsp chipotle paste or one chipotle chilli (see note below) 1 tsp each or ground coriander, cumin … Continued
Makes approximately 1 litre of chutney-you will need 2 x 500ml jars Ingredients 200g squash, peeled 200g beetroot, peeled 100g courgette or marrow 4 medium tomatoes 1 large cooking apple 4 red onions 50g finely chopped dates 100g soft brown sugar 200g dark muscovado sugar 300ml red wine vinegar 1 tbsp brown or yellow mustard … Continued
Serves 4 You can make this vegan by using non butter puff pastry and non-dairy milk in place of the egg. Ingredients 1 cooking apple such as Bramley 1 apple-ideally a sweet red variety such as Cox The zest of a lemon 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground ginger Pinch ground nutmeg 100g Demerara sugar … Continued