Harvest has traditionally been a time of celebrating good food grown on the land, dating back hundreds of years. Fresh vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, reaching their peak and prepared in time-honoured ways, are delights to savour as the summer weather gradually turns to autumn and the sunsets arrive earlier in the day.
Whether you live in the centre of a city or surrounded by golden fields, produce will be accessible that is healthy, and with a bit of know-how and imagination you can create a winning meal for the whole family.
The main basis of your meal will be vegetables – nutritious, tasty, healthy packets of goodness in glorious combinations or alone. For example, butternut squash is an attractive and easy vegetable; 1lb of sliced squash takes about half an hour roasted in the oven, tasting wonderful with a little butter, mixed herbs, salt and pepper.
That squash can then be added to risotto, or alternatively take the mash and layer it over the top of prepared meat turkey fried with onions, mushroom and garlic, for example before popping it all in the oven to create a fun and funky bake.
Squash is also a prime piece of many successful autumn soups. While the squash cooks, fry a couple of onions, garlic and mild chilli slowly. Put everything in a blender with 3-4 scoops of crème fraiche and a pint and a half of stock, blast into a puree, and heat the magnificently sweet mixture gently in a pan. In essence, many autumn and winter soups are a variation of the above. Swap squash for carrots or pumpkin, for example, and youll have a different slant on the recipe.
Cauliflower and sprouts are bursting with anti-oxidants and vitamins, so throwing them into recipes is a brilliant flavour boost with additional benefits. Both can be boiled in the same pan for a few minutes, and both are underrated ingredients in stir-fries.
A great gratin can be made by combining the duo with a cooked mixture of cream, shallots and sage. Separate two halved amounts with a layer of cheese (parmesan is particularly good), before covering with breadcrumbs fried with pine nuts and herbs.
Another underrated green is cabbage, which can clearly be added to roasts, coleslaw and salads. Bacon, shredded cabbage and a little white wine, fennel and crème fraiche, cooked lightly in a pan for a few minutes, is a splendid little treat. For a variation, how about adding cabbage to fried onion, garlic and ginger and cooking for 20 minutes, before adding a measure of double cream, salt and pepper for another 10?
Some of your sweetest fruits will no doubt be looking resplendent. Cover an apple with a spot of sugar, salt and butter very slowly melted, and you can then drizzle toasted almonds or mixed nuts over the combination. Both apples and autumn pears can be added to salads (perhaps with grapes) and drizzled with a tangy marinade, while a summer pudding can actually make use of many of the autumn fruits such as plums and blackberries that may be on sale from local orchards.
These recipes will heat you up or cool you down, so there really is something for everyone. Buy locally and organically if possible, and your harvest should be a festival of food.