Chef and seafood lover Nathan Outlaw talks crisp autumn days and ripe orchard fruits
I love the autumn. Chilly mornings offer a hint of the much colder weather to come, but there’s still a chance of warmth from the sun if you’re lucky. In Cornwall, the best weather is really in spring and autumn, not summer. I’ve often been able to walk on the beach in short sleeves with my dog throughout October but, of course, there’s no guarantee! When I was a kid in Kent, autumn brought what my grandad called ‘hop picking mornings’; brisk and misty but with the promise of a bit of sun once the temperature rose and the mist burnt off. I never went hop picking, and to my knowledge, neither did he, but it’s nice how those terms stay with us!
Kent has always been called The Garden of England and I remember seeing rows and rows of apple trees when I was young. Sadly, that’s changed and many of the orchards and hop fields are no longer there, but if you look in the right places, especially towards the west of the county, you’ll find the odd one dotted about. There’s something strangely magical about hop fields; perhaps it’s because of the speed at which they grow, a bit like Jack’s beanstalk. You’ll also find
the traditional Kent pubs with hops festooned from the top of the bar. Very Darling Buds of May!
Apples, Pears & Bramble Fruits
Talking of orchards, now’s the time to find delicious English apples, pears and bramble fruits. There’s nothing quite like a good crunchy apple, especially when its juice is sweet but with a slightly sharp edge to it. In best condition, eat them as they are or pair with a good mature cheese. Alternatively, use them in warming dessert dishes – like this delicious autumn crumble
Another thing I love about autumn is British root veg. I adore parsnips – for me a roast isn’t complete without them – but to naturally sweeten they need a bit of frost, so are perfect in colder weather, They’re great in soups (try adding in some of those apples too) or mixed with potatoes to make a mash; I like to use it to top a shepherd’s pie as a sneaky way to get veg into the kids’ diets! Of course, they can also be part of a lovely veggie stew and it’s so easy to make. Add a few beans or lentils for protein and if you have a slow cooker, prep the veg the night before. In the morning, pop the veg in with some stock and when you come home from work all you need to do is thicken it and add some dumplings. I’m hungry just thinking about it!
We’ll also be seeing hen (female) crabs coming in and they’re lovely. They yield lots of brown meat but not so much white. That brown meat gives a much richer, cleaner, ‘crabby’ flavour and is ideal for things like crab on toast, soup or even a pasta bake. Why not give it a go in this tasty frittata ?