New ap­ples, early wal­nuts, late berries, and wild mush­rooms: no won­der au­tumn is Nigel Slater's favourite sea­son

The Observer Food Monthly - - FRONT PAGE - PHO­TO­GRAPHS Jonathan Lovekin

Sweet young mus­sels, crisp new sea­son’s nuts, wild mush­rooms, early ap­ples and late berries – could there be a bet­ter time of the year to shop for food? This month’s recipes make the most of the early nuts – the fat cob­nuts and sweet wal­nuts – and the last of the green-fleshed sum­mer squashes. Wild mush­rooms are cooked with sweet-flesh young birds and there are berries to use too – the late black­ber­ries and au­tumn rasp­ber­ries for adding to roast and sautéed meat and tuck­ing into lit­tle home­made pies and tarts. The best in­gre­di­ents of the sea­son, splen­didly yet sim­ply, on a plate.


Spatch­cock­ing sim­ply in­volves split­ting each bird along its back­bone with a heavy knife or strong kitchen scissors and open­ing it out flat. It al­lows the bird to cook quickly and evenly. Use wild mush­rooms if you have ac­cess to them, or cul­ti­vated, such as the small ch­est­nut va­ri­ety. SERVES 2 quail 4, oven ready olive oil 50ml lemon juice 50ml thyme 10 small sprigs ju­niper berries 10 as­sorted wild mush­rooms 275g black­ber­ries 150g


Us­ing a heavy cook’s knife or kitchen scissors, cut each of the quail through the back­bone and open out flat, like a book. In a large bowl, mix to­gether the olive oil, lemon juice, thyme sprigs and ju­niper berries. Put the quail into the mari­nade and set aside for an hour or two. Turn the quail oc­ca­sion­ally.

Warm half of the mari­nade in a sauté pan over a mod­er­ate heat, add the birds and brown them as evenly as pos­si­ble, turn­ing as nec­es­sary. Add the re­main­ing mari­nade and the mush­rooms to the pan, then, when the mush­rooms are lightly coloured, lower the heat and let the quail cook un­til they are done to your lik­ing. (Pierce the flesh at its thick­est part with a skewer to check its progress.)

Add the black­ber­ries and cook for a minute or two till their juices start to run, then serve the quail with the mush­rooms, black­ber­ries and pan juices.


A re­ally use­ful recipe is one which doesn’t tie you to spe­cific in­gre­di­ents, al­low­ing you to sub­sti­tute at will. This idea of cook­ing slices of squash in but­ter with a lit­tle ver­mouth and herbs can be tweaked ac­cord­ing to what­ever va­ri­ety you have to hand, be it cour­gette, pump­kin, but­ter­nut or, as here, cute lit­tle patty pans. I sug­gest cob­nuts here, but the new sea­son’s hazel­nuts would be good, too. SERVES 2 AS A SIDE DISH patty pan 400g, or other small squash but­ter 35g white ver­mouth 80ml sage leaves 4 shell-on cob­nuts a hand­ful, or hazel­nuts


If any of the patty pan squash are larger than a golf ball, cut them in half hor­i­zon­tally. Melt the but­ter in a shal­low pan, add the ver­mouth then the patty pans. Drop in the sage leaves and sprin­kle on a lit­tle salt. Cover with a lid, let­ting the squashes sim­mer in the

The best sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, splen­didly yet sim­ply, on a plate

wine and but­ter for about 20 min­utes un­til ten­der to the point of a knife. Keep the heat fairly low, bast­ing the veg­eta­bles reg­u­larly with the pan juices.

While the squashes cook, crack the cob­nuts or hazel­nuts and re­move them from their shells. Add the nuts to the pan, grind over a lit­tle black pep­per then serve, spoon­ing over the but­tery juices as you go.


The new sea­son’s wal­nuts are pale in colour and have a light, al­most milky char­ac­ter. They are just the job for adding to a salad of blue cheese and greens such as this. SERVES 2 thin-stemmed broc­coli 250g kale 50g, in­ner heart leaves cele­riac 125g, peeled lemon ½ shelled wal­nuts 40g wal­nut or ground­nut oil 1 tbsp firm blue cheese 300g For the dress­ing egg yolk 1 di­jon mus­tard 2 tsp grain mus­tard 1 tbsp fresh horse­rad­ish 10g, grated olive oil 60ml lemon juice 2 tspl


Cook the broc­coli in deep boil­ing wa­ter for 3 min­utes un­til the colour is bright and the stem is ten­der but crisp. Im­me­di­ately re­move from the wa­ter, drain and lower into a bowl of iced wa­ter. Add the kale leaves to the boil­ing wa­ter, leave for a minute then drain and add to the bowl of cold wa­ter. Coarsely grate the cele­riac, then put it into a bowl and squeeze over the juice of the halved lemon.

In a shal­low pan, toast the wal­nuts in the wal­nut or ground­nut oil till browned and fra­grant. Drain and set aside.

For the dress­ing, put the egg yolk in deep mix­ing bowl, then add the mus­tards. Stir in the horse­rad­ish then in­tro­duce the olive oil a lit­tle at a time, beat­ing con­tin­u­ously with a bal­loon whisk un­til the dress­ing has thick­ened. It should be thick enough to lightly coat the veg­eta­bles. Whisk in the lemon juice.

Drain the broc­coli and slice each piece in halve length­ways. Drain the kale. Toss the cele­riac and dress­ing to­gether. To serve, pile the broc­coli on a serv­ing plate, spoon over the kale, grated cele­riac and toasted wal­nuts, then crum­ble over the blue cheese.


We had the first, small, sweet mus­sels of the au­tumn the other night, their top shells re­moved, the chubby lit­tle chaps sit­ting in a cream and cider sauce. I know a kilo sounds a lot of mus­sels for two, but it is sur­pris­ing how many you can get through. Bread, some­thing crisp-crusted and chewy, is vir­tu­ally a ne­ces­sity here. SERVES 2-3 shal­lots 2 medium-sized sweet ap­ples 2 small mus­sels 1kg but­ter 40g medium-dry cider 350ml dou­ble cream 150ml pars­ley a hand­ful, chopped


Wal­nuts are just the job for adding to a salad of blue cheese and greens

Peel and finely chop the shal­lots. Core the ap­ples and cut them into 1cm cubes, leav­ing the skin on. Scrub the mus­sels, check­ing them for any that don’t close when tapped firmly on the side of the sink or are chipped or cracked.

Melt the but­ter in shal­low pan, add the shal­lots and cook over a mod­er­ate heat un­til they are translu­cent. Add the ap­ples and let them cook till they soften. They should re­tain their shape. Pour in 200ml of the cider, let it come to the boil then add the cream and let the sauce bub­ble at a sprightly pace un­til it is re­duced by half. Stir in the pars­ley and sea­son with salt and pep­per.

In a large, deep pan, heat the re­main­ing 150ml of cider, then add the cleaned mus­sels. Cover tightly with a lid and let them steam for 2 or 3 min­utes un­til their shells have opened. Re­move the mus­sels from their cook­ing liq­uid with a drain­ing spoon, snap off the top, empty shell from each mus­sel. Place the lower shells with their cargo of mus­sels in warm bowls or deep plates, make sure the ap­ple sauce is hot then spoon over the mus­sels and serve.


Puff pas­try, the new sea­son’s ap­ples, hazel­nuts and late rasp­ber­ries. The essence of early au­tumn. The sim­plest imag­in­able dessert, made in min­utes, for eat­ing warm from the oven with creme fraiche. MAKES 4 TARTS dessert ap­ples 425g caster sugar 3 tbsp, plus 4 tsp wa­ter 75ml rasp­ber­ries 150g puff pas­try 250g egg 1, beaten hazel­nuts 30g cream or creme fraiche to serve


You will need two bak­ing sheets, one lined with bak­ing parch­ment. Place the empty bak­ing sheet in the oven to get hot, set­ting the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Peel and core the ap­ples, then cut them into quar­ters. Put them in a medium-sized, heavy-based pan with three ta­ble­spoons of the sugar and the wa­ter. Cover with a lid, and sim­mer for 10 min­utes un­til soft enough to crush. Re­move from the heat, then mash to a rough, firm puree with a fork. Fold in the rasp­ber­ries, crush­ing lightly as you go.

Roll the pas­try into a rec­tan­gle mea­sur­ing 38cm x 30cm. Us­ing a pas­try cutter or a small saucer, cut 8 x

12cm cir­cles. (This may re­quire re-rolling the pas­try cut­tings for the last one or two.) Place four of the discs of pas­try on the parch­ment-lined bak­ing sheet. Di­vide the ap­ple and rasp­berry fill­ing be­tween them pil­ing it gen­tly into the cen­tre of each.

Brush the rim of each of the four filled pas­try discs with the egg wash, lower a piece of the re­served pas­try onto each press­ing down firmly around the edges to seal. Roughly chop the hazel­nuts. Brush the top of each tart with the beaten egg, then scat­ter the hazel­nuts over the top. Dust with the caster sugar, pierce a small hole in the top of each, then bake for 20 min­utes still golden and nicely risen. Serve with the cream or creme fraiche.

The essence of early au­tumn, and the sim­plest imag­in­able dessert






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