As the leaves fall, Autumn reminds us to shed off the excess and begin to prepare for the cooler Winter months (at least for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere), followed by the renewal and bloom of Spring. Each season has its own characteristics & “style” & so does the way that we eat. Our palates almost change and it’s v.noticeable to me around this time of year, when a cool refreshing Summer salad or fruit smoothie appeals to me less & lovely golden roasted root vegetables and warming soups are what my taste buds seek! So, I thought I’d focus this article on what wonderful produce starts to fill our supermarket shelves & other food shops & Farmer’s Markets this season; from pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, celeriac and all the root vegetables, to the game meats (for those who still indulge!) like grouse, pheasant, wood pigeon or partridge for the “birds” and rabbit, venison… These are the more typical ones we see here in the UK, although certain small businesses are importing more exotic meats like ostrich, zebra, kangaroo, bison, buffalo, elk & springbok from all over the world! I’ve even seen crocodile on some menus!
I think that colder climates lend themselves to slow-cooked foods/dishes like casseroles, stews, curries & tagines. However, I still like to try & keep things on the lighter side of things, in part because I’m still in a bit of a Summer-mentality & because Winter ahead gives us plenty of richer foods/dishes to eat then (especially come Christmas time!), so I’m opting for plenty of plant/vegetable-based dishes & soups, as well as lighter, warming Asian dishes (Chinese, Thai, Japanese…) like stir-fries with noodles, teriyakis… & steering away from the rich stews and pies “for now” 😉
Only the other day I had the most delicious roast pumpkin soup, which came with a sprinkling of lightly roasted pumpkin seeds & a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil on top… The seeds & oil transformed the dish completely in terms of texture & flavour, I definitely suggest giving it a try! How about making your Sunday Roast with chicken (or one of the game birds) instead of the classic beef & accompany it with roasted root vegetables like carrots, parsnips & celeriac mash (or roast potatoes & parsnips with a carrot & swede mash)? These vegetables have a little sweetness to them & if you stuffed the chicken with a mix of fresh apples, dried apricots & prunes (with a little lemon juice), or added honey-glazed bacon (or better yet, with maple syrup), then you’d have a beautiful combination of sweet & sour to tantalise your taste buds. A vegetarian version could be made by substituting the chicken for quorn, tofu, or a nut roast/cutlet?
Cruciferous vegetables are typically available all year round nowadays, but they are traditionally eaten more around this time of year, so load up on their powerful cancer-fighting properties & antioxidants with soups or cauliflower & broccoli bakes, or colcannon (the Irish side dish mixing mashed potatoes with cabbage) or bubble’n’squeak? Choose sweet potatoes over regular potatoes whenever possible, they’re rich in antioxidants & have a lower GI (glycemic index, meaning they release sugar more slowly into your blood than white potatoes, making them a better choice on the whole, but especially if you suffer with diabetes). Baked, roasted, boiled, fried… sweet potatoes are lovely every way. They do absorb quite a lot of oil when fried, so make sure to drain well & use kitchen paper to absorb the excess fat before serving. How about making a beautiful vegetarian curry with these vegetables? Add some spinach & maybe beans to make it more filling &/or serve with pilau rice? Or a beautiful Moroccan-spiced tagine with chicken/game bird, slow cooked with dried apricots & dates? There are so many options! I just want to remind you of them, enjoy yourself with it, use the kitchen as your playground & experiment with different/new flavours, like the more warming herbs and spices: cinnamon, clove, cumin, nutmeg, ginger, mace, garlic, pepper, chilli, cayenne, coriander, basil, thyme, rosemary…
On an emotional/psychological front, I associate the cooler months with staying in a little more (retreating), taking things a little slower & beginning to eat richer foods (the comfort foods we all love and adore), which can be quite heavy and load us up if we’re not watchful, a little how the leaves that fill up our ground as they land on it (so i would definitely recommend a daily vitamin D supplement of at least 500iUs -preferably 1000-3000iUs/day); whilst the leaves falling off the trees remind me of the shedding/offloading the unnecessary excesses & preparing for a “leaner” (i.e. more frugal &/or fitter & healthier) Winter to lead towards renewal & rebirth in Spring. Autumn is full of juxtapositions like these and depending how you perceive it all & the associations you make with/of it that will influence how you experience/dance your way through it… Choose well 🙂