Tuesday, 12 October 2010

October, What’s in Season This Month

The leaves aren't quite as green, there's a slight chill in the air, and it's almost time to change our clocks, you know what that means yes October is here one of the best months of the year, crisp mornings, nice and warm around midday and in the countryside a smell of bonfires burning and our thoughts now that it is getting cooler are turning once more to casseroles, plan ahead and you will find that coming home to a slowly cooked casserole rich in juices is one of the magical times of the year.

We're now entering one of the busiest periods of change in the seasonal food calendar. Many foods that have been with us during the spring and summer are rapidly disappearing so while you can still buy British grown aubergines, runner beans, sweetcorn, outdoor tomatoes, marrows, and early carrots, French beans, and watercress, courgettes, blackberries and plums.

Taking their place are a selection of exciting treats ideally suited to the cooler, darker days ahead such as squash, kale, quince and guinea fowl look for the new season parsnips and leeks, Brussels sprouts, young turnips, spinach, Celeriac and Cabbage (January King). Radicchio, Swiss and Ruby chard, Fennel, Peppers, cultivated Mushrooms, Onions, and Calabrese are at their peak.

My favourite apple the Egremont Russet is on its way in as is Cox’s and Williams Pears, Mushrooms are particularly good and the Squid season is just starting, Sea Bass and Crab are exceptionally good and as the weather starts to cool down shellfish like Clams, Mussels and Oysters are bountiful and tasty, Brill, Cod, Haddock, Halibut, Whiting, and Turbot are very succulent and the most reasonably priced fish of this month must be the Herring.

New season game includes pheasant and woodcock, but they will be better next month, grouse on the other hand is at its peak as is partridge.

If you are lucky, enough you will be picking sloes to make sloe gin and hazelnuts are available to pick in the wild.

Fruit at Its Best

Apples, Bilberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Bullaces, Damsons, Elderberries, Hazelnuts, Greengages, Loganberries, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, and Plums

Vegetables at Their Best

Aubergines, Beetroot, Borlotti Beans, Calabrese, Cabbages, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chard, Courgettes, Cucumber, Fennel, Garlic, Globe Artichokes, Horseradish, Kale, Kohlrabi, Lamb’s Lettuce, Onions, Pak Choi, Peppers, Rocket, Runner Beans, Salsify, Sorrel, Spinach, Squashes, Sweetcorn, Tomatoes, Watercress and don’t forget the mushrooms; Ceps, Chanterelles, Field Mushroom, Horse Mushroom, Oyster Mushroom, Parasol Mushroom, and Puffballs

Meat at Its Best

There Is Plenty Of Game In Season So Look Out For Grouse, Partridge, Pheasant, Rabbit, And Venison And Wood Pigeon Look Out For Autumn Lamb, Duck, Goose,

Fish and Seafood at Its Best
Brown Trout, Black Bream, Crab, Crayfish, Eels, Lobster, Mackerel, Mussels, Native Oysters, Prawns, Rainbow Trout, Scallops, Sea Bass, Sprats, Squid, Wild Salmon

Local Shopping

100_1013On Sonny’s Stall in Tachbrook Street

They are showing Apples, Gala, English Russets, Braeburns and Bramleys, Artichokes, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Courgettes, English King Edward Potatoes, English Raspberries,

Fennel, Field Mushrooms, Leeks, Mache (Lambs Lettuce), Parsnips, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radish, Watercress, While Peaches, And all in tip-top condition

Our Butcher has been getting in

The butchers on Tachbrook street hasn’t reopened yet but the good news is that Freeman’s on Lupus Street has opened and has a great selection we will let you know more later in the week.

We have also taken advantage of a local shop Alhayat, 85-87 Lupus Street they have a fine selection of Halal meat which includes Scottish lamb as well as veal and chicken they are very reasonable with their prices, and what’s more the staff couldn't be more helpful and friendly.

Our Local Fishmonger Jon Norris has been getting in

Tachbrook Street Market, Fishmonger, Jon Norris (1)Almost all Jon’s fish is from around the Cornish, Devon and Scottish coasts and this week his display was a picture and included,

Clams, Cornish Dover Sole, Cornish Gurnards, Cornish Hake, Cornish John Dory, Cornish Lemon Sole, Cornish Squid, Cornish Turbot, Fresh Anchovies, Fresh Whitebait, Gilthead Bream, Line Caught Wild Sea Bass, Mussels, Oysters, Pink Bream, Prawns, Scottish Halibut, Scottish Langoustines, Scottish Plaice Fillets, Scottish Plaice Whole, Scottish Salmon, Scottish Scallops, Wild Black Bream, as well as the usual smoke fish selection and they all looked magnificent.

And don’t forget Jon’s tips to buying

Fresh Whole Fish

  • The eyes should be clear and convex, not sunken
  • The flesh should be firm and resilient to finger pressure
  • The fish should smell freshly and lightly of the sea
  • Don’t buy fish with a strong ‘fishy’ or sulphurous odour, or that smells of ammonia.
  • Oily fish like Herring, Mackerel, and Salmon should have a light, fresh oil smell, like linseed oil. If they smell of rancid oil, don’t buy.
    Fresh Fillets
  • The surface of the fillet should be moist, with no signs of discolouration.
  • The texture should be firm, with no mushiness. Some separation of the muscle flakes (caused by the filleting process) is completely normal, but it shouldn’t be excessive.
  • As with whole fish, the smell should be fresh and light, with no ‘off’ odours.
  • Live bi-valves (including mussels, clams and oysters)
  • The general rule of not buying bi-valves during any month spelled without an ‘r’ (i.e. May to August) still holds true, as this is the spawning season and quality will be poorer. When raw, the shells should be closed tight. Any slightly open shells that don’t close up in response to a few light taps should be discarded. When cooked, the shells should open – discard any that don’t.

    In The Balcony Garden

    We are still harvesting the Tumbling Red Tomatoes and so far have picked about 6 kilos so we will certainly plant them again next year, the Black Russian and Moneymaker tomatoes didn’t come to much so I don’t think we will be trying them again. We have had 5 kilos of salad leaves and are now waiting to see if those we sowed about a week ago will give us some salad during the colder months.

    Recipes for October

    I have to include this month a dish that I have been cooking for over 30 years it is one of my absolute favourite recipes for this time of the year.

    Whitewell Pheasant Casserole

    When I first started work at the Whitewell Hotel in 1971(now known as the inn at Whitewell) under Chef George McGuire I used to dread the start of the shooting season as it meant that I had to dress limitless brace of pheasant for this simple but wonderful and very popular dish.

    I always find that casseroles and stews are improved the day after they are prepared and reheated, which makes this just what the doctor ordered for a dinner party seeing that everything apart from any vegetables and potatoes you might want to serve with it, is ready! We like Potato Dauphinoise with this but it is simply mouth-watering with some good homemade warm crusty bread to sop up the juices.

    Serves / Makes: 6 servings

    Prep-Time: 20 minutes

    Cook-Time: 2 hours

    You Will Need

    2, pheasants, dressed and jointed

    2, tablespoons beef dripping

    1, large onion

    1, large carrot

    1, stick/rib of celery

    1, bouquet garni, a parcel of thyme, parsley stalk and bay leaf, I like to wrap this up in a leek parcel

    10 ounces, mushrooms, field if possible although we do use the meaty Portobello mushrooms

    1 good pinch, Sea salt

    1 good pinch, cracked black pepper

    12 fluid ounces, red wine


    Preheat the oven to 350° f or gas mark 4.

    Chop the vegetables roughly. Heat the beef dripping in a heavy frying pan and brown the jointed pheasant remove from the pan and place in a casserole dish.

    Place the vegetables in the frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, add the red wine and bring to the boil. Pour the mixture over the pheasant, season add the bouquet garni and cover, cook in the oven for 1 to 1½ hours until tender, if you want the juices a little thicker just reduce on the stove top until it is reduced as you would like it. Serve hot and Enjoy!


    The hotel is situated in the hamlet of Whitewell near Dunsop Bridge in the Forest of Bowland, and when we lived there, it was a very popular spot for them as wanted to fish on the best 5-mile stretch of the river Hodder. As well as those who just wanted to explore this most stunning part of Lancashire, this area is/was known as Little Switzerland and named so it is said by Queen Victoria.

    In the 1300’s The Inn at Whitewell was just a small manor house, lived in by the keepers of the Royal forest. The Royal connection remains as the Inn forms part of the Duchy of Lancaster Estate.

    And now what could be better than Maureen’s own shellfish dish?

    Molly’s Cockles and Mussels Pot

    Cockles, Mussels, Sage, Thyme, and a blend of Onions, Garlic, Celery, Peppers, and Carrots combine to intensify elements of flavours to an unpretentious sauce of tomatoes and wine

    Serves / Makes: 6 servings

    Prep-Time: 1 hour or so

    Cook-Time: 20 minutes

    You Will Need;

    750 grams, live cockles, you could use clams

    750 grams, live mussels

    150mls, white wine

    1 tablespoon, vegetable oil

    1 onion, finely chopped

    1 clove garlic, finely chopped

    1 celery stick, finely chopped

    ½ red pepper, finely chopped

    3 tablespoons finely chopped carrot

    2 tablespoons finely chopped sage leaves

    2 teaspoons, fresh thyme leaves

    1 x 400 gram tin of chopped tomatoes

    Salt and black pepper

    2 tablespoons, roughly chopped parsley


    Wash the cockles and mussels in a few changes of cold water, scrubbing to remove any beards still attached to the shells, throw away any that are damaged, or opened; (those that do not close when tapped) place the remaining shellfish in a large bowl, cover with cold water and set aside to soak for an hour.

    Drain the shellfish thoroughly and place in a large saucepan or mussel pot, add the wine, cover, and cook over a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until all the shells have opened.

    Strain off the cooking liquid and reserve, get rid of any shellfish that have not opened pick half the shellfish from the shells and leave half in their shells.

    Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan, add the onion, garlic, celery, red pepper, carrot, thyme and sage and cook over a gentle heat until softened add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, stirring often cook for 3 minutes, and then add the set aside cooking liquid from the shellfish, return to the boil lower the heat and simmer for an additional 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently.

    Stir the cockles and mussels into the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste stir in the parsley. Serve and enjoy with fresh crusty bread or tasty vegetable rice.


    Mussels are truly one of nature’s most delightful delicacies; they are extremely high in proteins, calcium, and iron while being low in fat and calories. They are also excellent for your heart, containing the highest amount of omega3’s of any shellfish (this is the naturally occurring fatty acid that is believed to lower blood pressure).mussels with fries or Moules frites are a characteristic Belgian dish, you get a big bowl (just about always pot) of steamed mussels, broth, and a side of frites.

    Don't be tricked by how upmarket they look, mussels are the definitive uncomplicated seafood. Clean them, sauté them, steam them and hey up you'll have a dish everyone will be wowed there are many ways to serve the mussels, but the most classic is Moules Mariniere the mussels are offered in a sauce of white wine, shallots, parsley, and butter.

    You can in addition find mussels served with sauces made with beer, or cream, or vegetable stock. For the greatest authenticity, use a shell to crack open the mussels, not your fork.

    Mussels are at their best in cold weather, so their season is usually from October to March. When you see them in a fishmonger’s, a sign of freshness is that most of them are tightly closed: if there are a lot of open mussels don’t bother. When buying mussels you need to allow at least 1 pint (570 ml) per person for a first course, and 1½ to 2 pints (about 1 litre) for a main course. That may seem a lot, but some will have to be discarded and, once they have been shelled, mussels are very small and light.

    The ritual of cleaning and preparing them sounds more bother than it actually is. When you get them home, plonk the mussels straightaway into a sinkful of cold water. First of all throw out any that float to the top, then leave the cold tap running over them while you take a small knife and scrape off all the barnacles and pull off the little hairy beards. Discard any mussels that are broken, and any that are open and refuse to close tight when given a sharp tap with a knife. After you’ve cleaned each one, place it straight in another bowl of clean water.

    When they’re all in, swirl them around in three or four more changes of cold water to get rid of any lingering bits of grit or sand. Leave the cleaned mussels in cold water until you’re ready to cook them. As an extra safety precaution, always check mussels again after cooking this time discarding any whose shells haven’t opened.


    Cockles are extremely appreciated in many coastal regions, where they’re gathered at low tide from shoals and sandy bottoms. In the Magdalen Islands, they’re by tradition battered and deep-fried. Cockles are found in sandy or muddy areas shallowly buried to a depth of not more than about one inch. They may be most linked with Dublin, alive alive-o, but cockles are to be had all over the world. Their small, heart-shaped shells contain a petite, tantalizing morsel of flesh that can be eaten raw, steamed, or boiled. A member of the clam family, although cockles may seem like a lot of work for little return, they have a mouth-watering salty flavour that desires to be treated gently.

    Buying Cockles, They are available throughout the year, but the best season is from September to March. Be sure the shells are tightly closed choose cockles with pale shells, as this indicates lighter flesh which is said to taste better.

    Storing Cockles Place the cockles in a breathable container and cover with a damp cloth. Molluscs should be kept at a temperature between 0° and 4° C (32°-40° F). In their shells, they will keep for 1 or 2 days.

    Preparing Cockles, Discard any cockles with opened or broken shells. Place in a bowl, cover with cold salted water and allow them to release the sand and impurities they contain. Allow at least 2 hours of soaking half a day is better.

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