HERE are a several ideas of how to use what’s in season right now based on the 10 best dishes that I’ve been cooking for my family and friends based on the best fresh, seasonal produce.
THREE COLD SAVOURY DISHES
Sorry but I’m refusing to admit that we are yet in the days of bubbling braises and roll-neck jumpers, and a hearty salad is a great way of fuelling this state of denial.
Here are three crackers built around what’s in season.:
Green beans are worthy of so much more than just a side-dish status, even if they are gussied up with toasted almonds or bacon.
I love them in a tuna heavy nicoise salad but as one of my best mate’s is a tomato hater I’ve come up this this take on it that partners blanched green beans with slivers of sugar snaps or snow peas, bacon and halved soft boiled eggs with a pretty lilac dressing made from a blitzed Kalamata olives and anchovies mayo.
You could add tuna instead of the bacon and steamed waxy potatoes to bulk it up if you wanted.
Figs are at the end of their days and so they may need a little help to intensify their sweetness and soften any dry flouriness. Pan-roast them with a little oil with ribbons of pancetta and deglaze the pan with sweet sherry. Serve poured over long skinny quarters of baby gem lettuce and dress with a little olive oil. If your coriander has bolted and gone to seed harvest the green coriander seeds and sprinkle them liberally over the figs. Their herbaceous lemony burst will elevate the dish dramatically. Otherwise a squeeze of lemon will do the trick.
Herbs of all types are having their last flourish and in serious need of a good cut back.
Rather than throw these on the compost heap, strip off the leaves and make a salsa verde or green goddess herb emulsion by blitzing brined capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil with your herbs – I used loads of oregano, mint and parsley. Serve this on anything from pasta, roast meats or pooled under a simple salad of the last cucumber of the season, baby cos lettuce leaves, toasted pepitas, and torn chunks of spicy salami or chorizo.
FOUR HOT SAVOURY DISHES
With both pomegranate and cauliflower both coming into season I’ve been making toasted cauliflower “rice” and jewelling it with pomegranate seeds, toasted pistachios, fresh leaves of oregano, shredded mint and fingers of pan-fried haloumi. If your tastes run to the meaty, wrap the haloumi in thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta before frying.
Oven-baking chicken thighs doused in sweet chilli sauce was one hits of last season’s MasterChef MasterClass and I’ve stepped this up by blending the sweet chilli sauce with the stems and roots of coriander, garlic and a good squeeze of lime.
Marinate the thighs in this sticky green mass for a couple of hours and then bake on oven tray in a hot oven.
If you buy cheap thighs you may need to pour off a fair amount of juice about half way throw cooking but this can be reduced in a fry pan on the stove top to make a fine sauce. Serve on brown rice with a simple salad of new season lettuce leaves, avocado and cucumber dressed with more lime juice and olive oil.
Chop the coriander leaves left over from the marinade and scatter them generously over the thighs.
I’ve been trying to explore the whole European trend for heroing vegetables rather than meat as the central element of a dish.
Most successful has been slowly roasting fat donkey carrots until slightly gnarly; then finished for 15 minutes back in the oven with a sprinkling of five spice powder and honey. Toss with toasted cashews, fried slices of sweet Chinese lap chuong and slivers of spring onion sliced finely on the diagonal.
Serve these hot and soft on a mound of brown rice with Chinese broccoli (gai lan).
Delaze the empty roasting pan with vinegar – ideally a little black Chinese vinegar – to serve on the side in little bowls with finely slivered fresh ginger. It might not impress the kids but adults will usually buy it. Ethiopian food is one of the lesser known cuisines in Australia but no less delicious than many other.
It also loves both cabbage which is coming into season now and green capsicums which are in their last flush. Sweat ribbons of cabbage and batons of carrot in butter with garlic, ginger and loads of turmeric for colour and flavour and throw strips of green capsicum into fried lamb with loads of cardamom, ginger, garlic and cloves.
Finish with a little stock to make a gravy to moisten this dish known rather bizarrely as “derek tibs” – whoever he may be.
Traditionally both would be served on “injera” which is a fermented “bread” batter which looks like a bubbled pancake. Traditionally it’s made with “teff” flour. Once almost impossible to find in Australia, “teff” is one of the new supergrains and becoming easier to find in wholefood stores.
We are also now growing “teff” in Australia with the second harvest of this prolific crop having just been brought in Shepparton making it another great seasonal product.
Berries might be edging out of most our budgets as their season passes but there are still lots of sweet joy to be had with the end of summer produce like tropical fruits and stonefruit, and with the first of winter bounty like quinces and rhubarb.
Three ideas are going down well round my way at the moment. For something summery try the simplicity of peeled ripe peaches marinated in a mix of 200ml of fresh mandarin juice and 600ml of lemon juice which has had 450ml of caster sugar dissolved into it.
You’ll need a dozen lemons for this recipe so it’s definitely one to make when lemons are in season and cheap. To neatly peel the peaches, blanch them in boiling water for 40 seconds and refresh immediately in iced water. Serve with vanilla ice cream and loads of juice.
If you are doing a big lunch for a dozen or more try a simple cheat’s tropical trifle. Start with setting lime jelly with some little pieces of fresh lime at the bottom of a large glass bowl and then lining the bowl with slices of swiss roll soaked on one side with mango juice mixed 50/50 with sherry.
Pour over the rest of the jelly liquid and and layer in slices of fresh mango, then thick shop-bought custard, more slices of swiss roll and finish with the rest of the custard and a generous layer of whipped cream topped with crushed macadamias and either passionfruit pulp or slices of fresh kiwi fruit. Both are also at their peak at the moment. If you are a baker feel free to make your own swiss roll sponge but fill it with a passion fruit jam.
For something more wintery it’s hard to go past a crumble of roast quinces and rhubarb with lashings of custard. Cooking your fruit with orange juice and rose water or orange flower water, and adding pistachios to your crumble will give the dish a neat Middle Eastern twist.
For more ideas check out my Instagram feed at @mattscravat where I’m constantly posting new dishes that I’m playing with