Feature

Cooking in season

Green Lifestyle magazine

Making a mango and rhubarb pie is tough in the dead of winter unless you buy produce that has travelled a long way, or is frozen. Too many recipes don't consider seasonality, so here's our seasonal fruit & veg recipe guide of combos ready for harvest now.

Fruit and veg in season

Credit: Louise Lister

Fruit and veg in season 2

Credit: Louise Lister

carrots-seasonal-story

Credit: Louise Lister

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Greenhouses, cold storage, long-distance transport and packaged food mean that our supermarkets are no longer governed by the seasons. But choosing to source your food locally and seasonally is low impact, cheaper and results in food that tastes so much better! And according to traditional Chinese medicine, eating foods in season will keep our minds and bodies healthy.

So we asked some chefs, cooks and food experts to help us compile this seasonal recipe guide for the autumn/winter kitchen.

Pumpkin

Starting their growth in summer, these big vegetables come into their own in autumn and winter. In most cases, pumpkin can be substituted for butternut squash, but not always the other way around due to the more ‘earthy’ flavour of pumpkin.

Storage: In the winter months store whole pumpkin on a bench inside, out of direct sunlight. Once cut, cover and refrigerate.
In-season matches: Zucchini, onion, spinach, sweet potato, mushroom, apple, citrus fruits.
Flavour matches: Chickpeas, rosemary, sage, ginger, chilli, turmeric, paprika, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, coconut, nuts.

3 ways with pumpkin:
- In his cookbook River Cottage Every Day, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests roasting 1 kg chopped butternut squash (skin on) with 6 garlic cloves (skin on), a few sprigs rosemary, one chopped hot red chilli, salt, pepper and a few tbsp oil. Cook for 45 minutes at 180°C.

- Adele McConnell from Vegie Head ezine makes a stir-fry by sautéing a red onion, 3 cloves of garlic and some grated ginger in coconut oil. Add 2 cups broccoli florets, a handful each of mushrooms and diced pumpkin, and 2 cups coconut milk. Cook until tender. Add 1 cup silverbeet and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with chopped almonds over brown rice.

- Pumpkin puree and chopped sage is one of recipe writer Katie Quinn Davies’ favourite combos. She loves to mix them with goat’s cheese and breadcrumbs in handmade raviolis served with a browned butter sauce and roasted pecans for earthy texture.

Spinach

It’s easy to grow this iron-rich veg yourself most of the year in Australia – even in pots on a balcony. The savoury flavours of different varieties are often interchangeable in recipes. We love spinach for its rich freshness that teams well with most rib-sticking winter comfort foods.

Storage: Spinach should be eaten as close to harvest as possible so the leaves don’t wilt. So, buy local or harvest your own on the day.
In-season matches: Fennel, leek, apple, radish, potatoes, parsnips, swede, mushrooms, cauliflower.
Flavour matches: Lentils, mint, chervil, dill, fenugreek, marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic, ginger.

3 ways with spinach:
- Spinach goes well with fennel in a salad, says gourmet farmer Matthew Evans. Finely shred 1 whole fennel bulb, sprinkle with salt and sugar and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing and drying. Mix with 2 cups spinach, slivers of apple and a few rounds of radish. Make a dressing by boiling 2 tbsp cider vinegar with 1 tsp dill seed for 2 minutes and, once cool, mixing with 4 tbsp olive oil.

- Nutritionist and naturopath Janella Purcell makes a side dish by sautéing mushrooms in coconut oil with grated turmeric and ginger. She turns off the heat, adds chopped spinach and a drizzle of tamari and puts a lid on until the leaves wilt.

- Adam and Lovaine Humphrey from Arras restaurant say that fresh baby spinach, cooked brown lentils and a handful of torn mint lightly dressed in a salad bowl is the perfect accompaniment to a barbecue.

Pear

We’re only treated to this sweet, soft fruit in the cooler months in Australia. To allow for easy transporting they’re often picked too early – buying direct from a grower will ensure quality.

Storage: It’s fine to store pears on a cool bench in a fruit bowl. Put them in a paper bag with a banana if you want to ripen them more quickly.
In-season matches: Radicchio, witlof, cauliflower, apple, citrus fruits, chestnuts, spinach.
Flavour matches: Walnuts, cheese, chervil, red wine, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, star anise, clove, ginger, nutmeg.

3 ways with pears:
- Cook Maggie Beer makes a tasty salad by slicing 4 Beurre Bosc pears lengthways, then coats them in ¼ cup olive oil and a sprinkling of salt flakes before grilling for 7 minutes each side on a hot grill. She roasts ²/³ cup walnuts for 5–8 minutes at 180°C, and mixes these and the pears with the inner leaves of 1 radicchio and 2 bulbs witlof. She dobs 200 g ricotta on top, sprinkles on half a bunch chervil, and dresses with 1 tsp vino cotto, 2 tbsp red wine vinegar and ½ cup olive oil.

- Dietitian Serena Ball from Teaspoon of Spice makes a soup by combining 2 soft pears with 1 potato, a large head of cauliflower florets and 12 unshelled chestnuts (pierced in two places with a knife). Roast all in a very hot oven for 40 minutes and peel chestnuts once cool (including inner skin). Put all ingredients and 500 ml vegetable stock in a stockpot on low heat and puree with a wizz stick. Serve warm with grated nutmeg.

- For delicious poached pears, Michelle Shearer, Mamabake founder, slowly simmers 3 whole pears with the juice of an orange, zest of a lemon, a stick of cinnamon, 4 whole cloves, 2 bruised cardamom pods, 1 star anise, 1 tbsp honey, 2 cups water and 3 cups red wine for at least an hour until the pears are tender.

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