Simon Rimmer’s Autumn Seasonal Picks
Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy evenings at home with a delicious warming meal – so why not make it a healthy one? Choosing to eat seasonally not only provides your body with nutrition that is at its finest, but it is also a cost-effective technique that allows you to look forward to a seasonal, tasty treat. The colder seasons are a particularly important time of year to focus on your body and health to reduce your chance of a nasty cold or flu!
Mushrooms are a healthy ingredient that are great for adding further flavour and texture to your dishes. There are a variety of types to choose from, but field mushrooms are particularly perfect for autumn days. All types of mushrooms are not only low in calories, but they hold great nutritional value: for vegetarians, their high protein levels make them a perfect alternate to meat, and they are an excellent source of vitamin D for duller days.
Although mushrooms are available all year round, field mushrooms are in higher season during August and September, making them a great Autumn treat!
Choose the best
When shopping for mushrooms, bigger is better. These will contain more flavour as they have had longer to grow. Mushrooms are best when purchased firm and be sure to avoid wet looking mushrooms – these will have a lower storage life. To be on the safe side, it is best for mushrooms to be bought in-store rather than self-picking to avoid potential mix-ups with inedible mushrooms.
To prevent the absorption of water, mushrooms should be washed briefly under cold water to remove any soil then patted dry. Mushrooms can be prepared in a variety of ways: sliced, diced or full; boiled, grilled or sautéed. Although already flavoursome, mushrooms are great for stuffing or combining with other vegetables, herbs and spices.
If purchased from a shop, the film packaging should be removed immediately to avoid moisture build up. The mushrooms should then be stored in paper packaging – a paper bag or cardboard box - in the refrigerator; this way, the mushrooms will stay fresh for up to five days. Dried mushrooms on the other hand have a much longer shelf-life of up to a year; they can be stored in an airtight container or in the fridge or freezer to prolong freshness.
The way in which mushrooms are cooked depends on the dish. The most popular technique is sautéing. When sautéing, allow the mushrooms to sit and sizzle, releasing the moisture and goldening. You could also try grilling and frying to lock in extra flavours.
Squash is an unquestionably versatile fruit - although it is popular for its use in soups. A selection of squash are available categorised as winter and summer varieties. Both winter and summer squash are highly nutritious; they are packed with vitamins, fibre and potassium and are great for boosting the immune system.
Although called winter squash, these varieties are available all year around due to their longer shelf life. As they take longer to grow and are typically harvested in late summer and autumn, they tend to be more popular during the cooler seasons, so you may see an increase in stores’ stocks. Summer squash types grow much quicker, but due to their thinner skin, their storage life is shorter. They are also available all year round.
Choose the best
To enjoy the sweet flavours of the skin of squash, go for a squash with a smoother skin and no blemishes. No matter which squash you pick it should feel heavy - this means it’s fresh. To take advantage of the types of squash available, why not purchase a variety and mix-up the flavours?
After thoroughly washing the squash, remove both ends and cut the fruit in half. After spooning out the seeds, the skin can be removed. Peeling the skin is optional – it has a delicious sweet flavour which can utilised as a perfect addition to your dish. The squash can either be diced or cut into larger chunks before being baked in a pre-heated oven or placed under a grill. For a delicious tandoori taste, marinade the squash with coriander, cumin, chilli and yogurt before cooking.
One advantage of tough, thicker skinned squash – typically winter squash - is its ability to stay fresh for longer – even without being refrigerated. Winter types of squash can be stored in a cool dry place for up to two months, or once peeled or cut, stored in the fridge for a maximum of two weeks. Summer squash is smaller with a thinner skin and therefore, can only be kept in the fridge for up to five days.
As an adaptable ingredient, squash can be cooked in a variety of ways: roasted, grilled, steamed, boiled and even microwaved. After roasting, squash can be pureed, making it a perfect addition to risotto.
This lean meat is a favourite for its tenderness and health benefits; deer meat is recognisably high in protein and is considered much healthier than other meats.
Generally, venison is available all year-round, although some breeds are in season at certain times of year.
Choose the best
Venison meat from older deer typically has more flavour, whereas meat from younger deer tends to be more tender and can take less time to cook. Larger cuts such as the haunch and shoulder are best for using in slow cooked dishes such as casseroles.
Try basting the meat in butter or using larger cuts of venison in casseroles with wild mushrooms, port and juniper berries. Boiled rice and potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to venison, as you don’t want to overpower the meat with too many flavours so that you can enjoy the rich taste.
The best way to keep venison fresh is by storing it in a vacuum-sealed pack in a cold place - the less moisture the meat is exposed to, the longer it will stay fresh. Paper packaging and freezing bags are also alternatives, although the storage life will be reduced. Storing venison in the freezer will keep it fresh for much longer than in the fridge.
To enjoy venison at its finest, ensure that the meat maintains some of its pink colour; overcooking venison will cause it to tighten and become tougher to eat. For flavoursome tender loins, they should be sealed in a hot pan for around 3 minutes.
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