Seasonal eating in September
Annabelle Breakey, Photodisc, Getty Images
This must be one of the finest times of the year for the budding cook; early autumnal ingredients are making their way into our larders, fridges and fruit bowls, heralding the arrival of colder times but also new, heartier ways of cooking - salads of roasted squash or roots, chicory, soft ash-covered goat's cheese and walnuts, lamb tagines - still redolent with flavours of summer but warmer, more filling, more generous.
It's also a time to look towards pastry again - the heat of summer never lends itself to a perfectly crisp crust - but not just the hot pies, steak and mushroom, chicken, ham and leek, pork pies, gala pies and cold fruit pies should get a look-in too. Quiches seem to have fallen from fashion in favour of tarts - but the wibbly, wobbly, cheesy simplicity they bring make a welcome addition to any late-summer picnic or weekday supper along with a sharply dressed green salad.
You might think that figs are more at home in the sunny heart of the Med but with a little love they'll grow in good old Blighty. Serve them à la Jamie Oliver, simply cut open, baked and drizzled with mascarpone and runny honey. They're another great example of one of those crossover fruits, lending themselves both to sweet and savoury flavours. They combine well with lots of different cheese varieties, their sweetness offsetting the acidity and tang of parmesan or even stilton. Try a salad of endive, crumbled blue cheese, quartered figs and croutons all drizzled with honey - a perfect accompaniment to a steak - or just as-is for a tasty lunch. During a stint in the kitchen at the Victoria in East Sheen, we used to use figs as part of a quite unusual pudding - halved, the cut face dipped in sugar and then caramelised with a blow torch.
The game season has already started, with the first grouse coming to the table in August. Venison is generally available year-round but somehow lends itself to autumnal flavours such as hearty, robust kale, fried wild mushrooms and creamed leeks. However, don't limit deer to just this; it's great with Asian flavours too - or Indian. Slow-cooked in a curry, rich with spices or heady with coconut milk, the flavour and texture of venison shine through.
If that's not your bag, try the venison equivalent of a steak sandwich - grill or flash-fry a venison steak, toast a brioche bun or a couple of slices of good bread, drizzle with a little olive oil and top with a piquant sauce made with mint, parsley, basil, olive oil, red wine vinegar and chilli - along with a good scrunch of salt and pepper.
Yuliya Ataeva, Flickr, Getty Images
These beautiful shining black jewels are the forager's favourite - if you're anywhere near a park or a bit of green space (you'll even find them growing in wasteland), then you're near blackberries. Go out, get your fingers stained a beautiful deep purple while picking them and then head home to make jelly, jam or an apple and blackberry pie. Warm from the oven, a large scoop of ice-cream melting gently on top - or with thick double cream - there are few finer puds. And if pastry isn't your thing, just make a crumble, perhaps with a few hazelnuts in the topping for a little extra something.
These little beauties are among my favourite ingredients. Part of nature's bounty, you'll find damson trees, like blackberry bushes, growing virtually everywhere - near my house there's a development on the edge of which a few old, gnarly trees that each year provide a generous helping of the ashen, purple-black fruit. They do look a bit like wild plums - so give them a taste when you pick them. If they're virtually inedible then you've got damsons! They make the finest jam and chutney - you can even use them to make a British version of membrillo, quince cheese - perfect with any of our British cheeses. Or you can do a version of raspberry ripple, the classic ice-cream, replacing the raspberries with sweetened damson puree.
Anthony-Masterson, Digital Vision, Getty Images
Somehow they are the quintessential English fruit, more so even than the strawberry, although they originated in western Asia. They are a brilliant all-rounder, great in sweet as well as savoury combinations. And what better way to enjoy them than with a good piece of English cheddar? If you haven't tried the combo in ages, it is definitely worth revisiting. That sweet/sour crisp apple coupled with the tangy, rich cheese is about as near to perfection as you can get. Indeed - the Americans go one step further, using cheddar in the crust of an apple pie. Apple sauce to go with pork or goose is a must too - try stewing cooking apples until they're soft and then, just before serving, add a Cox apple, chopped into small chunks - it will provide a burst of acidic freshness and crunch to your sauce.
Enjoy the kitchen crossover and take advantage of the new season's produce along with the last remnants of the English summer bounty, for some exquisite flavour combinations.