Wonderful bright autumn berries in the garden
Wonderful bright autumn berries in the garden
I love the tiny flower detail on sedum heads.
Almost like lace in some ways.
I also love the different hues they come in from near white.
To deep pink.
They’ll be finished soon for this year though
I went out for an afternoon walk today hoping to get some shots of autumnal trees.
I was a bit late though and the light was fading too much.
But these shots of the leaves that had alreday fallen appealed.
The leaves seem to be coming down quickly this year, plenty of those still on the trees are still green but the golden ones are coming off fast in the wind.
Tomorrow I might head out to Epping Forest to see how that’s looking.
It’s late spring (well it was when I wrote and it was published, we’ve now just edged into summer) and a time many of us associate with lamb, in fact, it’s common to think of lamb as a traditional dish for Easter. A moment to pause and think about this should make us wonder why? Easter can be as early as 22 March and as late as 25 April; and we mostly all know that spring is when lambs are born so how are these lambs old enough to be ready to eat by Easter? Well they aren’t. The lamb that is marketed early was born in autumn and there are some breeds where this is the norm (primarily Dorset breeds such as Down, Horn or Poll). But not that many so unless you are sure of your source you might be paying a premium price for lamb that has been ‘encouraged’ to lamb in the autumn and then had an indoor life fed on concentrated feeds such as soya pellets. Not perhaps as natural as you might hope. Like almost anything in food it pays to know the provenance of what you are buying including when things are truly in season and what might have been involved to bring them to you essentially ‘out of season’. So the majority of British lamb is not yet ready for the table but will start to be when we get near the end of June and into July, at its best by September when it will really pays to explore different breeds that have been grazing outdoors on their local flora for a good 5-6 months; then you’ll be able to taste the effects of grazing on salt marshes or moorland, highland or lowland.
But what to do until then, after all it feels like it should be time to have some lamby dishes whether British inspired or from further a field. Well you can seek out some lamb from breeds that do naturally lamb in the autumn, as the meat will be top notch right now. You could simply wait and bide your time. You could buy New Zealand lamb; no don’t do that! Although excellent from good producers on its home soil it’s almost impossible to know in the UK whether you are buying good, indifferent or poor quality. Or you could try British reared hogget or mutton instead. Technically a hogget is a sheep between 1 and 3 and mutton is 3+ years old.
Ah mutton yes. I know I’ve immediately conjured pictures of old good-for-nothing stringy over cooked meat, Mrs Beeton and over boiled vegetables! Of course this is not the case mutton is as delicious as lamb, just different. As Hugh Fearley-Whittingstall points out (in his seminal The River Cottage Meat Book, highly recommended for all matters meaty) “mutton is to lamb, as beef is to veal”, both have a place but one is fuller in flavour the other more delicate. It seems that somewhere along the way we have lost this notion of mutton as delicious and now we even use lamb to make hot-pots, or ragouts. There has been a shifting in attitude since 2004 when Hugh first wrote his book with the likes of Farmer Sharp championing mutton with chefs and the public alike. But essentially mutton is still seen as the speciality and lamb the ‘regular’ option. This makes no real sense, many recipes that call for lamb use robust flavours that will simply drown the delicate flavour of even the best quality lamb, and the lack of sufficient fat means that lamb actually won’t respond well to some of the cooking methods. Best then to save the lamb for a special treat, cooked simply at its prime from July to September and instead invest in some mutton for your summer inspired dishes.
Good mutton doesn’t have to be cooked until its gray either (or indeed ever) a joint of hogget or ‘young’ mutton (3-4 years old) will work well roasted or barbecued but still left pink, it has a good balance of sweet fat to meat meaning it will be more succulent than pretty much any lamb would be right now. So for the next month (and most of the rest of the year) while we wait for lamb to really be in its prime why not try a cut of mutton?
Boned, butterflied leg or shoulder of mutton
½ – 1 leg or shoulder of mutton
½ bottle of red wine (right now its English wine week so you might want to track down an English red)
4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 black peppercorns
1 – 2 tbsp oil (I use extra virgin rapeseed)
peel of an orange or lemon (only the outer surface not the pith, easiest done with a sharp potato peeler)
You can find out more about mutton and places to buy at www.muttonrenaissance.co.uk
This article was first published in Francoise Murat & Associates newsletter.
Matching food to wine or wine to food? Well normally I decide what I want to eat and then I think about what wine might go with it. I’m no expert at all, I stick mostly to ‘standard’ rules and also to wines I like. Occasionally I’ll go a bit off-piste, or someone will introduce me to something different, then I’ll revise my rules a bit. But its always the food first and the wine second.
In the last few weeks there’s been chance to turn this on its head. Try the wine and then wonder what to eat with it. Maybe if you have an extensive cellar this is a game you can play regularly….
“Darling I’ve found another bottle of that Puligny-Montrachet 1978 stuff, do you think it would be best with ……”.
These weren’t quite those kind of chances. Instead they were regular priced wines looking for new partners. First there was the Casillero cook off, great fun, great recipes and finding out that a wine I probably wouldn’t have looked at (I often avoid big brand names) was actually eminently drinkable. And now Niamh over at Eat Like a Girl is luring us with the possibility of prizes to try our hands at matching prosecco to food. Specifically Bisol Jeio prosecco and a chance to eat at the chefs table at Trinity.
Prosecco isn’t something I know much about and tempted by the possibility of a free tasting to help inspire food choices I popped over to Niamh’s (almost an institution) stall at Covent Garden on Thursday to see the lie of the land. I had a chat with Niamh about doing the stalls (hard work, great fun) and sipped the prosecco. Pears, peaches, off dry – but what to make to go with it. In my books prosecco, like most sparkling wine, makes a lovely aperitif but its maybe not quite so easy to have with food.
A little bit of googling and reading and a few thought came to mind…..pears…well they go well in salads with blue cheese and often walnuts. Pears and peaches…sometimes served with air-dried hams. A sweetish fruit and salty theme was emerging. I’d also got a hankering for something autumnal, earthy…
On the day I decided to experiment my husband turned out to be having beer in Bath, that’s the town in Avon and glass after glass of hoppy malty brown liquid, rather than any other beer/bath combination that might spring to mind. This meant that I had been abandoned/left to my own devices/was delighting in the perfect moment to do exactly as I wanted* (please delete as applicable). This was fortuitous, mostly he’s not a fan of sparkling wines, of blue cheese, or sweet/tart combinations and that’s right where I was heading.
Off to purloin ingredients from the local, erm, (super)market to combine with some goodies I already had in the fridge. I was aiming for English meets Italian. Italian wine, English inspired dish. This is where I ended up:
Goodshoeday’s autumnal sort of salad (for 2 people as a light meal or starter)
6 small beetroots
½ small squash
2tsp salsa di mostarda (I actually used some of the sweet pickle juices from my pickled cherry plums)
extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil (I like Hill Farm – and no they haven’t sent me any for free)
Blacksticks Blue cheese
Smoked cured ham (I used Richard Woodhall Black Combe Ham)
¼ savoy cabbage
Roast the beets in their skins for 1*1 ½ hours at R6/200C covered in foil. Top and tail, peeland cut into quarters (remember to wear rubber gloves), and keep war
Peel and core the squash and cut into small chunks. Roast in rapeseed oil for 40 minutes at R6/200C.
Shred the cabbage fairly coarsely and steam for 3-4 minutes so it retains some crunch.
Toss the beetroot and squash in the salsa di mostarda and some rapeseed oil.
Arrange 3 slices of ham on each plate with a gap in the centre. Pile the steamed cabbage in the middle then add beetroot and squash, add slivers of cheese and serve.
It was delicious though I have no idea whether it goes with prosecco of any type let alone the Bisol Jeio – the supermarket was clean out of prosecco all the other bloggers must have got their first.