Home   Food and Drink   Article

On the Table: Easy recipes to elevate the everyday

“Sadly, many of our native crops are viewed as a bit boring, but there are so many delicious ways to create healthy and inexpensive dishes. . .” All that’s needed to elevate everyday fruit and veg - and your everyday meals too - is a little culinary imagination, writes Cambridge Cookery’s Tine Roche

Victoria plums picked straight from the tree
Victoria plums picked straight from the tree

As we near the end of a summer with roller-coaster weather in northern Europe and catastrophic heatwaves in southern Europe, some may feel a certain sense of relief that early autumn is here.

End of summer brings an incredible bounty, with an abundance of local and seasonal vegetables and fruits from our own shores and indeed our own county.

My very own favourite fruit is the Victoria plum, ripening throughout August and into early September. When at its peak, a Victoria plum will have a rich, lilac/purple skin, enrobing deep yellow flesh, its honey-like flavour juxtaposed with a good level of acidity. You will usually find them on offer in markets, as their season is short; if you feel virtuous, grab the moment to bulk-buy and make plum jam to top your yoghurt, porridge or sourdough toast in the months ahead.

When buying apples, pears and blackberries, do make sure you buy British - this is the season these versatile fruits are in abundance in the UK, yet they often sit side-by-side in supermarket aisles with imports. Pumpkins, squashes, beans and some cabbages are also in abundance, and they all tend to be very inexpensive.

Sadly, many of our native crops are viewed as a bit boring, but there are so many delicious ways to create healthy and inexpensive dishes from the current seasonal bounty. To prove the point, here are a few ideas - all calling on only three key ingredients.

Make your own breadcrumbs from stale sourdough by blitzing in a food processor. Heat a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil in a frying pan and fry the crumbs until crisp and caramel-coloured. Tip out onto a piece of kitchen paper and sprinkle with sea salt.

Meanwhile, take a bunch of Cavolo Nero, cut out the toughest stalks, slice into ribbons, and massage, in a mixing bowl, with two/three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of apple cider or red wine vinegar and a large pinch of sea salt. This will “cure” the cabbage and make it softer.

An abundance of native fruit is one of late-summer's greatest gifts
An abundance of native fruit is one of late-summer's greatest gifts

Slice two/three pears, skin on, thinly and enjoy a combo which will make you really taste what you are eating: the cabbage demands thorough chewing, the crumbs offer crispy resistance and bring malted caramel flavour, and the pears are soft and lusciously juicy.

Also try putting a whole pointed cabbage on the barbecue for about an hour, on an indirect heat. Or, if you prefer, simply oven bake it whole, at 175C, for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, toast a small handful of hazelnuts in a dry pan and make a burnt butter mayonnaise - trust me, it’s easy as well as divine!

Melt 50g unsalted melted butter in a small saucepan and let it turn nut brown. Remove it from the heat and leave it to cool down. Roughly chop the toasted hazelnuts. Crack two organic egg yolks into a large steel or glass bowl. Use a stick blender, or if you are feeling energetic, a large balloon whisk, and slowly add the cooled butter and 100 ml sunflower oil to make an emulsion. If this is your first attempt at making a cold, stable emulsion, don’t worry if it is not quite as thick as you would like. It tastes just as good as a slightly thinner dressing.

Cut the roasted cabbage into long, thin wedges and arrange on a large shallow platter. You can remove outer layers if they are burnt, or eat them depending on what you like. Scatter over the toasted nuts and drizzle on the burnt butter mayonnaise. The dish will look mildly alarming in its brown-ness but boy does it taste delicious.

Finally, one of my late-summer favourites: wrap whole, fresh beetroot in foil, bake in a hot oven for about an hour or until soft - a bunch of beets tends to have a couple of very small ones and a couple much larger, so check them as they cook.

Serve hot, with cold, salted butter. Better than corn on the cob, in my opinion, and less likely to stick in your teeth. Just be prepared for the alarming colour when you go to spend a penny!

* Visit cambridgecookery.com for more.

Read more

More by this author