We tend to talk a lot about seasonal interiors as well as clothing and it goes without saying that both are of course important to our wellbeing.
If you feel the cold as much as I do, then you’ll know the importance of woolly blankets and socks as soon as the temperatures go down. One other thing that is important to me is seasonal food. Put in the simplest terms: grilled fish and fresh salad in summer, stews and root vegetables in winter.
Part of this way of cooking and eating is to do with what I feel I need during each season. I really do tend to need warming comfort food during the darker months and can’t quite imagine feeling all warm and fuzzy whilst munching on some crunchy - and cold - lettuce leaves! Another reason to cook like this is that it’s obviously better for the environment: whilst we can of course buy fruit and vegetables that have been flown half way around the world, isn’t it nicer to have produce that has been grown locally and comes to our table fresh rather than ripened on the back of a lorry?
So then, what are those dishes that will warm you up, taste amazing and are made from seasonal (and therefore local) produce? Let’s start with what is actually in season. Pumpkins and butternut squash, kale, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, sweetcorn, wild mushrooms, nuts and chestnuts, apples, figs, pears, quinces…is that enough choice?
One of the first and simplest things to make, which can serve as a main as well as a side dish, is a big tray of roasted root vegetables with some new potatoes and onions. Add garlic and rosemary and drizzle with olive oil before putting it all in the oven for a hint of Mediterranean flavours. Stews are always on the top of my list and I’m certain my family would complain if they didn’t get to eat any over an entire winter. When making a stew, it’s important to pack it full of flavour.
Depending on what kind of stew, you might add some wine or beer - don’t worry, the alcohol will evaporate during the cooking process just leaving the great taste - bay leaf and other herbs, and of course a good stock. For something a little lighter, how about some grilled corn-on-the cob, smothered in a butter that has been mixed with chopped parsley, grated parmesan and crushed garlic.
Soup it up
Then there are the warming soups: pumpkin soup with a hint of spice tastes amazing and won’t be too heavy. Leek and cheese soup is another firm autumn/winter favourite, and so is a thick pea soup served with sausage slices. Oh, and a really good mushroom soup is one of those things that actually taste of autumn. Yum! And if you have guests, why not serve your soup in a bread bowl?
Speaking of mushrooms, they work so well in so many dishes that it makes it hard to choose which one to cook first. A mushroom risotto, pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce, chicken legs with mushrooms, white wine and garlic… seasonal cooking doesn’t get much easier.
And how about some baking?! I couldn’t possible write about seasonal cooking without including some baking. Hazelnut and apple cake? Yes! And of course a classic pumpkin pie with cinnamon. A chestnut gateau is also high on my list of “things to bake” along with a tarte tatin, pear pie or even a frangipane tarte with poached quinces.
There are of course many, many recipes to be found to match each season. The main thing, if you are looking to cook seasonal, is to establish what is available, then check what you fancy cooking before looking for a recipe that will match the criteria. That might sound a little complicated, but with the wealth of recipes out there, it’s actually a fairly straightforward affair. And you’ll have the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing your food hasn’t chewed up air miles (pun completely intended!) on top of a warm belly.
Carole Poirot is a freelance photographer and stylist who lives and works in London. Originally from France, she has also lived in Germany and uses these influences to help inform her own style and advice. Her ideas are also published on her blog at mademoisellepoirot.com.