Whether it’s crisp mornings, colourful leaves or cosy jumpers, there’s a lot to love about autumn. But it also happens to be when some of the UK’s tastiest veg are harvested. Carrots, onions and garlic are just some of the many ingredients at their prime right now. So this simple combination of autumn food can form the basis of everything from soups to casseroles, roasts and more.
Pumpkins and squash also abound at this time of year. Aside from carving and decorating them for Halloween, be sure to roast them, mash them, and pureée them. After all, they’re far too sweet and delicious to be wasted!
With the nights drawing in and temperatures falling, it’s hardly surprising we crave warming, belly-filling food this time of year. With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite autumnal flavours for you to drool over. I’ve even added some recipe suggestions to match autumn food too. Happy eating!
Eat the rainbow
It’s easy to eat colourful food in summer, when vibrant salads and slaws are more often than not the dishes du jour. But, come autumn, you could find yourself slipping into less adventurous habits. This can be especially so, seeing as some of the most comforting ingredients (such as carbs!) happen to be beige. There are many benefits for eating the rainbow, not least flavour. In particular, eating colourful food can help you stave off those pesky common coughs and colds. Try to add as much vitamin C rich autumn food to your plate as possible (think citrus fruits, leafy greens, peppers and festive stalwarts, Brussels sprouts). Struggling to gobble up your recommended seven portions of fruit and veg a day? Rustle up a multicolour stir-fry. Simply chop your veg into batons (carrots, celery, peppers, mange tout, broccoli and mushrooms all work well) and combine with sesame oil, soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and peanut butter, and noodles if you desire. Serve with a generous handful of coriander, a wedge of lime and finely diced chilli – if you dare!
Snack on apples
First brought over to the UK by the Romans, apples are now one of the nation’s favourite fruits. In fact, the UK boasts more than 2,000 varieties! British apples are at their best from September to November, where you’ll find them falling from trees in abundance. Simmer this autumn food with cinnamon and star anise to make a sharp and sweet compote for serving with pork. Or, if you’re a dab hand at pastry, whip up Michelin-star chef Raymond Blanc’s classic ‘Maman Blanc’ apple tart. According to Raymond, its success lies is finding the perfect apple, so look for a variety that balances acidity and sweetness – such as Cox or Braeburn.
Stock up on green veg
On top of tasting great, cabbage, leeks, kale, spinach and sprouts are rich in nutrients such as magnesium and zinc, which can help to cleanse the body of toxins. Not excited by veg? Try blanching rather than over-boiling as this can preserve their colour and texture, depending on how long you cook them for first. Or, how about taking some inspiration from Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi? Dress your veg in a lemony tahini yoghurt dressing and top with a sprinkling of pistachios and pomegranate. Vegetables have never tasted so good!
Go wild for mushrooms
Dewy mornings and intermittent rain showers are ideal growing conditions for wild mushrooms, so naturally they thrive in autumn. While foraging for this autumn food can be complex and tricky, you’ll find plenty in supermarkets and green grocers this time of year. Ideal flavour pairings include butter, garlic and rosemary, but they’re also delicious when fried and piled on top of toast, or simmered in cream, paprika and white wine to make a decadent mushroom stroganoff. Other options include a rich and creamy mushroom risotto, where the mushrooms act as sponges for ingredients like stock and Parmesan. Or, if you’re a fan of spice, mushroom biryani is a must-cook dish. The combination of rice, spice and mushrooms is hard to beat on a cold, dark, autumnal evening.
Make the most of pumpkins
Pumpkins may be fun to carve, but I reckon they’re even better when cooked! Dice into cubes and roast with garlic, thyme and rosemary for a wintry Sunday roast side dish, or, once roasted, mash with butter and serve with sausages and gravy. Spice lovers will be happy to hear that this autumn food is a perfect partner for chilli, and work particularly well in a slow-cooked curry. For dessert, while pumpkin pie is a popular option in the US during Thanksgiving, I can’t recommend baking a batch of fudgy pumpkin brownies enough.
Get creative with soups
On top of being comforting, warming and quick to make, soups are an easy way to up your daily intake of veg, too. Plus, it’s practically impossible to tire of soup when there’s an endless number of flavour combinations to experiment with. Some of my favourites include beetroot and dill, carrot and sweet potato and leek and potato. You mustn’t forget celeriac either. A somewhat overlooked vegetable, celeriac is one of the stars of autumn and really shines in a creamy soup. For an extra protein kick, why not cook up a batch of hearty dhal? This tasty stewed lentil dish is eaten across India and is incredibly straightforward to make. Check out food writer Elly Pear’s lentil, tomato and coconut dhal recipe for inspiration. The recipe conveniently makes six portions, so that’s lunches sorted for the week!