The clocks go back. It feels as though time moves into reverse. As the sun lowers in the sky, the damp musk of autumn rises. Wet leaves settle on the forest floor and the season of mellow fruitfulness is upon us.
An invite from a friend to search for mushrooms got me thinking about wild foods.
Happening on some edible treat on a walk is always a delight. Bringing something of outdoors into your kitchen. Wild sorrel and garlic, field mushrooms from grazing pastures, brambles and sloes in the hedgerows.
An October favourite for me is chestnuts. I love the smell and crack of them as they roast away in the oven or on a fire and their singed, crumbling texture is perfect with a glass of red.
If you have the time, Soupe aux Marrons involves boiling up chestnuts in game stock and adding ground meat from a bird – Elizabeth David suggests a partridge. The whole is then sieved and turned out with croutons.
My lazy version involves a tin of chestnut pureé. Mixed with aubergines and parmesan it’s autumnal in every way. Chop up the aubergine and fry it up in oil with salt and pepper. Cover in some stock – homemade is always best, easy to make and store in the freezer whence it can be defrosted on the job – and simmer until soft. Add in the tin of pureé and the parmesan, wizz it and serve with aforementioned croutons.
Actually the Spanish or Sweet Chestnuts we eat are found in mountainous parts unlike our native Horse Chesnuts. A few years ago, I was in Andalucía at this time. The hillsides once covered only with olive and fig trees are now bustling with sweet chestnut groves, invaders from Asturias where for centuries the best castañas have been harvested. On the hillsides outside Oviedo, they hold the annual amagüestu. A fiesta of cider and chestnuts and good people.