As the temperature starts to drop a notch or two, mornings become crisper and daylight savings bows out, slowly but surely we start to realise that summer is over and autumn is upon us. With the change in seasons comes a different variety of produce for our tables, so we asked six food industry professionals what they’re looking forward to cooking and eating this autumn. Mushrooms are by far the favourite, but root vegetables, fish and nuts are all lusted after too.
Edouard Reymond, co-owner and manager, Bistro Gitan, South Yarra
For me, autumn means getting out of town to the country – sunny mornings, fresh air and mushrooms, more specifically pine mushrooms, with their incredibly earthy flavour and meaty texture. There is so much that can be done with wild pine mushrooms. Whether it be on the hot plate of the barbecue with a splash of Fino sherry and parsley; oven-baked with plenty of butter, garlic and onion; or slowly braised in the pan with bacon and Brussels sprouts (also beginning to come into season). Getting a bottle of wine and a friend to help clean them makes for a very enjoyable afternoon too!
Slippery Jacks and Pine Mushrooms
Paul Jones, chef and co-owner, Gorski and Jones, Collingwood
What’s better than foraging for mushrooms at this time of year? I make use of my family property near St Andrews and look for wild-grown mushrooms (mainly slippery jacks and pine). Mushrooms are such an all-rounder in the vegetable gang: pureed, grilled or duxelle, although my favourite is simply to panfry them with a little butter, pepper and salt (always more pepper), parsley and top on good toasted bread (an excellent brekkie). If you are looking for a little mystery, try steaming them cartouche style (using greased baking paper as a wrapping) with a little tarragon and seasoning. I like to finish mine in the wood-fire oven for that extra earthiness.
Lizette Snaith, head of marketing, sales and admin, Warialda Belted Galloway Beef, Clonbinane
My favourite autumnal food has to be apples. But not just any apple, a real apple. One that has come off a tree only hours before eating it; one that is crunchy, sweet and juicy with a hint of tang all at the same time; preferably a red one. I am not that fussy about what variety, so long as it is fresh then I am happy. As a child, we used to go to our local orchardist in Upper Beaconsfield and buy them by the wooden boxful, put them in a cupboard and the smell would seep out. Apples became our snack and we ate three to four a day. The box lasted only a week. I tend not to cook them, but you can’t go past an apple and berry crumble or an apple pie or even a baked apple stuffed with sultanas, a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar, baked until tender and starting to caramelise and served with Gundowring French Vanilla ice cream.
Heirloom Carrots and Pumpkin
Andrew Gray, owner, Raw Materials, Footscray
I grew up on a few acres on the outskirts of Bendigo with poddy calves, chooks, fruit trees and a huge veggie patch. I remember coming home from school each day and looking forward to what mum had harvested from the garden to use for dinner. In autumn the house would be filled with the smells of leeks being sautéed in a pan with butter and smoky bacon, or a pot of soup would be bubbling along on the top of the Aga with heirloom carrots and other root vegetables. There were always smells wafting through our house from something on the stove. Now, 40 years on, I come home and the same smells waft through my house. It is great to see my five-year-old son come home from school to see what’s been harvested from the garden and smell the pumpkin scones or ruby quinces that have been made. These memories of autumn are even more of a treasure to me than when I was five years of age.
Black Bream and Marron
Oliver Edwards, chef and founder, GoodFishBadFish.com.au
As autumn kicks in, I start moving my cooking indoors, trading in the barbecue for an oven roast that warms the house and the soul. The bream family are all delicious, versatile and sweet-fleshed fish, but my favourite is black bream. Their size makes them perfect for cooking whole. I also love the dark, leafy vegetables that are available at this time of year, so I like to pair whole bream with a bed of whole baby carrots, rainbow chard, butter and slices of orange and roast in the oven. The juices that collect in the pan and wilt into the greens are delicious. If you finish with a sprinkle of roast hazelnuts or almonds, it’s pretty special too. Another favourite seafood that pairs so well with autumnal ingredients is marron. Similar to a yabby and farmed year round, marron is beautiful simply steamed and served with lashings of butter, but it’s really elevated when turned into a warm salad with roast leek, Brussels sprout leaves, chestnuts and pancetta lardons. Yum!
Chestnuts and Walnuts
Tim White, owner, Books for Cooks, Fitzroy
I love Victorian walnuts. The ones from overseas can be rancid and flat, but when they’re in season here, they’re just right. I love cracking them with my kids. We sit around the table, have a firm cheese, usually some pear or apple and make a terrible mess cracking the walnuts after a meal. Chestnuts are more complicated as they have to be roasted, although I love smelling them cook on the streets in the city as – even though I’m in my comfortable place – everything seems to shift a little when I eat them. I could be somewhere in France, in Rome, in London. I love the feeling of burning my fingers when I dig into the paper bag to get the chestnuts. It always reminds me that winter’s almost here.