2019-10-16 | By Kim McСlure
Autumnal fruit and vegetable dishes that warm the heart and easily impress
As autumn steals sunny hours from our days, it blows in a cooler, more pensive mood, wearing a kaleidoscope of amber colours. With the shorter days comes more time to be inside without the distraction of sunshine and terraces, it’s time to embrace homely habits. Like prepping some warming seasonal dishes.
Most supermarkets in the Netherlands are well-stocked with almost any ingredient year-round. But cooking with truly seasonal Dutch ingredients encourages us to experiment with fruit and vegetables we’d otherwise perhaps ignore. Autumnal ingredients are often hearty, suited to longer cooking time and naturally carry rich flavours.
With this seasonal mood in mind, here are some key autumnal ingredients that are simple to use and easily impress–whether for a cosy dinner for two or a larger group of guests.
The brilliant colour of beetroot is matched only by the muted, earthy flavour it yields. To immediately elevate a simple carrot and potato soup base, blend in two peeled and roasted beetroots, then serve with a swirl of Greek yoghurt, chopped roasted almonds and chopped fresh coriander.
Possibly the (traditionally) worst-treated of all autumnal veg, Brussels sprouts have so much to offer. If peeled–just remove outer leaves–and scored at the base and roasted for around 20 minutes in a hot oven, they become wonderfully crispy and golden. Once roasted, toss with some crispy bacon pieces and top with chopped parsley. The ultimate autumn side dish for almost any meat or veg dish.
It’s tempting to buy chopped and peeled pumpkin, but if you’re spending more time at home this autumn, why not buy a whole pumpkin instead? It’s easier to prep than imagined–and is undoubtedly the eco-option.
A simple way to cook pumpkin is to slice it into thickish slices, lay flat on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Scatter a few garlic cloves onto the tray with the pumpkin (no need to peel them). Top with some torn sage leaves and roast for around 40 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft and sweet. Mash onto sourdough with ricotta and a squeeze of lemon, and it’s the simple autumn meal that dreams are made of.
This beautiful golden fruit tends to be underrated, but it packs a lovely sweet and earthy flavour, holds its shape well when cooked and is relatively inexpensive. One of the ways to make pears shine is to use them in a crumble in place of apples.
Peel, slice and lay them flat in a casserole dish, and top with a mixture of equal parts sugar, butter and flour. For more texture and flavour, add a handful of oats, a sprinkle of mixed spice and some desiccated coconut. Bake in a hot oven (180 degrees Celsius) until the top is crisp. Served with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream as a comforting dessert–or indeed with Greek yoghurt for breakfast.
These small, shiny berries burst with flavour and they’re abundant in the Netherlands at this time of year–either at the supermarket or your local street market. They pair particularly well with almonds and have beautifully intense colour.
An uncomplicated dessert–that happens to look quite impressive–is an elderberry galette. This flat French pastry is usually made with apples, but you can easily use elderberries instead. Roll out a sheet of shop-bought puff pastry and brush the edges with a beaten egg. Top the middle of the sheet with elderberries (de-stalked) and a sprinkling of icing sugar. Bake until the puff pastry is golden and the berries are cooked. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with sliced almonds and return to the oven for a minute or two until the almonds are golden brown. Serve slices with some whipped cream or ice cream. If you don’t fancy making a whole elderberry galette, you can also simply complement apples with a few elderberries too.
How can I eat seasonally?
- Head to the market or greengrocer. This will give you a better idea of what’s in season. Some markets will only sell seasonal produce.
- Fruits and vegetables that are watery, unripe or lack flavour are most likely the out-of-season culprits.
- Look for reasonably-priced produce, as this is often easily available and in season.
- If you want to know exactly how friendly your food choices are, you can download and use the free app ‘Groente en Fruit Kalender’ which allows you to check the impact of your choices.
About the author
Kim McClure is a South African copywriter living in Amsterdam.