No taste like home: Skye Gyngell embraces seasonal ingredients

It took a trip to the other side of the world to make Skye Gyngell realise just how blessed we are in Britain with exceptional autumn ingredients
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Indy Lifestyle Online

After a frantic month cooking at Sean's Panaroma in Australia, I've finally returned. While reluctant to come home, as I was sad to relinquish the spring sunshine, I was really excited to return to an abundance of autumnal produce.

This is, perhaps, my favourite time of year: mushrooms, although available from mid-summer, are in full swing; the game season is under way; the last few tomatoes are around; fruit is still plentiful – plums, apples, pears, quince, beautiful autumn grapes; and finally, persimmons, the fruit loved by Italian children, are just coming in.

In other words, it's good to be home.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627

Potato, porcini and rosemary soup

This soup is beautiful, warm and elegant, with wonderful earthy base-note flavours. It does contain very little water and an unusual amount of olive oil, but don't be put off by that. One taste and you'll know it's good for you. Serve the soup simply on its own; it needs no further accompaniment.

Serves 4
180g/6oz dried porcini
300ml/1/2 pint warm water
120ml/4fl oz good extra-virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
6 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 small dried red chilli
1kg/2lb Roseval potatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g/21/2oz Parmesan, grated
The juice of half a lemon
A bunch of curly parsley, leaves only, very finely chopped

Start by placing the porcini in a bowl. Pour over the warm water and leave for 10 minutes or so for the porcini to soften and for the water to be infused with their lovely, musty flavour.

Place a large heavy-based pan over a low heat, add a tablespoon of the olive oil and when just warm, add the shallots. Cook over a low heat for five minutes to soften.

Chop the rosemary finely and add to the shallots along with the garlic. Crumble over the chilli and stir well to combine.

Slice the potatoes into ¼-inch rounds (do not bother to peel, as the skin is delicious). Strain the porcini, reserving the infused water. Chop fairly roughly and add to the pan with the potatoes.

Add the rest of the olive oil, a good pinch of sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Pour in the reserved water and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender and beginning to fall apart. Add the Parmesan and the lemon juice. Sprinkle over the chopped parsley, taste one final time and add what you feel is necessary - perhaps a little more pepper and a pinch or two of salt. Ladle into warm bowls and serve.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with buffalo mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and agresto

Agresto is a soft rounded, pounded paste made with very fresh, young, creamy walnuts. It works exceptionally well with the rich, nutty flavor of roasted Jerusalem artichokes and sweet lightly roasted tomatoes.

Serves 4
12 Jerusalem artichokes
4 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 little plum or cherry tomatoes
tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
4 slices of chewy peasant style bread
1 garlic clove, peeled
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oilPinch of sea salt
Generous handful of salad leaves, such as cicorino or rocket
200g Buffalo mozzarella

For the Agresto:
20 young 'wet' walnuts in the shell
2 good-quality salted anchovy fillets
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 dried red chilli, finely chopped
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves only, chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
200ml extra virgin olive oil

First make the agresto. Crack open the walnuts (I give them a gentle tap with a rolling pin) and extract the nuts. Place a handful of them in a large mortar and start to pound gently with the pestle, gradually adding the rest of the nuts. Add the anchovies and garlic and continue to pound – the sauce should be smooth and creamy in parts, roughly textured in others. Stir in the chilli, parsley, lemon zest and juice, the gradually incorporate the extra virgin olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning – adding a little salt if necessary and a good grinding of pepper. Set aside while you roast the artichokes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/ Gas 6. Scrub the artichokes under cold running water to remove the dirt, but don't bother to peel them. Cut in half lengthways and place in a roasting tray. Drizzle over three tablespoons of the olive oil, season generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat well. Roast on the middle shelf of the oven until the artichokes are golden brown and tender; this will take about 35 - 40 minutes.

Halfway through cooking the artichokes, place the tomatoes in a separate roasting pan, season and spoon over the wine vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast on the top shelf of the oven for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and beginning to split from their skins. Set aside in a warm place with the artichokes while you toast the bread.

Preheat the grill and toast the slices of bread until golden brown on both sides. Once the bread is a really good colour remove from the grill and rub gently on one side with garlic. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and season with salt.

Place a slice of bruschetta on each plate. Arrange the artichokes, salad leaves and tomatoes on top and crumble over the buffalo mozzarella. Spoon on the agresto and serve at once, while still warm.

Whole roasted red-legged partridge with ricotta and bruschetta

Serves 4
4 red-legged partridges, plucked and cleaned, but not trussed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5tbsp very good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
4 slices of crusty, white peasant-style bread (such as pagnotta)
1 garlic clove, peeled
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
200g/7oz very fresh sheep's milk ricotta
A handful of curly parsley

Using poultry scissors, cut away the backbone of each partridge to enable you to open the bird out. The easiest way to do this is to cut either side of the bone where the ribs join, then push the bird out flat with your open hand.

Now place the birds in a large shallow dish, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with four tablespoons of the oil. Turn to coat once or twice, then leave to marinate for 30 minutes or so.

Preheat the grill or a griddle pan. When hot, lay the partridges skin-side down on the rack or griddle. Cook, turning frequently so that they brown and cook evenly all over, for about 25 minutes until the flesh is pink and tender, but not too rare. Check by pressing either side of the breast to see it is firm but still has a little spring. Remove the partridges to a warm plate and rest for five minutes.

In the meantime, toast the bread on the barbecue or griddle. Place a slice of toast on each warm plate, rub a garlic clove over the surface followed by sea salt and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Add a spoonful of ricotta, then place a partridge on top. Dress the whole dish simply with olive oil and finely chopped curly parsley, and serve at once. '

Persimmon sorbet

Serves 6

250g/8oz caster sugar
600ml/1 pint water
6 very ripe persimmons (otherwise known as cachi or sharon fruit)
150ml/5fl oz double cream
100ml/31/2fl oz sherry, preferably a very dry fino such as Tio Pepe

Put the sugar and water into a sauce pan over a low heat. When the sugar has fully dissolved, bring to the boil, lower the heat slightly and simmer for five minutes until the sugar syrup has a slightly viscous consistency.

Peel the persimmons and whizz them in a blender adding the sugar syrup, a little at a time, then the double cream and the finally the sherry.

Persimmons are best when they are very ripe, nearly “bruised”, and they’re also very sweet. If you find them too sweet, the sorbet will be the same, so add some lemon peel to the sugar syrup.

Finally, pour the sorbet mixture into an ice-cream maker and churn until thickened (approximately 20 minutes), according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove and preserve in the freezer.Alternatively, put in a freezer-proof container and freeze, stirring every 20 minutes until set.

The Forager, by Wendy Fogarty

Petersham's food sourcer on where to find the flavours of autumn...

Autumn is one of the best times to rediscover flavours that once enjoyed greater popularity – quince, salsify, cardoons, damson, partridge, woodcock and grouse, to name but a few. The only way to source these ingredients is from farmers' markets, speciality shops or online specialists such as Food Full Stop ( www.foodfullstop.com).

Persimmon, otherwise known as cachi, kaki or sharon fruit, is increasingly available from specialist grocers and delicatessens. Try Valvona & Crolla ( www.valvonacrolla.co.uk).

Planting your own fruit trees is one of the best ways to preserve traditional orchard fruits. Marshall Seeds sells an extensive range, including quince Serbian Gold tree and sweet chestnut Tree (www.marshall-seeds.co.uk).

English quince and rare apples are available from England Preserves' stand at Borough Market, London SE1, while the newly opened Sharpham Park Farmshop in Shepton Mallet is a treasure trove of produce ( www.kilvercourt.com).

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