Make the most of autumn produce

Autumn really is one of our favourite times of the year. Not only does the Monmouthshire countryside explode with colour and beauty as the leaves change, our Victorian walled garden also bursts with fresh autumnal produce.

Unlike summer, where raw fruit and vegetables, salads and grilled foods are in full flow, autumn calls for a different approach to cooking. Many of us have now returned our barbeques to their rightful place in the garage, and are reaching for our slow cookers and stew pots to create warm and comforting dishes to see us through the shorter days.

To celebrate the start of the season, we’ve listed our favourite five autumnal ingredients to cook with over the coming months. Like us, you can either choose to grow them in your garden or, if your fingers aren’t quite as green, you can easily pick them up at your local farmer’s market or supermarket.

1) Pumpkin

shutterstock_155131223It comes as no surprise that one of the big players this season is pumpkin. Usually associated with scaring trick-or-treaters, this bright fruit can be used to make warming dishes such as soups as the weather gets colder. Pumpkin is also rich in minerals and great for keeping healthy as it contains only a small amount of calories.

2) Beetroot

Fresh beetroot will brighten any meal. Roasted, pickled or boiled, this earthy vegetable goes great with smoked fish and adds a sweet flavour to salads. Beetroot is also great for keeping skin looking and feeling healthy, but be careful when handling- the last thing you want is a ruined wardrobe thanks to its handy staining properties!

3) Blueberries

Blueberries are renowned for their great taste and health benefits. These little berries are bursting with sweet goodness and anti-oxidants to fight away the inevitable winter colds. Not only do they make for a great snack throughout the day, they’re also a great addition to a bowl of warm porridge in the morning.

4) Hazelnuts

shutterstock_125386376Nothing announces the arrival of the cold weather more than the smell of roasting hazelnuts. Although small in size, these little nuts pack a big punch when it comes to giving us energy, perfect as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up if you’re struggling in the office as the days get shorter.

5) Venison

Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the meat lovers. This season boasts an abundance of delicious meats, including venison. This red meat is packed with protein and can be added to stews for that rich velvety taste we all crave in the colder months. Venison is also another autumnal food that could help keep you energised as the nights draw in.

Autumn really is a season that caters to all. Whether you decide to grow your own produce like we do in our walled garden, or head to your local farmer’s market or supermarket, be sure to reap the great taste that these foods have to offer until winter hits.

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Mike Hendry’s ultimate Welsh Rarebit recipe

As many people across Wales will know, today is Welsh Rarebit Day. As treasured as rugby and Brains beer, what better way to celebrate one of the country’s most iconic signature dishes than by cooking it yourself?

Dating back to the 18th century, and reflecting a time where meat was a scarce luxury in Wales, lots of people say that Welsh Rarebit originated from Welsh rabbit, but there is no real evidence to actually support this.

Welsh Rarebit is so much more than fancy cheese on toast, and is made with high-quality ingredients, including Welsh cheese, beer, mustard and freshly baked sourdough bread. With the Autumn months just around the corner, this dish really does hit the comfort food spot.

Over the years, many families have developed their own recipes for this traditional Welsh dish, our Head Chef Mike Hendry included. Here, Mike shares his favourite Welsh Rarebit recipe, with an extra cheesy twist!

Ingredients- Makes 8

20g butter (Welsh unsalted)

20g flour (plain)

150ml milk

80g Welsh cheese (Gorwydd Caerphilly works well)

½ bottle of Brains beer (or dark)

2 egg yolks (Medium free range)

8 thick slices of sourdough bread

Parmesan cheese

Method

Begin by melting all of the butter in a non-stick saucepan over a medium heat but don’t let it colour. Slowly add the flour and stir until the mixture becomes a smooth paste that leaves the sides and base of the pan. Then, add the milk a little bit at a time to the pan and whisk until the mixture is smooth between each addition.

In a separate bowl, mix together the grated cheese and two egg yolks. Then add this mixture into the roux in the saucepan, turn the heat down a little and stir until the cheese has melted. Turn it off and leave it to rest.

In another saucepan, add the beer and boil until it has reduced by half. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and 1 teaspoon of English mustard. After stirring, add this mixture to the other cheese mixture, and stir until the sauce is thick and smooth.

Slice fresh sourdough into 8 slices, and toast lightly under the grill. Spread the cheese sauce thickly over the toast, making sure the slices are completely covered. Put the toast under the grill for 2 minutes until the cheese is golden brown. Then add a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top and grill for another minute until lightly browned and bubbling. Allow to cool slightly, then serve.

Whether you whip up Mike’s Welsh rarebit recipe for lunch, or even as an afternoon snack, it’s quick to make and bursting with traditional flavours. Why not send us pictures of your Welsh Rarebits to @LLCHotel?

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As seen on Wales Online. To see the article, please click here.