Vegetable surpluses, hedgerow fruit feasts - autumn really is coming... we share your ripest recipes
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Harvest season is upon us: green-fingered friends are calling with offers of monster marrows, dusky plums going so cheap that making jam seems almost an obligation, and every hedgerow throughout the country is heavy with gritty, sweet blackberries.
Aside from the usual crumble, it's often hard to know what to do with the fruit of the bramble bush, which is why Valerie Wong's rich, but simple clafoutis appealed - but I'd also like to recommend Sophie van Wiljen's recipe for redcurrants and Ruth Joseph's addictive way with overripe cheese.
In fact, every one of these recipes will do justice to ingredients at their very peak, so, make the most of them while you can.
Clafoutis is a French dessert from the Limousin region. I love the custardy yet light texture.
Valerie Wong, London, twinnydip.blogspot.co.uk
250g blackberries, or berries of your choice
1 tbsp icing sugar
50g ground almonds
35g plain flour
100g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
250ml double cream
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Soak the berries with the icing sugar in a bowl of water for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.
2 Mix the ground almonds, flour, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, yolks and cream together until smooth.
3 Put the fruits in a greased baking dish just big enough to hold them in one layer, and pour the mixture on top.
4 Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Serve warm with ice-cream.
Chilli cheese beignets
Recently, I was inspired to use up a ripe brie in the fridge with half a ripe chilli from the garden. As a variation, add 25g chopped basil instead of chilli.
Ruth Joseph, Cardiff
Makes about 24
140g plain flour
4 eggs, beaten
100g finely chopped brie (skin and all)
100g grated parmesan or other strong cheese
½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped, or a pinch of cayenne pepper
Oil, for deep frying
1 Put 225ml water in a saucepan with the butter and bring to the boil. Take off the heat and add all the flour in one go, stirring continuously until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
2 Put back on the heat and keep stirring for another 5 minutes, then leave to cool.
3 Put the mixture in a food processor, adding the eggs one at a time. Whizz in the cheese and chilli.
4 Heat the oil in a deep-sided pan or fryer to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 and carefully drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture into the pan. Cook until golden brown, turning with a slotted spoon so they brown on both sides. Drain on kitchen roll and serve hot.
I love gin, but sadly, gin has a terrible effect on me. Nevertheless, damson gin is a brilliant ingredient, livening up sauces for game and also makes a very good sorbet. This recipe also works equally well with sloes.
MarmadukeScarlet, via GuardianWitness;
Makes 1.5 litres
1 kg damsons
1.5 litres gin
1 Pick over the damsons, removing any leaves or stems. Wash under cold running water, drain, and roughly dry. Place in the freezer overnight (which causes the skin to split, making the next stage much easier).
2 The next day, either using a darning needle or the tip of a very sharp knife, make a prick in each damson to nick the skin. The skin may already have split as a result of freezing, but it can't hurt to make another incision. This helps the gin to get into the damson and allow all the fruity goodness to leach into and flavour the gin.
3 Sterilise a large preserving jar. Layer the damsons with sugar, until all the damsons are covered.
4 Add gin, seal and leave for at least 3 months in a cool, dark place for the damsons, gin and sugar to work their magic. Every couple of days give the sealed jar a bit of a shake, which helps to dissolve the sugar and bruise the fruit further. Soon you will have a magical deep purple liqueur.
Tomato and mozzarella salad
After the fabulous summer we've been having in the UK, everything in the market seems abundantly ripe and juicy. This very simple salad makes the most of richly scented ripe tomatoes. The basil oil keeps for months and is a reminder of summer when autumn rains return.
Bronwyn Wolfe, London
For the basil oil:
500ml olive oil
1 large bunch of basil
For the salad:
250-300g smallish, ripe tomatoes, a mix of colours and shapes if you can get them
1 ball buffalo mozzarella
Salt and black pepper
1 Wash and dry the basil leaves. Put them into a saucepan and add the olive oil, keeping the empty bottle to one side. Bring to a simmer over a very low heat and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat off, cover and leave to infuse overnight, then remove and discard the basil and decant the oil back into the original bottle.
2 Halve the tomatoes and put them on to a large plate. Tear the mozzarella into chunks and scatter it over the tomato. Drizzle generously with basil oil and some salt and pepper. Add greek basil leaves if you have some. Eat with some crusty bread.
Swabian redcurrant tart
I grew up eating this
dessert. This recipe is a
lovely combination of sweet
and sour - a well-baked
base and a delicious
filling with delectable pieces
of chopped hazelnuts.
Sophie van Wijnen, etenmaken.blogspot.nl
250g flour (preferably spelt)
1 tbsp milk
125g ground or chopped hazelnuts
200g caster sugar
1 Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour, and then stirring in 1 egg and the milk to make a dough. Shape into a disc, wrap and chill for an hour.
2 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 28cm greased tart tin. Sprinkle over 2 tbsp of the hazelnuts.
3 Whisk the remaining eggs in a stand mixer with the sugar until voluminous. Fold in the remaining hazelnuts and the redcurrants. Spoon into the tart tin.
4 Bake for 40-50 minutes in the oven, or until golden, checking regularly. It might need a little longer depending on the particular oven. Serve lukewarm or cold with whipped cream.
This is a delicious way to use up very ripe bananas. and my children loved it, especially when it was accompanied with either a chocolate or caramel sauce as optional extras. It can be either chilled or semi-frozen.
Ann Spencer, Harefield
2 very ripe bananas
A few drops of lemon juice
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
60g white sugar
60g brown sugar
120g double cream
Chopped walnuts, to serve
For the chocolate sauce (optional):
30g cocoa powder
60g caster sugar
¼ tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp golden syrup
60g good cooking chocolate
2 tbsp water
For the caramel sauce (optional):
15g unsalted butter
1 tbsp golden syrup or honey
30g brown sugar
A few drops of lemon juice
1 Mash the bananas with the lemon juice, vanilla seeds and both sugars. In a separate bowl, whip the cream to a soft peak.
2 Gently fold the banana mixture into the cream. Refrigerate or put in the freezer for an hour or two to semi-freeze. Serve with chopped walnuts sprinkled over the top, and one of the sauces below.
In Picture: The winning recipe: bramble clafoutis. Photograph: Tricia de Courcy Ling for the Guardian