SARAH RANKIN: Three things you should be eating right now!
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Seasonal eating has many benefits and autumn is a time of great bounty in the food stakes. Here are my top picks for the best of seasonal Scottish produce.
A wonder food and absolutely FREE! They grow wild all over the place and are distinctive by their sparkling clusters of small, dark purple fruit.
Packed with antioxidants, they were used in ancient Egypt as a treatment for any number of ailments, and are known to ease cold and flu symptoms and support heart health, as well as reducing inflammation and infection.
Be aware though that the berries are poisonous if eaten raw. I pick the heads, draw a fork along the stems – which helps release the berries easily – then heat with water and golden caster sugar and a thumb-sized piece of peeled ginger, until the berries have popped and the sugar has dissolved. Strain and heat again until the syrup has thickened.
This could become the basis for a sorbet, a rich sauce for game, a fabulous cocktail syrup, or simply as a daily health-giving shot.
Squash lends any dish an autumnal feel, from the traditional butternut to the other more decorative varieties you’ll see around Halloween, every one has a rich, slightly sweet flavour that pairs perfectly with stronger ones like garlic and chilli.
I never bother too much with peeling squash. Simply wash, slice into wedges remove any seeds and rub oil along the cut sides. Roast in a hot oven, flesh side down and sprinkled with a little smoked paprika, for about 20-30 minutes depending on the size.
Squash works a treat with a crispy chilli oil which you can whip up in a snap by slicing four of the fattest garlic cloves you can find and finely dicing two shallots. Heat those with 500ml of a non-flavoured oil like vegetable or sunflower until they are golden brown. Meanwhile, mix 1tbsp chilli flakes, 1tsp of crushed Szechuan peppercorns (crushed, mixed peppercorns will do if you can’t get hold of those), a good pinch of Chinese 5-spice powder, the same of sea salt and 1tsp of brown sugar or local honey. Place all those ingredients in a deep bowl and pour over the hot oil mixture. Stir to combine, being careful as the oil will spit. Once cooled a little, add 2tbsp of light soy sauce and pour over your roasted squash.
Purple sprouting broccoli
This has a stronger brassica flavour than its green cousin and a bit more bite.
Simply trim the ends, halve the thicker stems and blanch in hot water for two minutes. Transfer to a hot frying pan or griddle, and heat until nicely charred. Sprinkle over your favourite blue cheese ( I like Blue Murder from Connage in Ardersier) and enjoy!
Whatever you’re planning for dinner, choosing seasonal and wherever possible local produce helps the planet, local communities and ensures you get the best possible value for your shopping budget. Try out your local suppliers and see what they offer. The Nourish Scotland is a great place to start.
Sarah Rankin is a MasterChef finalist, food writer, cookbook author, private dining chef, food event host and demonstrator and lover of all things local. Check out her content @sarahrankincooks