The best ways to make use of those gluts of autumn vegetables
For many British vegetable growers autumn’s abundance can rapidly turn into over abundance; with legumes seeming to multiply overnight, clutches of tomatoes hanging from the vine in every stage of ripeness, and courgettes transforming into small marrows before they can be picked and used.
Of course this is not a new problem and solutions to capturing the harvest have been discovered and refined over centuries, making late September and early October one the busiest time in the yearly calendar for pickling, preserving and jam-making. With more and more restaurants determined to deliver seasonal menus, and many going even further by establishing their own kitchen and vegetable gardens, methods for employing green bean and heritage tomato of the autumn glut are getting ever more creative.
You’ll find all manner of green beans being preserved through the trusted art of pickling. White wine vinegar works best, often with additions of garlic and fresh dill, or maybe lemon and thyme. Preserving courgettes is becoming ever more popular too, the simplest and most effective method being to simple chargrill them in thick slices and store them sealed jars of good olive oil, with the optional addition of a little salt, a handful of peppercorns and couple of red chillies.
Meanwhile many now find the easiest and most satisfying way to capitalise on the tomato glut is to fill whole baking trays with them, halved, slathered in olive oil and studded with whole heads of garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary. Once roasted they can be blitzed, skins and all, to make a rich passata that can be kept frozen, ready to evoke warm Mediterranean memories in the darkest months of winter.
If, however, you want to embrace that glut of vegetables with simple and satisfying recipes right now, then below you’ll find three of our favourites, each one assured to deliver a late summer burst of flavour.
Only the Italians could create something so straightforwardly delicious from stale (and it must be) bread and the cheapest salad ingredients. Better yet, this salad actually works best when using the tomatoes from your glut that are just edging towards over-ripeness.
5 handfuls of stale sourdough bread chunks
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 medium-sized cucumber, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks
1 medium sized red onion, halved and finely sliced
10 well ripened vine tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
Handful of basil, torn
1: Tip the bread into a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper and add the olive oil and half of the red wine vinegar.
2: Remove the tomato skins by placing the tomatoes into boiling water for a few seconds and refreshing in a bowl of ice cold water. The skins should now peel away easily. Add the tomatoes to the bread, along with the cucumber and red onion. Scatter over the finely chopped garlic and add a pinch of salt. Mix until well combined.
3: Pour in the remaining red wine vinegar, plus more to taste, add the basil leaves and mix together with your hands until well combined. Serve.
Courgette And Goat’s Cheese Soup
An ideal recipe for using kilos of courgette, and whether they’ve out grown themselves or not makes zero difference, once they’ve been blitzed to create this unusual, thick and velvety soup, which is just as delicious chilled as it is warm with crusty bread.
2 tbsp olive oil 1kg very firm small courgettes, sliced 3-4mm thick
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
750ml whole milk (or use half milk, half veg stock)
1-2 bay leaves
100g rindless mild goat's cheese
Basil leaves (or mint, if you prefer)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the courgettes and, once they're sizzling nicely but before they start to brown, turn down the heat, season with a little salt (it helps draw out the moisture) and cook gently, stirring often. As they become tender, break them down a little until they have softened almost to the point of mushiness; this can take up to half an hour. Add the garlic when the courgettes are almost done, so it gets a chance to cook but not burn. You should end up with a fragrant, garlicky, rough courgette puree. Leave it coarse like this, or blitz in a food processor if you prefer a less chunky soup.
2: While the courgettes are cooking, put the milk in a pan with the bay leaves. Bring up to just below boiling, then leave to infuse.
3: Stir the cheese into the courgette mixture, then strain in the hot milk a little at a time and stirring all the while, until the soup is a consistency you like. Bring the soup scarcely to boiling point, season and ladle into warmed bowls. Top with a good trickle of extra-virgin rapeseed or olive oil, and a few shredded basil leaves.
Runner Bean, Smoked Trout And Potato Salad
Runner beans need picking as quickly as possible, before they get tough and stringy. No matter, as you’ll want to grab as many tender ones as possible to make more and more of this delectable salad, perfect for a light lunchtime menu.
1kg new potato, scrubbed and halved
600g runner beans, trimmed and sliced
1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
8 spring onions, sliced
300g pack smoked trout, flaked
100ml extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp horseradish sauce
1: To make the dressing, mix all the oil, lemon juice, mustard and horseradish together in a jar and shake well. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 mins until just tender, then drain. Cook the beans in boiling salted water for 10 mins until tender, then plunge into ice water and drain.
2: Toss the warm potatoes and beans together with half the spring onions and parsley, and half the dressing. Spread over a platter, then scatter over the smoked trout. Scatter over the rest of the spring onions, drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve.