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Seasonal foods for October: on the lamb
October 5, 2012 | By:

Time to man up your meals with spiced or roasted Welsh lamb and chunky celeriac. Add sloe berries to gin or vodka and it'll be ready for Christmas. Plus: lamb recipes

Meat eating_Sheep-620 Jonas Nilsson Lee on UnsplashThere is a natural rhythm to the changing seasons and to our dietary needs: we can survive effectively on lighter, brighter foods in the spring and summer but, as the nights darken and temperatures plummet, we need more robust foods to sustain us. Which is why the arrival of October means it is time wave goodbye to soft herbs, delicate salad leaves and summer fruits, and to say hello to heartier autumn foods and cosying up to the cooker.

Welsh lamb

Hot on the hoof right now is Welsh lamb. I know everyone, including me, bangs on about spring lamb, but the Welsh ones have spent a leisurely summer outdoors munching lush, lowland pastures or hardy, fragrant heathers on mountainous uplands. You can guess what the resulting meat is like: pretty special.

In fact, Welsh lamb is so special that the EC awarded it the coveted status of Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), putting the lamb in the same elevated status as Parma ham. The PGI scheme preserves and promotes those special foods that are unique to their terrain: foods that have character and are lovingly crafted, with an unbreakable connection to the land they come from.

The quality of the lamb, as well as its distinct flavour, makes it a versatile meat in the kitchen. The leg makes a great roast, for sure; but in tune with the autumn, you could try a long braise for the shoulder with seasonal root vegetables, or spice up the neck fillets with garlic, coriander and stout, healthy chickpeas.

Recipe_Fresh-organic-celery-200x200 Bigstock-61276793Celeriac 

The start of autumn also marks the arrival of celeriac, not the prettiest root around but one of the most flavoursome and versatile. It can be steamed, boiled or baked. When grated raw then mixed with a dollop of good mayonnaise, it delivers an earthy side salad.

Other autumn goodies right now also include mussels, pheasant, figs, damson and plums. Meanwhile, poor old pumpkins are the latest casualties of the rain this year: they are a little scarce and what is around is a bit on the expensive side. However, one pumpkin goes a long way, so they are still good value for money.

Sloe gin

As is sloe gin. October is the best times for picking the fruit, and if you want the concoction for Christmas, you’d best get cracking now. Prick the skin or open it slightly, to allow the fruit to infuse; or to make this fiddly process easier, place the sloes in the freezer overnight and the skin will split by itself.

Weigh the sloes, measure a pint of gin or vodka and eight ounces of sugar per pound of fruit, and mix together. Place into large jars or wide-necked bottles, cover with the alcohol-sugar mixture, close with a lid and store in a cool dark place, giving the bottles a shake from time to time. Strain after two months and put the liquid into clean bottles, seal and drink when you want.

But what to do with the boozy leftover sloes? You can dip them in melted chocolate; add them to a game stew for extra flavour; or, for a change, cook them with a little more sugar and serve as an alternative to cranberry sauce.

See two tasty lamb recipes: Spiced Welsh Lamb with Coriander Relish and Glazed Lamb with Pancakes