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I love a change of season!  While sometimes you may not quite be ready to farewell the season you’re departing, like swimming in the summer *sigh*, a new quarter brings with it the opportunity to reset, reflect and ground yourself. There is no better way to ground yourself than focusing on what’s under your feet, taking a look at the earth and understanding what it provides for us all both naturally and in abundance.

When we come into glorious autumn here in Australia, we don’t quite see our entire flora change colours and shed their foliage, but the areas that do are still delightfully spectacular. The change in temperature and earlier sunsets are a gentle transition into a cold dark winter (yes, dark, I totally suffer a little seasonal affective disorder in the winter).  Anyway, the cold and dark often inspires warmth in our food, warmth in colour, spice, and temperature and a welcome shift away from the cold, fresh, crisp summer salads. We gravitate towards the comfort of our cardigans and doonas in the form of food.

 

So, let’s wrap ourselves up in autumnal goodness and take a look at what’s in season, both what to pick and what to plant. By picking, cooking and consuming what is in season, we are doing some wonderful things. We are supporting our local farmers and buying sustainable, environmentally friendly and super nutrient-rich produce. You’ll find fruit and veggies that are in season are cheaper to produce and therefore cheaper to buy. I know I have said it before, but I really can’t stress this enough – eating produce that is in season is experiencing it at its absolute best, best flavour, best texture and most of all most nourishing! In autumn you can both spoil yourself with rich comfort food and reap the health benefits of some of the season’s finest produce. Look out for my ‘ingredient focus’ blogs throughout autumn, revealing some of nature’s best-kept secrets about mushrooms, figs, and watermelons. For maximum flavour, a super nutrient boost and minimum financial commitment, get creative in your kitchen with the following this autumn:

 

  1. Figs – full of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Find out more about figs with my figs in focus blog ‘All FIGured Out.’
  2. Peaches – low in saturated fat and delicious when prepared for both sweet and savoury dishes.
  3. Pears – rich in vitamin C and copper, lovely grilled in a salad.
  4. Watermelon – so refreshing, for those sneaky warm days.
  5. Plums – sweet but less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar.
  6. Beetroot – a great source of iron and folate, not to mention delicious hot or cold.
  7. Broccoli – contain powerful antioxidants.
  8. Cauliflower – a great alternative to rice.
  9. Cucumber – contains multiple B vitamins.
  10. Mushrooms – where to start? Check out my ingredient focus blog; mushrooms are magical (and I don’t specifically mean the ‘magical’ variety!)
  11. Pumpkins – great for heart health and those of you with high blood pressure.
  12. Tomatoes – rich in vitamin K and so versatile.
  13. Zucchini – so versatile, a great alternative to pasta and noodles. Good source of omega-3 fatty acids (good fats!)
  14. Sweetcorn – loaded with goodness that promotes healthy vision, try your organic and heirloom non-gmo varieties.
  15. Snow peas – rich in vitamins E and C.
  16. Sweet Potatoes – low in sodium and fewer calories than regular potatoes. Fantastic earthy flavour.

 

 

Make the most out of sweet potatoes with my alternative shepherd’s pie recipe (using ‘oh-so-comforting’ slow cooked beef brisket). If you’re still transitioning from summer and are clutching onto those salads, then my lunchtime adventures Poke Bowl and Beef Salad will make the very best of your snow peas, beetroot, cucumber, pumpkin, broccoli, zucchini, and cauliflower. For those in a rush, you can’t go far wrong with a bit of heartwarming mushrooms on toast, especially when mushrooms are abundant and super delicious!


Now that we’ve discussed what to eat, which is very often my favourite subject, let’s have a look at what to plant. I am hopeful that your veggie patches have brought you much joy over the summer season and, if they’re ready for something new then look no further than these… beetroot, beans, broccoli, capsicum, cauliflower, carrots, celery, eggplant, melon, parsnip, potato, sweet potato, pumpkin and cucumber which will all flourish in autumn’s conditions. For all you herby folk coriander, fennel, garlic, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme will love the slightly cooler temperatures and increased rainfall.

 

Perhaps you’ll miss summer dreadfully; maybe you cannot wait for the autumn breeze and cosier nights, whatever your preference let food help you to embrace the change in season and enjoy what nature has to offer us. In Australia, we can be sure it will be plentiful, soul-nourishing and rich in variety.

 

Elena

xox

 

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So what is all the fuss about mushrooms? Let’s get to the root of it, or the cap of it, or indeed the gills and stem of it! I love, love, love mushrooms, so many varieties, so versatile and so unique. They are a fantastic way to ‘fancy up’ a basic recipe, add texture to a dish, or just on their own if you need a bit of filling, tasty, fast-food nutrients. If you love them as much as I do then mushrooms can be the hero of any dish, the center of your culinary masterpiece. Or, if you are not a fan of the fungi then you can add them to some of your family favourite dishes purely for their unbelievable nutritional value and wondrous health benefits. All hail the mushroom and all it has to offer us… here are my top ten mushroomy tips: (I did try to think of a way of incorporating a joke about their not being ‘mush-room’ on the page for all their fabulousness, but I wouldn’t dream of making such a terrible pun!)

  1. There are over 10,000 described types of mushroom…I list them below… JUST KIDDING! There really are so many but here are a few of my absolute favourites and ones we can all use in our cooking – oyster, button, portobello, porcini, shimeji, enoki, shiitake, maitake and chanterelles.
  2. Mushrooms essentially fit into 4 varieties which are established by the way in which they feed themselves. Saprotrophic mushrooms break down dead tissue into smaller molecules which they can absorb, you’ll mainly find these on decaying wood and plants. Oyster, button, shiitake and morels are all Saprotrophic mushrooms. Then we have mycorrhizae mushrooms. These are actually ones you can companion plant in your garden! The vegetative part of the mushroom weaves into the roots of its plant host and brings the host an abundance of additional moisture, phosphorus and nutrients…what a lovely mushroom! Truffles, shimeji, porcini and chanterelles are all our helpful companion mushrooms. Although they are notoriously difficult to cultivate. The other two types are parasitic and endophytic – the majority of these fungi don’t produce mushrooms and so we don’t generally consume any of these. Let’s leave these types to the researchers!
  3. Mushrooms, like all produce are best when lovely and fresh. For a fresh mushroom look for a dry exterior, smooth cap and firm gills. To keep them fresh they are best stored in a paper bag in your crisper (we like paper bags, they are friendly to our world, and you can feed them to your worms or compost when you have finished with them. (I’ll blog my “Three R’s’ blog for more info soon, stay tuned.)
  4. CAUTION – if you are picking or cultivating your own mushrooms please be careful people! Wild mushrooms and the wrong varieties of mushroom can be highly toxic when consumed. I find the safest way to consume is to pop to your local grocer or supermarket to purchase them. I am all for organic living, foraging and self-sufficiency but we must exercise great caution with mushrooms – follow the experts’ lead.
  5. Although mushrooms can be delicious in their raw state, cooking them actually helps release the mushroom’s nutrients. Often the cell walls of the mushroom are hard for us to digest so the cooking process helps to break them down and get all the goodness flowing.
  6. Hero your mushrooms by simply cooking with a little olive oil, pine nuts and woody herbs. Stuff them with pesto for a delicious, nutrient rich and super-speedy meal, or a mushroom burger makes a great vegetarian alternative, particularly when using the big and bold portobello.
  7. Mushrooms with eggs, cooked any which way, pop in an omelet for extra flavor, texture and a fiber boost. Add mushrooms to your bolognaise sauce for extra iron, phosphorous and vitamin C. Throw dried shiitakes into a dashi stock for a super nutritious broth.
  8. Mushrooms are like little sponges…don’t waterlog them when you wash them. Best way is with a damp paper towel or even brush them with a little pastry brush – sounds fiddly but it is worth it, no one likes a soggy ‘shroom. If you are comfortable with where your mushrooms have come from and they are organic and free of pesticides then a quick brush off will probably do.
  9. Slicing is cool, but so is quartering, halving or even leaving them whole. Mushrooms have such a variety of colour, texture,  and shape – let them express themselves in your cooking!
  10. Fun-gi fact: The honey mushroom is one of the largest living organisms on earth. The Malheur National Forest in Oregon homes 2,200 acres of the honey mushroom, which is said to be over 2000 years old.


The health benefits of mushrooms are truly astounding, so much so that I had to dedicate them their own list:

  1. Vitamin B – Vital for healthy cell metabolism, aids in the formation of red blood cells and helps convert food to fuel.
  2. Selenium – Benefits heart health and fights inflammation.
  3. Potassium – Very helpful mineral that helps offset the effects of Sodium, amongst other things.
  4. Protein – The building block of our bones, muscles and skin…essential really.
  5. Phosphorous – Helps replace and repair tissue and cells and filters waste in the body. Improves kidney function.
  6. Vitamin C – Aids the body in the absorption of iron and helps with healthy immune system function.
  7. Iron – Vital component of hemoglobin, very helpful stuff in red blood cells that carries oxygen around our body.
  8. Fiber – Lowers blood cholesterol and helps us all with a healthy and regular relationship with the toilet!

Now I am no doctor so I cannot talk specifically about mushrooms and you. Above are just guidelines and as with all foods, they should be consumed as part of a diet that helps you as an individual to thrive. Too much or too little of something is never good for you. Cook with variety, cook with creativity and cook with mindfulness. Balance your diet, enrich it with nutrient dense foods like mushrooms and your body will thank you for it. Check out my recipes for healthy and delicious ideas. You’ll also find my “Fancy Mushrooms on Toast” recipe soon, which showcases some of my favourite flavours –brioche roasted with a woody herbed butter, whipped confit garlic, pine nuts, gently fried shimeji, yellow oyster and golden enoki mushrooms and a soft boiled quail egg. Yum!

In conclusion…make more room for the mushroom.
Elena
xox

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