For many years now I have been eating predominately with the seasons. Over this time I have noticed how perfectly the garden harvest compliments the season. For example bright and vibrant berries and summer fruit scream sun and warmth, while the produce of autumn is more mellow with the colour palette matching the autumn leaves. Winter brings beige and forest green produce – I assume to mirror the supposed snow and evergreens – with little pops of citrus reminisce of the golden winter sun hanging low in the sky. And spring is all sprightly and green whispering of the warmer weather to come.
My autumn garden is currently going through a transition stage after the summer of growth. There are large gaps in the garden beds where we have dug in rich homemade compost and scattered a green crop to recharge the soil for spring planting. Plus two designated beds all ready set for garlic in the coming weeks. The sunny winter garden beds are bursting with kale, silver beet, celery, brussels sprouts, and leeks, with a crop of snow peas slowly climbing up the metal bed (bean) frame. Inter-planted among all of this are patches of carrot and fennel. The fennel lending a dreamy whimsical feel to the garden with its feathery fronds and yellow umbrella-like flower heads.
I purposely leave the base and root of the fennel in the ground after I harvest the large bulbs so they can sprout a second harvest of baby fennel (each plant will produce 2 – 3 baby fennel). And unlike the larger bulbs which are mostly white once the outer layers are removed, baby fennel remains green throughout and wonderfully sweet and crunchy, perfect for eating raw. I often slice them thinly to toss through a salad, however, this time I got a little adventurous with an autumn salsa. It made a wonderful topping to this simple mushroom soup made from locally harvested wild mushrooms… it is literally autumn in a bowl. Enjoy the last weeks of this gorgeous season (or spring if you are reading this from the other side of the world). Nicola xx
Every autumn I eagerly await the arrival of wild mushroom growers Hannas & Theres from Neudorf Mushrooms at the Farmers' Market. From mid-March til early June (weather permitting) they arrive with trays of large silky saffron caps, a large pot of warming mushroom soup and possibly the best Pickled Mushrooms I have ever tasted (along with an array of other mushroom goodness). The amazing texture and flavour of their mushrooms is a seasonal treat that I look forward to each year - rarely buying mushrooms at other times of the year - while stocking up on their dried mushrooms for use during the other 9 months of the year.
1/3 cup dried wild mushrooms or dried porcini, approx. 8g
1 cup boiling water
large knob of butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 stalk celery or small fennel bulb, chopped
approx. 300g fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped - brown button mushrooms can be used
2 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
splash of cream
3 - 4 baby fennel or 1 medium fennel bulb, finely chopped
small handful green fennel fronds, chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
juice of half lime
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
- First place the dried mushrooms in a small jug and cover with the boiling water. Set aside to swell while preparing the soup.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the chopped onion, garlic and celery/fennel. Sweat without colouring for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Add the soaked mushrooms and liquid along with the stock. Bring to a gently boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and use a stick blender to puree until smooth. Add the cream and vinegar, and season to taste, reheat gently.
- Combine the salsa ingredients in a small bowl. Check taste adding extra lime juice or salt if needed.
- Serve the soup warm topped with fennel salsa and drizzle of olive oil.