Harvest fresh for autumn

by Andy Bryenton

As the seasons turn, it’s time to get into the warmth and flavour of traditional autumn dishes — replete with the best of the crop from your local farmer’s markets. With the nights drawing in, slow-cooked stews, hearty soups and traditional roasts are back on the menu, both at home and at the top eateries around the district.

After a hard day’s work it’s tempting to come home to the delicious smell of a crock pot full of goodness, and the first part of any good seasonal meal is selecting the best ingredients. This time of year you’ll find the best local produce at your local market days — such as new season’s potatoes, pumpkins and squash, and spicy chillies and capsicums to add some zest. Canterbury is also a well-known region for producing fine artisan cheeses — a treat which teams up perfectly with crusty fresh baked bread and a warming homemade soup. Best of all, a big pot of soup prepared during the weekend can easily provide a thermos or two to take to work, earning not just the envy of your colleagues but also providing a healthier option to a pie or hamburger at lunchtime.

It’s also the lead up to duck season around the country, with preparations well underway all over New Zealand for opening weekend in early May.

Those who enjoy wild food will be well advised to talk to their local butchers now about options for turning a weekend morning’s haul into smallgoods such as salamis — demand is sure to be high once the mai-mais are filled. It’s also a good time to stake a claim on some fine local wines to match with wild duck — traditionalists would insist on a fruitier variety of pinot noir, but of course it’s a matter of taste.

Meanwhile, the longer evenings are the perfect excuse to get together with friends and experience the best of local dining. After all, with a chill in the air and a whole new season of flavours for local chefs to get creative with, the temptation of sitting down to a meal prepared by someone else — along with a glass or two of a regional vintage — is too good to pass up.