Unfortunately the last month in the UK has been a bit of a wet one, weather-wise. While my Australian bones are aching for a bit more regular sunshine, the woods, gardens and farms are looking significantly more lush! I’ve also noticed that a few fruits are popping up a little earlier than normal, which is a bit of a treat too.

The ebb and flow of seasonal eating is something that helps me feel a bit more connected with nature; it’s also a nice feeling when you start to be a bit more aware of when things are early or late. This isn’t really something I was that concerned about when I was younger. I had a range of wonderful foods at my finger tips in my big Aussie back garden, but, as is normally the case when you’re young, the passing of time and the seasons wasn’t something I paid that much attention to. Time stretched far off into the future…

Now that I’m officially in the early stages of middle age bracket (how did that happen!?!), I think a sense of valuing time and reflection has naturally crept into my life. And I enjoy the way that this can make me feel grounded, as well as grateful for the growing awareness.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not the type of person who jumps up and down, fist pumping and urging you to grasp every single second of every single day and make it count (some days you really just need to sit in a quiet dark room doing very little). But I do enjoy moments of recognising the simple pleasure of being here, now. Food is often my route to this pause and connection, this month starting with the delight of tasting a beautiful slice of juicy plum, picked fresh from a tree.

My August seasonal eating specials therefore include these very plums, plus some other treats that have been keeping me happy in the kitchen this month.

 

Want to explore more ways of eating deliciously well? Check out The Joy Of Eating! Click to find out more

 

My August seasonal eating picks…

 

1. Plums

Seasonal Eating August

I’d almost forgotten quite how much I enjoy plums until I picked some fresh a couple of weeks ago at my local Pick Your Own farm. There were two types: one which was firm and a little tart, and the other sweet and jammy. All the combinations of flavours and dishes I could enjoy them in were running through my head. But, actually, it was most delicious later that afternoon to just enjoy a plum straight up, with no adornments.

If you don’t have a back garden, or struggle to grow things, a Pick Your Own farm visit is a great option for experiencing the pleasure of super fresh produce. I know technically you’re not really supposed to eat straight from the tree at these farms, but, somehow, one or two pieces of fruit, just small ones, seem to fall into my mouth. I always make up for it by buying a few extra bits and bobs from the farm shop before I leave – and also plan my return visit.

 

This goes with that

I like a bit of spiciness with plums: chilli (fresh or flakes), black pepper and pink pepper all go well with plums. Plums are delicious in chutney so this is a good sign of other savoury ingredients that will pair well them, such as red onions, raisins, tomatoes, coriander seeds and cumin. I actually made a batch of spicy chutney from my Pick You Own plums and have been adding dollops into curries, as well as spreading it on rye bread also topped with rocket and goat’s cheese.

If plums are a little on the tart side, anything which balances this out is a good flavour companion: thick creamy Greek yoghurt, a little drizzle of honey or mixing plums through a chunky bowl of porridge.

 

2. Aubergines

Seasonal Eating August

The slightly odd summer weather has left me craving warming comfort foods. Aubergine with its earthy richness lends itself to comfort. I love it roasted whole under a grill so that it goes smoky with a slightly charred outside; the middle gets all mushy so you don’t even really need to puree it for dips.

Aubergine is a very happy addition to a tray of roasted veggies, but I also like it thinly sliced, drizzled in a little oil and cooked on a griddle pan which leaves charcoal stripes. IΒ love the substance aubergine adds to dishes. Even on its own it’s a treat; give me a few slices of freshly baked chewy sourdough, a dish of fruity olive oil and a big bowl of baba ganoush (a delightfully smoky aubergine dip) and I’m very happy.

By the way – you may have got into the habit of salting aubergines as this used to be the advice. You don’t generally need to these days as aubergines aren’t too bitter. However, if you are cutting slices which you aren’t using straight away, a few drops of lemon juice on the white part will stop them oxidising and going brown.

 

This goes with thatΒ 

Aubergines work well with most Middle Eastern and Indian spices – but don’t forget aubergines pop up a lot in other Asian food too. Miso and soy sauce enhance the rich savouriness of aubergines, and little maple syrup can balance out any bitterness. I also love slices of aubergine drizzled with tahini! A more surprising combination is with chocolate or cacao. I occasionally make a delicious Harry Eastwood aubergine chocolate cake which is rich and fudgy; you can’t taste the aubergine, but it gives the cake a beautiful depth.

 

3. Carrot Tops

Seasonal Eating August

When you have lush green tops attached to your carrots, don’t throw them away! These feathery tendrils make a very pretty addition to your dishes. Finely choppped, you can use them in place of parsley. They’re also delicious fried with a little garlic until crispy and scattered over roasted veg, salads or fish.

I’ve also created a recipe for The Food Rush which uses them in a pesto. I love the bright green colour and a dollop on any plate instantly lifts it! You can find the recipe here.

Seasonal Eating August

 

 

4. Cacao Nibs

Seasonal Eating August

As a HUGE chocolate lover, it’s probably no massive surprise that I like cacao nibs too. These nibs are the broken up bits of cocoa beans, which have been roasted (normally) and de-shelled. While they smell like chocolate, the nibs really only have the vaguest of chocolate tastes as they are more savoury in nature.

They have a nutty, roasted flavour and are on the more bitter side of things – but they can also vary wildly in overall taste just as chocolate does. The taste depends on many factors, including the origin of the beans, how they have been fermented, roasted and stored. I keep mine in a sealed packet in a cool, dark cupboard and they last for ages.

 

This goes with that

Cacao nibs are delicious in sweet and savoury dishes. I throw them in porridge and muesli, use them as an alternative to choc chips in cookies, and sprinkle them over cakes. Not surprisingly, they also really good with chocolate. I like to scatter them over chocolate bars before they set – or the tops of truffles. The sweetness of the chocolate is a good balance for any nibby bitterness.

Nibs are also tasty with any naturally sweet vegetables. I add small handfuls to carrot salad, into sweet potato curry or over roasted cubes of pumpkin. They’re also another good pesto ingredient. Swap half the pine nuts in pesto for cacao nibs for a very interesting combination!

 

Honey

Seasonal Eating August

Honey can be a bit of an underrated ingredient, but sometimes it’s liquid gold. For me, the excitement comes not so much from the bog standard mixed honey in a squeezy plastic bottle, but the wild array of flavours available in the many different blossom types that bees have feasted on.

When I was much younger I lived in the country side in Western Australia and we used to eat the local honey sold in big jars. It sang with the rich aromas eucalyptus trees that grew nearby. I now love picking up honey from different areas and trying out the tastes. I even brought back a jar of creamed honey the last time I was back in Australia; I’ve been adding little spoonfuls to my porridge (and sometimes straight into my mouth) as little bite sized memories of home.

 

This goes with that

Honey is of course a nice alternative to very refined sugars, but it can also be used to add flavour depending on the blossom type. I like to combine a little bit with tahini as an alternative toast spread; actually it’s also very good with any nut butters. A little drizzle of honey can enhance the natural sweetness of fruit – or balance out the sourness of something like raspberries or the tart types of plums I mentioned above.

A touch of honey sweetness is good with anything umami, like soy sauce, parmesan or miso. I also quite often add just a tiny amount to lemon vinaigrette or a tahini dressing for a little taste balance.

 

What are you eating joyfully this month?

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