Winter is definitely here and the first frosts are freezing up the poly tunnels. Here at Vallum, we’re preparing for dark days, working on our menus for private Sunday lunches and gatherings in our cosy Tipi, and a special Tipi Night on November 23 with a cracking menu of beef short ribs.
It’s a beautiful time of year, and did you know that frost makes some vegetables taste better? Swede and parsnips aren’t worth using until they’ve had a nip of frost, which is why I’m cross if we’re out for Sunday lunch and are served starchy snips smothered in honey to compensate for their lack of flavour. Just wait and get them in after the frosts have started, and rejoice in the natural pace of autumnal veg. This is because frost acts as a natural sweetener, converting starches to sugars, enhancing their flavour and taking the edge off the bitter notes.
You can leave some vegetables in the ground, using the earth as a natural larder. As long as the frosts don’t go into double digits, you can leave snips, beets and celeriac underground; just keep an eye on them and use them before new growth as this sends them starchy again. And whatever you do, don’t be tempted to take the tops off.
Roasting is the best way to bring out the flavours of root veg. Aim for a nice golden-brown hue and savour the flavour of caramelised roots. Our chef Jonny infuses them with flavours which underline their natural notes.
Talking of frosts and potentially hard winters, have you seen the number of hazelnuts on the trees? And the huge crops of berries? I’ve never seen anything like it. I have cob nuts floating all over my car because they’ve been spilling out of my pockets after every walk. I fear nature is preparing the squirrels, mice and other nut lovers for a cold winter. Time to hunker down..!