Hix Report – September

It’s time to celebrate autumn harvest even if you live in the city, says our columnist Mark Hix…

This is a great time of year for cooks. We’ve enjoyed a good run on the fruits of summer. Now it’s time to focus on all the new things to gorge on like wild mushrooms, woodland fruits, apples, pears, and delicious sweet corn. Harvests of fruit and veg at their peak times are exciting marks in the culinary calendar, none more so than the traditional harvest time of early autumn.

In London there are many farmers’ markets that show off produce, and you can visit places like Sutton Community Farm in south London to see the stuff actually growing. The food chain is in a very different place than it was when I moved to London some 30 years ago. Now, people talk about the provenance of their dinner party ingredients at the table, instead of who their next-door neighbour has been sleeping with. For me, the menu should always reflect what’s in season and not how long you spent in the kitchen replicating some fancy dish from a celebrity chef’s book. So, why not throw a dinner party that celebrates all the produce which is at its peak right now?

I highly recommend going shopping before planning your dinner party menu. Not only does it add to the fun, but I bet your guests would approve of simply cooked wild mushrooms as a starter. Much better than some fancy dish that doesn’t reflect the season. I remember having two vegetarians at a dinner. I decided to go for five courses of vegetarian food for everyone, rather than cooking them separate dishes. The courses included big, meaty Penny Bun mushrooms studded with slices of garlic and simply roasted. I followed those with a risotto of wild seashore vegetables, and grilled long slices of different coloured courgettes with homemade labneh and pickled chive buds.

Dinner parties should be simple and focused on what you have harvested yourself or found in the market, rather than contrived food that you don’t actually believe in. There really is no better time of year to get cooking.