Autumn, a season to savour
Autumnal tones are colouring our landscape together with the purple hues of eggplants, the green and gold of the prolific courgettes and the rosy reds of the last tomatoes and chillies.
This year I persevered growing Asian (Oriental) eggplants – slender, long and violet/purple. They’re native to tropical Asia so in New Zealand they need a warm, sheltered garden to thrive. Asian eggplants are very popular in Japan in tempura; in India and Vietnam where they are stuffed and baked; and in China where they are stir-fried and stewed. There is no need to peel or salt this eggplant variety. They are sweet and delicious.
Courgettes are a variety of ‘cucurtbit’, which means it's from the same family as the cucumber, squash and melon. As long as you don’t boil them, courgettes are delicious. Fritter them or barbecue, bake or stir-fry. They are known as zucchini in Mediterranean areas and Australia. I love to shred raw green and gold courgettes into salads.
I’ve just discovered the first wild mushrooms — they’re of the Agaricus campestris variety ie field mushroom, which is closely related to the cultivated button mushroom. They have thick, fleshy caps and are about six centimetres wide with five to eight centimetre-high stalks. They thrive in fields that haven’t generally been fertilized.
However, fungi picked in a paddock may be poisonous and eating one may have fatal consequences. Those with a yellow stain should be avoided. Visit Virtual Mycota to identify your wild-picked mushrooms although the site does not necessarily advise on whether or not the fungi is edible.
Gluten-free mushroom, pepper and courgette lasagne
I used gluten-free Orgran Lasagne Mini Sheets. If using another brand or common lasagne, the sheets may need pre-cooking. Serves 6-8.
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 mini peppers, coarsely chopped
500g Portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped
3 medium courgettes, halved lengthwise & thickly sliced
5 cloves garlic, crushed
700g jar passata
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
1¼ cups pitted Kalamata olives, thickly sliced
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups milk
5 tablespoons cornflour
3 cups shredded mature cheddar cheese
250g dried gluten-free lasagne
- Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and sauté the peppers, until crisp-tender. Add the mushrooms, courgettes and garlic and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are dry. Add the passata and stock. Simmer for 5 minutes then add the herbs, olives and black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- To make the cheese sauce, combine 1 cup of milk with the cornflour, until smooth. Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave jug. Add the remaining milk and the cornflour mixture. Heat, stirring, until thick. Add half the cheese and stir until melted.
- Spoon a little of the vegetable sauce onto the base of a 25cm x 25cm lasagne dish. Top with a layer of the lasagne. Top with more sauce and lasagne until 3 layers have been prepared. Pour the cheese sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Great served with a crisp salad.
These make great snacks or serve with grills. Serves 4.
3 large courgettes
½ each: cup milk, plain flour
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika or curry powder
1 cup rice bran oil
- Quarter the courgettes lengthwise. Cut in half. Place the milk in a bowl. Place the flour in another bowl and season with salt, pepper and the smoked paprika or curry powder.
- Heat the oil in a small, deep saucepan or wok until hot and faint haze rises.
- Dip the sticks into the milk then into the seasoned flour. Deep-fry in the hot oil in batches. Drain on paper towels.
Stir-fried chillies and Asian eggplants
Choose shiny, smallish eggplants. Serves 4 as an accompaniment.
4 Asian eggplants
2 long chilli peppers
2 tablespoons oyster or hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon each: sugar, sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons water
- Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Cut into 2cm half rounds. Seed the chillies if preferred. Slice into rings.
- Combine the oyster sauce, sugar and sesame oil.
- Heat the canola oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan on high. Add the eggplants and chillies and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic and water and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. A
- dd the oyster sauce mixture and stir well to mix. Serve hot or cold.
Balsamic mushroom bagels
250g Swiss brown mushrooms, quartered
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bagels, halved
1 firm ripe avocado, stoned, peeled, sliced
50g fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
chopped parsley to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Line a roasting pan with baking paper. Add the mushrooms. Drizzle with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with the black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, or until tender.
- Meanwhile, lightly toast the bagels.
- To serve, place a toasted bagel half on each plate, top with some avocado, mozzarella, mushrooms and bagel tops. Garnish with parsley.