The last thoughts of in October are of preparations for Hallowe’en parties, with a dazzling array of foods to choose from. And couple of days later a very definite change in cooking style and methods tells us we are in November. We hear the soft murmur of bubbling soups, stews and casseroles, helped along by the sharp frosts of late autumn. Trees are stark and bare, the fall has completed its natural course. Comfort foods become a daily feature on our kitchen table, with a hot mug of Pumpkin soup (see in my previous blog) or a bowl of Hungarian goulash, both waiting patiently for 5 November as well as baked potatoes and toffee apples and walnut cakes. During the season the clocks go back and in the same spirit, our classic cooking methods and combos of old come to the fore. The essence of this whole season with its tones of oranges, yellows and browns amongst its scenery of fallen leaves, is new, completely changed from what has gone before. Autumn is the season of give and take, with elements from summer giving their last brave performances before retirement and some from the winter eagerly taking centre stage.
Green walnut pickles with fois gras
In October and in November the berries and nuts are in their height. For example I like the walnuts when their fleshes are still white. By the way there is a unique recipe which is made from green walnuts and it is called the pickled walnuts. They have been a delicacy in England since at least the early 18th-century. The beginning of September is the best time to pickle walnuts, for then the walnuts have not began to shell, and moreover are not so bitter nor hollow as they will be afterwards; they will now be full-fleshed, and you will have no lose. There is one thing which must be regarded in this Walnut pickle recipe, which is, that if you don’t like the taste of onion or garlic just omit, and supply with ginger.
The first stage is to pick the walnuts whilst they are still green and before the shells have set. Most recipes say that late June is about the best time to pick them. The soft walnuts are then soaked in brine (salt water) for at least ten days. The walnuts are then drained and left to dry in the air. Soaking the walnuts in brine causes a chemical reaction to take place and the walnuts turn dark brown to black in color when exposed to sunlight. The now-black walnuts are then placed into jars and a pickling solution poured over them. This can vary from a straight forward pickling vinegar to a solution containing spices and sugar. The walnuts are sealed and then left in the jars for anywhere between five days and eight weeks depending on which recipe is followed.
So if you were late this year with making your own walnut pickles then buy one in a store and start with the fois gras. My recipe is a cheaper version of the pâté, which is may not be as good as a true foie gras, but it’s similar enough in flavor for a dish that costs only pennies to make. Not only can the pâté be served on toast, it can also serve as finish for a classic Beef Wellington or enhance a stuffing or a meat loaf.
Ingredients: 3 ounces duck fat, 1 large shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped (2 1/2 tablespoons), 1 duck liver (about 3 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces, 1/4 teaspoon herbs de Provence, 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon Cognac, 16 1/4-inch-thick horizontal slices from a small baguette, toasted. 1
1. Place duck fat in a skillet, and cook over medium to high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until the fat has melted and some of it has browned.
2. Add the shallots, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring occasionally. Add the liver, herbs de Provence, and garlic, and cook over medium to high heat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and pepper.
3. Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the Cognac, and blend until liquefied. If a finer textured pâté is desired, push the mixture through the holes of a strainer with a spoon. This will yield 1/2 cup. Let cool for at least 1 1/2 hours, then cover and refrigerate until serving time.
4.Spread the pâté on the toasted baguette slices, and serve. The pâté will keep, well covered, for 3 to 4 days.
Serve the pâté with the green walnut pickles and pour over some Nocino (Green walnut liqueur) for more excellent aroma!