Raspberry, gooseberry, apple, jam tart – tell me the name of your sweetheart.
I always like to think that nature's compensation for shorter days and chillier nights is the rich harvest of produce that becomes available in the autumn – game, hedgerow berries, fungi, pumpkins, sweet orchard fruit and brassicas are all a cause for celebration and offer up some wonderful wine matches after the lighter reds and rosés of summer. This month's white wine is a real curio from Brézème at the southern extremity of the Northern Rhône – an exotic blend of 80% Marsanne, 15% Roussanne and 5% Viognier that will go down a treat with a fish pie or salmon curry.
Our wet but warm weather in August and September has yielded exceptionally bountiful crops of apples and mushrooms this year so it would be churlish not to feature them in our October food and wine selections. I've just spent a happy hour trawling through old copies of Elizabeth David and Robert Carrier certain that I'd find a recipe for our childhood staple of Porc Hongroise, which my Mum mastered and served up (very) frequently only for my (smartarse) sister to inform me that it actually hails from Phillip Harben who was the Jamie Oliver of his time back in the days of black and white telly.
I don't have the exact recipe to hand but I know it backwards. You sear bite-sized pieces of a whole pork tenderloin in olive oil until nicely browned then turn down the heat and add a whole finely-chopped onion and sweat it down until it is translucent. You then add lots (say 3 teaspoons full, or even a tablespoon full) of paprika and some seasoning and then de-glaze the pan (and yourself) with a glass (or 2) of fino sherry. I use Tio Pepe. You simmer that for 20 or so minutes until the pork is cooked through and then add loads (up to 500 grams) of coarsely chopped, fresh field mushrooms that have been lightly fried in butter. Finally you add a cupful of cream (say 250ml) and make sure the sauce is warmed through. Serve it with plain-boiled long-grain rice and any green vegetable you like. The finished dish can look a bit boringly brown so it's not a bad idea to sprinkle on some chopped flat leaf parsley before serving for colour contrast. There are quite strong earthy and spicy flavours at play here so wine wise you need a fairly full-bodied red – the chest-thumping Pic Saint-Loup 'L'Arbouse': Mas Brugière would be ideal.
An apple crisp is even easier than a crumble. You fill a baking dish with peeled slices of bramley apples and add half a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon (or a cup of blackberries) and sprinkle liberally with water (to steam the fruit). You then make a topping from a cup of quick-cooking oats mixed with a cup of plain flour, half a cup of brown sugar and melted butter mixed well together. You place the topping over the apples and bake the dish at 180 °C for about 45 minutes. As with all cooking I wing it with quantities and timing and make minor adjustments if the results are unsatisfactory. I'd serve that up with the rest of the cream and a small, chilled glass of Pineau des Charentes 'Réserve' – autumn in a glass!
The October Wines of the Month offer case – two bottles of each wine for £90 delivered, saving £15.70 on list prices, is available now.