Whether you’re picking up peaches in Hawke’s bay, cherries in Cromwell or mussels in Marlborough, choosing ingredients that are in season just makes sense.
Bursting with freshness and at the peak of ripeness, eating local produce means your fresh ingredients are less likely to have been cold-stored, or sat at the back of a storage unit until its best days are over.
But once you’ve got an abundance of these delicious products in front of you – now what? It can be easy to run out of inspiration if you’re using a particular ingredient a lot, which is why we’ve come up with some ideas to make your food – and your budget – go a lot further.
Zucchini / Courgette
High in Vitamin C and ﬁbre, courgettes range in colour from dark green to golden yellow. There are plenty of ways of using up this versatile veggie; it’s delicious peeled, julienned and served raw in salads or as garnish. If you’ve got a spiraliser, courgette can be a real show-stopper: as a light salad ingredient, as a replacement for spaghetti or pasta, or as a pretty garnish atop a main meal.
Courgettes are very good at picking up ﬂavour. Cut into whatever shapes you like, and simmer it with sauces or simple olive oil dressing, bake until soft and juicy. Another great side dish option is to make zucchini fries; simply roast them with parmesan.
Still got some left? Grate some into chocolate cake mix. It’s guaranteed to make your cake soft, moist and delicious.
Mushrooms can be the meal, make the meal or expand the meal. Large ﬂat or Portobello mushrooms are great as a meat substitute in burgers or vegetarian dishes, as their earthy ﬂavour adds depth and soul to many autumn-inspired dinners.
These days there are plenty of varieties of mushroom, so don’t be afraid to experiment with textures and ﬂavours. Use the pretty and exotic looking mushrooms like enoki, wood ear and oyster mushrooms to add texture and interest. It’s useful to have a permanent stash of dried mushrooms too, as they can be turned into all kinds of dishes.
Mushrooms and pasta are a match made in heaven, as are mushrooms and cream or crème fraîche. Mushrooms love ﬂavours like garlic, lemon, chives, pepper, fresh green herbs and seafood; add some to your next ﬁsh pie for added bite and depth. They are ideal with any meat or poultry, or sauté them for use in warm salads and entrées. Cook them quickly over a medium high heat to keep their texture and prevent them becoming tough – and always wipe rather than rinse.
The taste of summer in one perfect mouthful, autumnal tomatoes are often very rich, sweet and multi-purpose. These pretty colourful delights are a quick ﬁ x to jazz up a basic salad, or you can use them as a garnish for a pop of colour.
Sometimes toms can begin to split or become a little soft when they are just beyond optimum ripeness – this is when you can create a whole new set of dishes! Blend them up and toss them in a dressing, or season them with salt, pepper and drizzle of olive oil, and roast them whole with a clove of garlic and a few herbs and cook until the skin blisters. Great for tray bakes and to lift pasta dishes or add that something extra-vibrant on skewers. And if you’ve got a bunch that just needs cooking – roast with some garlic cloves, remove the skins of the tomatoes and garlic, and blend in a blender with salt and pepper, creating a great base for tomato-style pasta sauces, pizza bases and soups.
Nothing beats a squeeze of fresh lime on ﬁsh tacos or whipped into your guacamole. Roll limes on a table to release the juices, then zest them for use in baking, as a garnish, a refreshing drink or infuse for cocktail mixers and syrups. You can use the juice in marinades, dressings and to cut through rich or oily foods. When you have an overabundance of limes, save the juice by freezing in ice cube trays and using when needed. Best stored in the chiller to prevent the juices dehydrating.