In celebration of Nigel Slater’s Greenfeast: autumn, winter publishing this October, we asked some 4th Estate authors to write a few words about veg-minded living.
Allan Jenkins, author of Plot 29 and Morning:
“Winter came close to my kitchen last week. I had been lazing in late summer, eating endless varieties of salad and baked ratatouille, made mostly with shallots and various squash from our organic allotment at the top of Hampstead. I was surrounded by sunflowers, chest-high marigolds and fragrant flowering coriander. Plot 29 was in its pomp.
Yes, much of the orache and amaranth had gone to rusty seed to be tied and dried on the sweet pea poles but I was sliding gently into autumn eating. Our multiple varieties of beans were sliced and dressed with mustard and draped with good anchovies. Numerous styles and shades of beetroot were baked with garlic and Aleppo chilli to be eaten with bitter leaves, maybe a salty cheese.
But then came heavy wind and rain and I was torn from my reverie. Sunflowers felled like redwoods, crashing through the Painted Mountain corn. The coriander was crushed, seed scattered everywhere. Nursery beds of kale and red treviso chicories were impatient to fill the opening space.
Within one weekend, the beans are out, half to be steamed for one last meal, the rest for drying for next summer’s seed. The beets are pulled. They will keep yet a while. Autumn carrots are coming soon. I am thinning them through for salads. But new beds of winter leaves are nestled, sheltered by the taller flowers. Diverse styles of chard, mostly as yet to be flash-cooked, dressed with lemon and finest olive oil, have been replenished. Winter lettuces are re-homed. Eating the blue cavolo nero is a race between me and our resident pigeons.
It’s quick the change. Like a magician has waved a weather wand. The sun rises late, around 7am, and is dropping fast after I leave from work. Conkers bounce off the shed tin roof. There are hazel nuts and anxious squirrels. But the slower, wintry dishes are growing. Our puntatelle is close to being cut. Japanese mustards and other Oriental leaves along with land cress will bring a quiet heat to our late autumn table.
Being more connected to land has changed the way I eat. Planting has made my diet more plant-based, given me an appreciation of their place in the seasons and on our plates. I have a feeling for home-grown food that will long stay with me. Now I need to go sow broad beans for more bright spring family suppers.”