A month-by-month celebration of great Scottish food by Joe Hind who works for the food and farming charity Soil Association Scotland. He writes here in a personal capacity.

If your home is anything like mine you will have spent November being festooned with poorly hidden Halloween treats every time you opened a cupboard.

At this time of year even the most determinedly anti-sugar parents must feel helpless to do anything more than slow down the sticky torrent of glucose as it overwhelms their children.

My tactic, to put the buckets of sweets on the highest shelf of the cupboard which is technically the top of the cupboard, was revealed as flawed by my wife who pointed out the three kitchen chairs stacked perilously high next to the worktop which was dotted with small, sticky footprints.

Such is the power of sugar.

Against this backdrop of surplus carbohydrate, it is difficult to see quality food coming out of a month best known for Jerusalem Artichokes – a vegetable it would be hard to name more
inappropriately being neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke.

In addition, its awkwardly, knobbly flesh turns brown with the merest breath of air and seems best known for producing a bland, baby-foodesque puree (I sense someone will disagree with this).

On the face of it, November is not our finest culinary month.

But, as always, nature has a way of providing for those who are prepared to work a little harder.

And on many Scottish farms such hard work is producing seasonal gems. And what could be more gem-like than a bright orange carrot?

Carrots are the action heroes of the root vegetable family.

When your potatoes turn to mush, carrots remain firm and flavoursome.

When your parsnips burn black after a ridiculously short burst in the oven, your carrots remain brightly orange (or purple, if you’ve posh carrots).

Their ability to withstand slow cooking makes them a fantastic ingredient for autumnal dishes involving cheaper cuts of higher welfare meat such as “shin” and “shoulder” and any other part of the animal that has worked hard.

Why we don’t see “glutes” or “biceps” in the butchers?

Anyway, add plenty of “Scarborough Fair” herbs (must have been a boring fair) and a glass of wine – half water, half wine if you want to save money and drink more wine – cover and roast for 4-6 hours at 140 C.

There you go – bonus recipe!

Because of their durability under heat, carrots can perform an incredible function when roasting fattier meats like chicken, lamb or pork.

When cut in half lengthways their flat sides can be laid face down to create a stable trivet for meat to lie on.

This helps air circulate around the meat and thus helps the meat cook evenly and avoids a pallid bottom.

It also, by happy coincidence, allows the meat’s juices and fats to meld to the carrots.

This all but guarantees a savoury, sticky, sweet experience that anyone with functioning taste buds will love.

I’ll be honest with you, carrots cooked this way rarely make it out of my kitchen.

Another redeeming feature of November is apples. There are loads! Suffice it to say there are many more local varieties available than you will find in the average supermarket, although they are getting better as the “local” agenda rides high.

Farmers’ markets can be great source of unusual types. As can allotments, which is probably not worth telling you as, if you know about allotments, you’ll already know this and be making arrangements and, if you don’t, there is an infinitesimally small chance that reading this will encourage you to wander down to your local allotment and talk apples with people you’ve never met before. But you never know!

Do it.

Recipe: Slow cooked chicken with carrots

Whilst I have no control over what you do, I would politely ask that you use free range or organic chicken for this recipe.

Thighs and drumsticks are the cheapest cut of the bird and I rarely pay more than a few pounds for a lot of chicken.

The idea that the meat might come from intensively reared hens somehow lessens the wholesomeness of what is a very wholesome dish indeed.

If we are to eat meat then surely the animals should have had a life worth living?

Ingredients:

• One thigh and one drumstick per person

• 1 chunky carrot per person, quartered

• Scarborough Fair herbs (you know, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme).

• 10 cloves of garlic (don’t worry, it’ll

• Half glass of white wine.

• Oil for drizzling.

Equipment:

• Heavy bottomed pan with tight lid.

Method:

• Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C (for a fan oven, you know what to do if you have other
kinds of ovens).

• Over a medium to high hob, brown the chicken in the pan with oil.

• Add herbs and carrots to pan and cook on lower heat for 5 minutes.

• Add wine

• Add garlic, unpeeled.

• Bake for 2 hours, with lid on.

• Serve warm, with rice or potatoes or another starch. And salad/peas/green beans.

Joe Hind’s Scottish food year: Autumn descends but Scotland’s food year is still going strong

About The Author

Joe Hind

Joe lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two daughters. He grows food on the family allotment, works for a Scottish food and farming charity and is passionate about cooking and eating good food. Contact him: joehind@gmail.com

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