I have a head full of a Tuscan summer and dishes I would like to cook, eaten on hot days and warm evenings. Then there’s the wonderful memory of the tasting menu at The Sportsman where I went in early August (and still haven’t blogged). The days have suddenly turned cooler and autumn is nagging to be let out which makes me think of dark, unctuous stews and braises. Lila, who has a fruit stall near our house has still got raspberries, but the plums and squashes, sweetcorn and cobnuts tell me summer is fading.
So what does all this mean for the menu I have promised to have finalised by this weekend so my lovely (and very keen) guests can book? Well, there will be cobnuts. There is a large case of them on my kitchen table and I have to fend off my daughter who would eat them all. They may be fresh in a salad with the last of the courgettes, some shaved fennel and Pecorino as a nod to Pienza, close to where we stayed. Or should they be turned into a crisp brittle to accompany Sauternes custards (an old Quaglino’s stalwart which I devoured when I worked there back at the beginning of time) and a tart damson compote? Or both “I like that kind of book ending” said Mr Hugh Wright in my mini Twitter straw poll.
Wild mushrooms should be there too. I need to get in touch with local foragers to see what’s good but it has been so dry here in Kent that I’m not sure there will be much.
For the fish course I am tempted and inspired by a scrummy looking Ling dish in my recently acquired ‘Hix’ book (thank you Nick). But I spotted Gurnard at the weekend in Whitstable and the idea of a broth with cockles and clams, Gurnard and wilted sea beet, plentiful at the bottom of my garden, is also vying for a spot.
And I promised venison; I think carpaccio but I need to check my knives…
So, not too far from a decision, but it needs a night or two to percolate.