Fall is such an amazingly colorful season – at least around here. I have always loved fall but this year I am extra appreciative because thanks to a blog of a lady living in Las Vegas and some fall-deprived instagrammers, I realized that though for us the turning leaves are a given, not everybody gets to enjoy them (apparently cacti do not turn red and orange in fall, neither have they any leaves to shed).
It’s one of those things you do know in a distant sort of way, but which has been made more immediate to me this year thanks to social media. Not everybody gets their fair share of fall and that is a shame.
Last week was Esther’s and Sebastiaan’s mid-break and we did what we have been doing for four years now – traveled to England. The weather was, well, English, most of the week. Obviously, rain is something you should reckon with if you travel to England in October and at least we got to quote John Green ad nauseam: “in a stunning turn of events it is raining on England.”
But on Thursday (in an even more stunning turn of events) the weather turned autumnally splendid. We had a visit planned to the RHS garden in Wisley which, surprisingly, was not my idea, but Esther’s. She remembered we went there seven years ago when there was a fall festival with apple tastings and wanted to go again. So we went and enjoyed the garden preening in its fall gown on a sunny day.
With the fall festival in full swing, there were stands of artisan producers offering tastings and garden staff was busy coring and slicing some 20 different apple varieties from the Wisley orchard for visitors to try.
Since we take apple tasting very seriously, we sampled them all and decided on two favorites: Holstein (a German variety from 1918) and Livermere Favourite (a very flavorful English variety from 1896 which unfortunately seems to be rather rare) .
Sebastiaan’s favorite part of the garden was the tame fish in the pond and the huge green house, Esther’s probably the apple tasting. Remco enjoyed the exhibition of winning photographs from the “International Garden Photographer of the Year” competition. I liked the perennial borders with many grasses designed by the famous Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf. He often says that more than in color he is interested in the shape of plants, their silhouettes.
When designing, Piet Oudolf always considers what the perennials look like after the flowering is over, which is why his plantings are still beautiful in October, while in most gardens the show is long over by then.
Our eyes filled up with the fall beauty, back at home, it was time to also fill our bellies with some colorful fall produce.
This salad for me is a celebration of the crisp fall days and the frivolous colors of the season. If the nature does not cooperate where you are, maybe you can lure a bit of fall into your house by making this salad? The colorful vegetables are sliced very thinly and dressed sparingly with a thick mayonnaise-like dressing flavored with Dijon mustard and molasses. Hazelnuts and pomegranates are scattered on top of this tempting anti-oxidants overload.
Fall coleslaw with hazelnuts and pomegranate
Adapted from A Year In My Kitchenby Skye Gyngell, who is a chef at the amazing Petersham Nurseries restaurant that I wrote about here
125 g (1 cup) hazelnuts
¼ red cabbage
1 fennel bulb
2 raw beetroots (the striped “Di Chioggia” variety is particularly beautiful, if you can get it)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
the juice of half a lemon (or more to taste)
1 organic egg yolk
½ tbsp honey
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tbsp cider vinegar
½ tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
100 ml mild olive oil
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 F). Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast for about 5 to 8 minutes, until they start smelling “nutty” but are not really brown yet. Halve the pomegranate horizontally, then hold one half at a time above a bowl ann whack it with a wooden spoon to release the seeds. Remove any bitter membrane.
Slice the red cabbage very finely. Cut off the base of the fennel bulb and remove the outer tough leaves, slice thinly lengthwise. Slice the beets lengthwise, as thinly as possible. Quarter and core the apples (do not peel) and slice thinly. In a large bowl, gently toss the cabbage, fennel, beets and apples with the olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside.
To make the dressing, whisk together the egg yolk, honey, mustard and molasses (if using). In a thin stream add the olive oil while whisking continuously. You want the dressing to have a consistency of thin mayonnaise.
Pile the vegetables high on four individual plates. Divide the dressing over the vegetables and sprinkle with the hazelnuts and pomegranate seeds.
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