Even though we are a few weeks away from the official start of Christmas, looking at the wind and the rain beating against the window makes me feel like we're already there. So there's only one thing for it. Light the fire, turn on the music and cook some real comfort food. The time of year lends itself to some real hearty cooking and whats in season reflects that. All the root vegetables are going to strong: beetroot, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, turnips, jerusalem artichokes etc. Potatoes are still coming fresh out of the ground but the harvest will be finishing up soon and then they will be out of storage until the "earlies" come at the end of spring so its a good time to enjoy them.
Although there isn't much coming and going in November for domestic produce, there are a few stars that become available from our friends across the water. Top of the list for me are Sweet Chestnuts and they come in from Italy, France and Spain. These are sweet chestnuts, not to be confused with the conkers we have that come from Horse Chestnut trees. (Don't eat them because they can be toxic) They make a great addition to any stuffing and some soups but they are definitely best roasted on an open fire or in the oven. The shell comes away easily and the meat inside is hot and tender. It only takes 25 minutes or so to cook them but remember to pierce the shell before you put them on or they will explode.
Kaki Persimmons are an exotic fruit that originally come from China and Japan, but are also grown in Europe. The Spanish season usually starts around the end of October lasts until the end of December so November is prime season. There are a few varieites of Kakis but generally the ones we see in Ireland at this time of year are from Spain and are oblong shaped with a point at the end. They can be eaten while still firm and crunchy and they skin is deep orange. But be careful, there are other varieties that have to be left until they are really ripe, when the flesh in nearly like jelly and the skin nearly translucent before you eat them because of their bitter astringent taste when unripe.
Another great fruit in season from the end of October is the quince pear. This fruit looks like a mix between an apple and a pear, has yellow skin and is very firm. Quince can't be eaten raw as it is too tart and acidic but when it's cooked it comes into it's own. The sweet Spanish jelly "Membrillo" that really compliments a cheeseboard is made from quince and because it has such naturally high levels of pectin, it is great for making jams.