Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
In the UK, November 5th may be all about pumpkin soup, jacket potatoes and toffee apples, but Catalunya takes seasonal eating one step further with a wealth of autumnal pleasures on the plate.
Roast castanyes (chestnuts) had their big outing at the castanyades of October 31st and November 1st, but there's still plenty of them around and they turn up everywhere, from chestnut truffles and coques in the bakeries to sauces, stuffings and soups in the restaurants. Other treats to look out for are pinyons (pine nuts) and of course, the 100 or so varieties of local bolets (wild mushrooms) which are the undisputed kings of the Catalan autumn table.
The simplest and most common way to serve bolets is fried a la plantxa with lashings of garlic and parsley; a great place to try them is Kiosko Universal in the Boqueria market (Stall 691, Boqueria Market, tel. 93 317 8286, www.kioskouniversal.com), which serves up a giant fluttery heap of camagroc, llenega, rovelló and rossinyol mushrooms. If you want to do it yourself, just go a few stalls down to Fruits del Bosc (Stalls 867-870, Boqueria Market, tel. 93 302 5273, www.boletspetras.com), where many top restaurateurs go to buy their forest-foraged goodies—just remember not to overcook the mushrooms and serve them al dente to preserve the delicate flavours and textures.
One restaurant which never tires of trumping its use of local seasonal ingredients is Origen 99.9% (Carrer Roselló 154, Eixample, Tel. 93 323 4547, www.origen99.com), which does particularly well in autumn. There's an interesting ceba farcida (stuffed onion), which originates from the town of Anoia stuffed with a mixture of pork, veal and pinenuts, covered in a nutty pesto sauce. They also do a thick and velvety sopa de carbassa i castanyes (pumpkin and chestnut soup) and costella de porc amb castanyes (pork chops with chestnuts). More unusual varieties of wild mushroom also get an airing here such as the tòfona negra from Osona, which makes a change from the ubiquitous rovelló.
Head uptown to cosy La Florentina (Carrer Saragossa 122, Sarrià, tel. 93 211 2695) for more innovative ways with autumnal fare such as an escabetx of the spindly-looking peu de rata (rat's foot) mushroom, a carpaccio of ou de reig mushrooms with Modena vinegar and parmesan or a hearty plate of roast múrgola mushrooms with bacon and caramelised onions. If you still haven't had enough funghi for one day, owner Marga even serves bolets with sugar and cinnamon for dessert.
Tara Stevens is currently away—in her absence, our Thursday food blog is being written by Nadia Feddo