The pathway that led British chef Chris Hagan to The Long Apron at Spicers Clovelly Estate in the Sunshine Coast hinterland included stops at his aunty’s cafe-bar in Derbyshire (washing dishes), culinary school, Derbyshire’s Michelin-starred Fischer’s of Baslow Hall, and a competition win that saw him touring New Zealand restaurants for two months.
Although the hinterland days tend to remain reasonably warm year round, a chill at night over autumn and into winter reminds Chris of his UK roots, and that means braises and heartier dishes work their way onto the French-inspired menu.
“We’ve just put a braised hogget leg with caramelised leek on, which is that warmer comfort food,” he says. “When the soils are cold and you get winter veggies, they taste miles better than anything hydroponic. You can get tomatoes year-round but we won’t use them until they’re in season.”
Figs are also ripe and grown locally, and Chris is moving them into menu items. “I love figs,” he says. “We’re actually picking the leaves as well, they have a beautiful aromatic and are slightly nutty.
“I have a fig entree at the moment where we infuse the leaves into buffalo milk and make a buffalo milk curd, and we put that with fresh figs glazed in native honey. Really simple, really tasty.” Spicers has recently sourced local Maleny buffalo, which Chris is serving with beef fat granola, black garlic puree and cranberry hibiscus. “The deep purple cranberry hibiscus leaves really resonate with autumn, and they have a real citrusy, zesty note,” he says.
Chris Hagan’s tips on delicious seasonal dishes you can make at home over autumn.
1. Pine mushrooms have a short seasonal window. Go with something really simple, like mushrooms on toast.
2. Figs Baked figs with local blue cheese and honey are fantastic.
3. Persimmons can be a bit challenging, but you can slow bake them. They have a great flavour. We compress it with a little salt or vinegar and serve it with an octopus dish to cut through the richness of the octopus. At home I think baking it is sensible, with a little bit of brown sugar. You can treat it the same way as quince, which is my next one.
4. Quince is a delicious fruit and is underutilised. People see it in paste but if you bake it low and slow for a few hours, it’s delicious to use as a sweet or savoury. We quarter it, bake it and serve with cold grilled duck. You can cook it down and have a nice piece of stewed quince to match your heavier cheeses.
5. Chestnuts are not always easy to source however with Australia’s 300 odd orchards you should be able to find a source, the reward is definitely there when eating them. I’d roast them and make a nice French chestnut, apple and frangipane tart. Frangipane is is an almond-flavoured sweet pastry cream used when preparing various desserts.
Words by William Holmes