From farm to table: Delicious dishes inspired by an autumn day in the country

Blue skies, sunlight and the last golden days of autumn beckon to an escape meandering along country roads. Like detectives we investigate the coastal region of Lake Erie from Fletcher to Blenheim rich with farms. Here we discover a farmers market which entices us with local apples galore different from the supermarket: Ambrosia, Crispin, Fuji, Jonagold and the old varieties, Russets and Northern spy for baking.

There are big baskets of just picked Bosc and Bartlett pears at bargain prices because they have a blemish or two. Not quite perfect; however, ideal for cooking in recipes both sweet and savoury. I am in heaven!

You too can make the most of markets and if not a journey into the country then do try our local markets (farmer’s market at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturdays) for farm fresh produce to transform into any of these mouth-watering dishes.

Beet and Goat Cheese Topping

Our host for our adventure in Chatham, John Jordan, grows and pickles his own beets. He made this attractive and tasty nibble for a mid-afternoon treat. It would be a wonderful sandwich filling for lunch as well as snack time.

1 tbsp (15 mL) goat cheese

1/2 tsp (2 mL) chopped chives

1 slice pickled beets, cut into coarse dice

1 firm cracker or slice of pumpernickel bread

Spread cracker or bread with soft goat cheese; sprinkle with chopped chives and scatter pickled beets on top. Serve open faced immediately; may be made up to 1 hour ahead of serving. Makes one serving but may be doubled.

Curried Parsnip and Pear Soup

The sweet-nutty taste of parsnips combines well with the luscious taste of just ripened pear and the zing of curry. Evaporated milk, not to be confused with sweetened condensed milk, adds a smoothness to the texture of the soup without the richness of cream but with twice the calcium. It’s a great staple to keep in your pantry!

We enjoyed a homemade soup and a freshly made bun at Sherry’s Country Corner Café just north of the lapping waves at Rondeau Provincial Park. Lunch was made even happier with the addition of homemade apple pie and butter tarts from local bakers Leah and husband Michael just starting a new enterprise.

2 lbs (1 kg) parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 pears, peeled, cored and chopped (Bosc or Bartlett)

1 onion, chopped

6 cups (1 1/2 L) chicken or vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

1 can (14 oz/ 385 mL) evaporated milk

1-2 tsp (10 mL) curry powder (taste and add more if you wish!)

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, combine parsnips, celery, pears, onion, stock and bay leaf. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer covered about 30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Discard bay leaf. Stir in evaporated milk, salt, curry and pepper. Taste. Add more curry or salt if required. In batches, spoon mixture into blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Serve garnished with a dollop of plain yogurt or drizzle of cream. Makes 8 cups (2 L). Soup may be served immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. For longer storage ladle into freezer containers and freeze for up to 4 months.

Any Fruit Crisp

Always popular, especially if served warm with a spoonful of vanilla ice-cream, crisps are a snap to make. They may use any sort of berry or fruit: apples, pears, peaches, plums, blueberries, strawberries, or mixture of all of these and are especially fast to prepare if using already prepared frozen fruit. The topping is what makes it especially decadent!


6 cups (1 1/2 L) peeled, cored and sliced fruit such as apples, pears or berries

3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar

1 tbsp (15 mL) grated lemon rind


1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, melted

1 cup (250 mL) each, quick oats, all-purpose flour and brown sugar, lightly packed

1 tsp (5 mL) each, vanilla and cinnamon

1/2 cup (125 mL) pecans or almonds to replace 1/2 cup (125 mL) flour (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Spray 8 cup (2 L) baking dish with baking spray. Spoon prepared fruit into dish and sprinkle with sugar and lemon rind. Stir gently to combine ingredients evenly.

To speed preparation along, use a large ovenproof dish, I like a large pyrex measuring cup, add the butter melt in microwave or oven and stir in oats, flour, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nuts if using – remember to reduce flour. Stir well to combine and sprinkle evenly over prepared fruit. Bake in oven 45 – 50 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Serves 6 – 8.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer. Reach her at


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