Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan chats about autumn ingredients, balcony gardens, and his new cookbook

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The abundance of produce in the autumn garden offers plenty for a foodie like Matt Wilkinson, and his latest cookbook, Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads, reflects this passion for seasonal, local ingredients. He took a moment to chat with us about all things autumn flavours.

Top three autumn ingredients

My top three autumn ingredients would have to be:

1. Chillies. They start in summer but go right through to autumn, which is the best time to pickle, dry and preserve them.

2. Basil, so I can make lots of pesto sauce to freeze for my kids and wife. I hate the stuff but it puts smiles on their faces!

3. Pig. Crazy, hey, but this is the traditional time to slaughter your pig and make all your cured bits like bacon and salami late in autumn. Or if you don’t like them, let’s do apples – so diverse whether eaten as is, cooked for a sauce or grated through coleslaw. Yum.

Biggest influence on your food philosophy?

Without sounding kooky, the land, Mother Nature and the farmers. When you cook locally and seasonally it’s all down to them. Watch, smell, learn, then create.

If you only had a balcony garden, what top salad staples would you grow?

Herbs, herbs, herbs: parsley, basil, mint, thyme... I have grown tomatoes and peppers successfully too on a balcony, but remember keeping them hydrated through water is the key to any good garden, especially one in direct sunlight like a balcony or windowsill.

Sample Matt’s delicious salads at Pope Joan, or try your hand at some of his creative recipes in Mr Wilkinson's Simply Dressed Salads, available now from Hardie Grant Books, RRP $49.95.

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