Here is just a taste of the wonderful winter produce in season right now.
Dark-green winter cabbage with attractive, crinkled and blistered leaves and a robust flavour and texture. Steam, boil or braise, add to hearty peasant soups or stuff rolled-up whole leaves with a savoury minced meat and rice mixture.
Leeks are very versatile and work well cooked in various recipes or as a side dish. Two of the world’s most famous soups, Scotland’s cock-a-leekie and France’s crème vichyssoise, are based around them.
Whether it’s candy or golden we have the beetroot you choose for your menus.
Candy beetroot is an eye-catching garnish and is a fantastic addition to any salad. Beautiful served whole or cut diagonally through the middle to show off those mysterious pink and white rings. Once cooked, the flesh becomes pink throughout.
Golden beetroot has a more subtle flavour than normal purple beetroot, and is a great garnish with its vibrant golden shine. Popular in the 19th century, it is in vogue again in the fine dining restaurants today. How about roasted in a salad with chives, feta and honey vinaigrette. The leaves are delicious too.
Pink Fir Apple Potatoes
Almost the latest maturing salad variety, taking 22 weeks for perfection, but well worth the wait as they have an amazing flavour. Very knobbly tubers, just wash and cook whole, hot or cold.
A delicious nutty taste like chestnuts, prized in France for its flavour for over 70 years. Steam in their skin and serve hot or cold.
A type of ‘floury’ potato resembling a black truffle in appearance. Amusingly they retain their dark violet colour when cooked, and are at their best steamed or boiled, mashed, roasted or in salads.
The unsung hero of the vegetable world, knobbly, odd-shaped celeriac has a subtle, celery-like flavour, with nutty overtones. You can mash or roast; use it in slow-cook dishes or in its classic form as a remoulade or ideal for a silky smooth soup finished with crispy shallots and white truffle oil.
This vegetable is not truly an artichoke but a variety of sunflower with a lumpy, brown-skinned tuber that often resembles a ginger root. The white flesh of this vegetable is nutty. Brilliant roasted whole or as a puree.
A root vegetable belonging to the dandelion family, salsify is also known as the oyster plant because of its oystery taste when cooked. The root is similar in appearance to a long, thin parsnip, with creamy white flesh and a thick skin. In the same way as many root vegetables, salsify can be boiled, mashed or used in soups and stews. Peel the root, then cut into short lengths and simmer for half an hour until soft. Drain, then sauté in a little butter.
After potatoes, carrots are without doubt the best-known and most popular root vegetable of all. The carrots we eat today were developed from the wild carrot but until the Middle Ages carrots eaten in this country were purple – orange carrots were imported from Holland in the 17th and 18th Centuries. As well as the usual orange carrots, we also have purple, yellow and white carrots. Carrots can be cooked in almost any way you choose or eaten raw, chopped or grated into salads. They can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried and deep fried, braised, glazed and are delicious roasted in the oven with a selection of other root vegetables. They can be puréed (on their own or with turnip or parsnip), served in a cream sauce, served au gratin or dauphinoise. They are an essential ingredient in a mirepoix for stocks and a wide range of soups. Good flavour combinations include: honey, orange, coriander, cider, apple, walnut, mustard, parsnip, turnip, curry powder, cumin, thyme, wine and basil.
Bitter (Seville) oranges are classically used in cooking, not just in marmalade but also in dishes such as Duck à l’orange. Every bit of the fruit can be used in cooking. Finely pare strips of aromatic zest from Seville oranges and dry in a cool oven, then use to flavour stews and stir-fries. Replace lemon juice with Seville orange juice in savoury marinades, butters and sauces. Or wrap Seville orange pips and pith in muslin and use to add extra pectin to jellies and jams.
Small, round and orange, clementines are thin-skinned with firm yet juicy sweet segments. They are thought to be a hybrid of a tangerine and a sweet orange and have a high sucrose content. Use freshly squeezed clementine juice in place of a sugar syrup for sweet salads. It also makes a lovely jelly or drink. Kirsch or Cointreau taste good with clementines, as do pineapple and mango. Finely grate their zest and use in mousses, sweet butters and cakes.
Grown mostly in Mediterranean countries, blood oranges have a distinctive dark-red rind and flesh and taste tarter than regular oranges. Substitute ordinary oranges with blood oranges – they can be used in soufflés, puddings and sauces and work well in marmalade or ice cream. They are particularly delicious in jellies (add a shot or two of orange liqueur for the grown-ups). The fiery colour and unique flavour of blood orange juice also make it a great addition to cocktails.
Pomegranate have a round shape, like an apple, with a hard, shiny skin blushed with red or yellow. Inside, scores of edible little white seeds are held in jewel-like, ruby-coloured sacs filled with sweet, juicy flesh. The sacs themselves are packed in a bitter, pale yellow pith. Scatter the juicy sacs over salads, fresh-cut fruit; use in marinades or rice dishes. Use to decorate duck, fish, chicken or pork.
The Bramley is rightly recognised by chefs and home cooks alike as the best apple for cooking. Grown only in Britain, the Bramley’s unique qualities make it one of the most versatile ingredients; equally at home in a savoury stir fry or a traditional apple pie.
The fine, slightly granular flesh of a Williams’s pear is much more fragile than apples and, unlike most fruit, they improve in flavour and texture after they’re picked. We have Williams’s pears which are stunning at the moment and ideally poached in Sauternes and served in a vanilla panacotta.
The sweet buttery flesh of Comice can find no better compliment than when served with cheese, especially soft ripening cheeses like Brie, Camembert, or any of the blues. It is the extreme juiciness of Comice, which coincidentally makes them a poor choice for any process requiring cooking, that earns them such high accolades for eating freshly sliced. Ripen a Comice pear, section it and serve with your favourite cheese.
The lean, gamey meat of a brace of pheasants makes for a tasty autumnal treat when cooked with bacon and buttered root vegetable mash. Remove the legs and braise slowly in stews, then serve with mashed potatoes or root vegetables. For perfect pairings, think of other fruit and vegetables that are in season now, such as chestnut mash, sticky honey-roast parsnips, spiky apple chutneys or celeriac purée.
This lean, red meat is low in fat and full of flavour and has become popular and widely available.
Venison can be substituted for beef in most recipes. The most popular cuts for roasting are the saddle, loin, fillet and haunch (leg). Because the meat is so lean it needs careful cooking; quick roasting is ideal. Tougher cuts (shoulder, neck and shin) should be braised or stewed or made into mince for venison burgers or sausages.