Posts tagged Eat Seasonably
A Seasonal Year: Winter

If you're a subscriber, you'll have already received the first edition of the newsletter - A Seasonal Year - but if you're not don't worry, because today's post offers a compact version to inspire you to live slowly and seasonally throughout the winter months. Don't want to miss next month's newsletter?

Winter Rituals

  • Prepare the house for colder weather: light candles; get a stack of logs ready for the fire; choose rich, jewel colours for your accessories; choose a reading spot; and festoon your home with greenery.
     
  • Embrace daylight whenever possible: get outside for a walk at least once a day; position yourself near to a window when working; try and watch the sunrise and sunset as often as possible.
     
  • Plan for the year ahead: choose a word (or two) to focus on and set long-term goals; order seeds for the vegetable patch / allotment / kitchen windowsill, and plan out your summer harvest.

 

Three Seasonal Recipes

  1. Pheasant casserole with celeriac mash
  2. Bubble and squeak
  3. Chestnut and chocolate torte

 

Three Seasonal Reads

L-R:  Burial Rites  by Hannah Kent;  Village Christmas  by Laurie Lee;  A Christmas Carol  by Charles Dickens.

L-R: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent; Village Christmas by Laurie Lee; A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

 

 

Final Thoughts...

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.
Edith Sitwell
Eat Seasonably in September

September is the fruitful month. Full of almost-full-size squashes, apples picked straight from the tree, hearty homemade pies and soups galore, it marks a change in what we eat as the new season begins. The salads of summer are not completely gone, but sausages and roasted vegetables are much more likely to appear than salads and barbecues for dinner, and although they take longer to cook, the rewards are always worth the extra time.

This month also showcases the best of the hedgerow. In place of the elderflowers arrive the elderberries, ripe for turning into a fruity wine. Or why not try your hand at jam making if there are blackberries still lingering between the branches?

Leeks are also making an appearance this month, and are delicious in a vegetable gratin: lightly fry, then add to a dish with part-boiled potatoes and smother with a cheese sauce, remembering to top with breadcrumbs and pumpkin seeds before heating through in the oven. Finish with a plum crumble, and you’ve got seasonal autumn dining at its best.

Eat Seasonably in July

July feels like a bit of an in between month in our garden. The tomatoes aren't quite ready and neither are the courgettes, but the strawberries are nearly over and the elderflowers are browning in the sunshine. Luckily, though, if you know what to search for, there are still many delights to enjoy on your plate this month.

Lots of people are unsure about gooseberries and find them too tart, but they are a wonderful fruit that we really should utilise much more in the kitchen. Try baking them in a tart or turn them into jam (particularly good with leftover strawberries) and enjoy with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Beetroot is starting to come into its own by the time July rolls around. Don't be put off by any you've had from the supermarket swimming in vinegar - the real stuff is so much tastier! Grate into curries and chilli dishes, blend to form a soup or roast with other summer veg for a quick and easy midweek meal. If you've got time it's also rather wonderful in a chocolate cake, and makes for a much healthier treat.

French beans and mangetout are two other summer staples for the month ahead. French beans in particular are so easy to grow and take up so little space, and they just keep on coming over the summer.  Add to stir-fries, pasta dishes or use them to spruce up a salad. If they're picked early you can enjoy them raw, but if not don't overcook them or they'll be limp and bland.

Lamb is also at its best, so get the barbecue out and grill some lamb and mint burgers. Throw on a few vegetable kebabs and serve with nettle jelly (nicer than it sounds!). Finish the meal with homemade rose petal ice cream and you're in for a treat.

Eat Seasonably in June

June is the month when the abundance of summer begins. If you grow-your-own, you'll be spending the next few weeks podding peas and trying to resist eating them like sweets from their tiny green cases. Why not try making your own mushy peas to devour alongside a traditional fish supper? Simply blend butter, salt, mint (ideally fresh but sauce will do) and the peas for the freshest mushy peas you've ever tasted.

Broad beans should also be featuring on your plate, but if you can't find them in your veg patch you'll have to search for a local supplier as they're not readily available. You can blitz like the peas and enjoy as a dip to go alongside a Mexican feast, or add to summer soups for a nutty, earthy flavour like no other.

Sticking with veg, June is officially the start of salad season: lettuces are at their best (no wilted leaves or bolting) and you can enjoy alongside new potatoes, flans and lining the sides of your sandwiches. Throw in a few radishes, some slices of cucumber and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and you're on to a winner.

You might not find British strawberries early in the month, but by the second half they should be readily available. Don't be tempted by shipped in punnets - they're usually bland and have been stacked high for days before you've bought them from the supermarket shelves - and besides, the anticipation of enjoying homegrown varieties makes the reward so much sweeter. Make sure you make the most of their season and enjoy whenever you can: scatter on your cereal, as a snack to take to work, turned into jams (and stored to brighten up the winter months) or switch things up and add to a salad. 

If you're looking for a simple supper dish, try mackerel kedgeree - the fish is freshly available this month and its punchy flavour will bring a depth to any salad dish. Boil an egg, add onions and peas and wild rice and you'll have a light midweek meal perfect to enjoy after a tiring day at work.

Eating Seasonably Made Easy

It's lovely to hear that many of you enjoy my eat seasonably posts, in which I run through what's good to eat in the month ahead. For some it may seem easy, natural even, to pick out what's at its peak and create dishes accordingly, but I know from experience that starting to think and cook in this way can seem quite daunting. Today's post offers easy tips on how to start eating seasonably, considers why local food is important too, and includes expert advice from The Lincolnshire Chef.

Why should I eat seasonably?

Whether you care about any of the other justifications or not, the number one reason you should eat seasonably is the taste. There's a reason why we don't eat strawberries at Christmas - they taste awful; bland, insipid and slimy, the strawberries that are packeted and shipped into supermarkets over winter lack the heat of the sun and have probably travelled thousands of miles just to appease your whim. Are they worth it? Never. Is there a better option? Of course! Pick up a basketful of local apples to crunch and your taste buds (and your bank balance) will be thankful.

It can often be surprising how varied the produce on offer can be throughout the year if you're open to experimenting in the kitchen. You could find yourself sampling the delights of celeriac mash, baby radishes, Jerusalem artichokes and many more (often forgotten) delights if you eat what's in season, and your reliance on the same, tired recipes will inevitably, and happily, reduce. What's more, the abundance of in season produce and the fact it hasn't had to travel as far means that, more often than not, you'll save money too.

What about choosing local ingredients?

This falls hand in hand with seasonal eating. If you're eating what's best in Britain (or wherever you are) in that month, then chances are there's someone around you who's growing it. Not only are you relying even less on shipped in food, thereby reducing the carbon footprint left by your food choices, but you are also encouraging and helping to maintain your local economy. If no one uses the farm shop or the fruit and vegetable market, then they will disappear and our reliance on supermarkets will grow. Don't let yours disappear, because chances are they won't return.

How does this work in practice?

Steven Bennett, also known as The Lincolnshire Chef, follows these guidelines when he creates his ever-changing menus. He discussed with me his ethos and approach to cooking using seasonal ingredients.

"We base the menus on what food's available, not the other way around," he explains, telling me that only that week they'd changed the menu to include a rabbit pâté after a number became available from a local shoot. Served with blossom honey, carrot purée and marmalade brioche crisps, it sounds delicious and perfectly in keeping with the restaurant's values of fresh, local and seasonal ingredients with a modern twist. While most people choose what they want to cook, perhaps picking a recipe first, Steven argues that starting with the ingredients is key to cooking seasonably. It makes sense, and actually ensures a more creative kitchen environment, pushing you to consider what could be created from different sets of ingredients.

He continues:, "it's all about the taste," and goes on to explain that while people are usually confident in creating menus that include great tasting desserts, joints of meat or sides of vegetables, putting something like a whole fish or game bird in front of them can be scary. Becoming more confident at cooking fish and game will really help to improve your ability to cook seasonal foodsand choosing them for a dish is sensible, because they pair so well with seasonal vegetables.

If you'd like more advice on what's in season, I send out a list of the best foods to buy in my monthly seasonal newsletter. When you sign up you'll also receive a free e-book on living seasonally throughout the year, which includes sections on food and eating seasonably. Just sign up below!

Eat Seasonably in May

May well and truly marks the end of the hungry gap. Instead of scraping the bottom of the veg box and relying on potatoes and root vegetables in storage, we can once again relish fresh produce grown in the UK. And not just any fresh produce; it's asparagus season! It's time to gorge yourself silly on these tender stalks for a month or so before you've had your fill to satiate you for the next eleven months. My favourite way to enjoy them is with lots of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Alternatively, try boiling some Jersey Royal new potatoes and add them to an oven proof dish with the asparagus before topping with cheese. Bake until bubbling and serve with crispy bacon and you're on to a winner.

Perpetual spinach is firmly on the scene by May, and if you've got a spare corner then plant a few seeds to enjoy freshly picked leaves for the entire summer. Stir it into a pesto spaghetti dish in the final moments of cooking, or enjoy steamed with leeks and butter as a side dish. If fruit is more your thing, then rhubarb is enjoying its final hurrah before being overtaken by summer's bounty. Why not whiz some in a blender and use the purée to create a base for a seasonal drink?

If you're looking for a quick and easy breakfast dish, then poached duck eggs (with more asparagus if you so desire!) are the perfect start to the day, and now the daylight hours are stretching further into the evening, both ducks and chickens will start to lay more, which means they will be readily available. Choose local and free range, if you can, for yellow yolks and a much tastier treat.

For even more greenery to adorn your dishes, add spring onions to stir fries, wraps and salsas. A stronger flavour than your traditional onion, they're not everyone's cup of tea (and I can only eat them cooked), but fry them in some olive oil and they'll provide that kick that some dishes often require.

Eat Seasonably in April

April is, inevitably, dominated by Easter, and what's on our plates is no exception. Rather than stocking up on chocolate eggs from the supermarkets, though, why not try and make some of your own delicious treats? Hot cross buns are the obvious choice, but as someone who really isn't the biggest fan of mixed peel, I tend to add cranberries and other dried fruit and remove the peel. Seeing chocolate at every turn makes it hard to resist, so for once give in to temptation and indulge in a decadent brownie or rich chocolate torte, and serve with homemade ice cream or crème fraîche. I'm hungry just thinking about it.

Fish is the order of the day in April, so why not take advantage of fresh white crab meat and make your own crab fishcakes? Add a dip and some greens and you've got a heavenly dinner ahead of you. If you're after something a bit heartier, try a fish pie. Bulk it out with prawns and white fish, but make sure you include some salmon too for a richer flavour. Top with creamy mash and serve with peas for the ultimate comfort food.

If after all that you find yourself searching for something a little lighter (and this is something I will often find as the sunshine starts to appear and the days get longer), then try roasting some new season veg like radishes, blitz some beans to make a dip and serve with crispy flatbreads; lunches just got a whole lot more exciting. If salads are more your thing, then simply add a sliced spiced chicken breast and anything from the deli counter (sun-dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese...) for a quick, easy dinner.

Eat Seasonably in March

March heralds the start of Spring, and that means fresh new shoots and green vegetables emerging from the soil. But we are also still in the depths of the 'hungry gap', where the veg plot has little to offer that can appear on our plates. It is instead a time for waiting, nurturing and patience. With that in mind, a lot of what is seasonal at this time of year is either forced (rhubarb) or stored from the winter months.

If you can hunt out some early Spring greens, try them sautéed with bacon and mustard seeds - head over here for a recipe. Wild garlic should also start to surface soon - difficult to buy in the shops but available from organic veg schemes such as Riverford, it has a subtle flavour and is perfect in homemade pesto and pasta sauces. In fact, anything green and leafy is good at this time of the year; as the winter months come to a close and the stodgy puddings and hearty casseroles are left behind for another year, it is only natural to start craving nutritious, healthy foods.

Salads are sneaking back into our kitchens in many forms - add olive oil, mozzarella and a few nuts or sultanas to mizuna or rocket leaves and you've got yourself a nutritious side dish. I've been adding leftover grains from chillis and risottos to make a more substantial lunch.

Finally, if you're looking for ideas for a Spring feast, you can't go wrong with hogget. Not as well known or as popular as lamb, it is actually far tastier as the sheep is slaughtered somewhere around a year old and as a result the flavour and tenderness are much improved. Find cuts in good butchers or local farm shops (you won't find them in supermarkets!), roast and serve with fluffy roast potatoes.

Eat Seasonably in February

This month is all about getting through the last leg of winter, keeping warm on an evening and making the most of fresh produce. I've been inspired recently by colour in food and have been searching to create a visual feast as well as a tasty meal, and in February colours can fire up every plate if you know what to look for. Why not try a carrot and red pepper soup for a vibrant red lunch or quick dinner? Purple sprouting broccoli is also in season and is so much tastier than the broccoli you usually find in supermarkets - eat it stalk, leaves and all as a side dish.

Rhubarb is just starting to appear on the shelves in its forced form and offers sweet, earthy flavours best enjoyed in a hearty crumble or as a purée served atop crunchy cereal and yoghurt at breakfast-time. Its pink tinged stalks offer further colourful delights, or for an alternative fruity start to the day blood oranges are still in season - delicious freshly-squeezed.

Other vegetables to try this month are cauliflower (creamy cauliflower cheese anyone?) and leeks. Try both alongside any cheese as a side dish or add leeks to a casserole or soup for supper on cold evenings. Leeks also work well in any pasta dish or enjoy them roasted alongside carrots and parsnips. Add a joint of meat and you're in for a happy evening; this week we're slow-cooking a leg of lamb to enjoy alongside the vegetables and apple and mint jelly  - a perfect pre-Spring treat.

Eat Seasonably in January

If I'm honest, I'm still hung up on the cranberry and wild rice recipe I discovered in December's eat seasonably post; it has provided much needed relief after wading through mountains of roast potatoes (not that I'm complaining!) and takes so little effort that I'll be continuing to whip this up for a quick dinner alongside oven-baked salmon after work.

If you're on the look-out for other healthy foods to kick off the year, why not try kale? Oven baked with sea salt to make crunch crisps or steamed as a side, its earthy taste accompanies a whole range of seasonal dishes. If kale's not your thing then fear not, for January is the month when oranges take centre stage. Stock up on seville oranges and try your hand at marmalade (easier than you think!) or make the most of the short season for blood oranges. The deep red flesh of these fruits is delicious squeezed as juice or added to a sponge cake in the same way you would use lemons.

Root vegetables such as parsnips and carrots are still in supply and can be added to hearty stews if the weather turns bleak once again, or if you'd prefer something a bit different why not experiment with Moroccon cooking? One of my Christmas presents was a tagine pot and I am very much looking forward to experimenting with recipes to suit. I've already got my eye on this chicken and almond pastilla as well as a traditional lamb tagine.

January's produce from our own plot is minimal (and this year non-existent), but with a few choice vegetables and a cupboard full of spices we're looking forward to experimenting a little more with what we have.

Eat Seasonably in December

December is the month of indulgence. It's the only time of year we can eat three desserts, wash them down with a glass of some fizz and not feel guilty the next day. It's the month of Christmas, my birthday and New Year's Eve, not to mention all those festive get-togethers where mince pies are consumed within seconds, leaving only a flurry of icing sugar behind. Whether you devour duck, goose or turkey for your main meal of the year, it's all about the roast; even vegetarians stick to this with their nut roasts and pies.

Over the Christmas week, leftovers are king. We relish the opportunity for  bubble and squeak with lashings of ketchup and cold meats. Gone are the squashes and marrows of autumn, and in their place appears a whole host of brassicas, their leaves slightly unfurled, hinting at their dense flavours beneath. Boiling or steaming works well, but for something different add cabbages to a curry, and don't forget red cabbage with your dinner on the 25th.

Decadent desserts are the order of the day, with trifles and tortes taking centre stage, using frozen summer raspberries to add a zing of bright flavour to the darkest of months. Drinks are festive too, with cocktails, eggnog and hot chocolates to warm our frozen fingers after a blustery walk in the snow.

But if all this extravagance leaves you craving something a little more healthy, try some cranberries in this wild rice dish - perfect served as a side if you're hosting family or friends, or as a main meal on those quieter evenings between Christmas and New Year.

Eat Seasonably in November
Pumpkins3.jpg

November is the month for eating game in our household. Pheasant, partridge, rabbit; you name it and we'll stick in in a stew or pie and devour it with a mountain of buttery mash and a side of curly kale. The leftovers of October are still lingering at the bottom of our veg boxes, so squashes and root vegetables still star, but taking centre stage throughout the month is without a doubt the meat, and by far the best way to enjoy it (in my humble opinion) is to slow cook.

Returning home to a cold house at the end of a long day toiling at work is always vastly improved when wafting through the front door is the smell of a pheasant casserole. Why not try Jamie's recipe here for a full on blast of autumnal flavour - it even includes chestnut dumplings.

As the cold air blows into our lungs and through the nooks and crannies of our house, we know it's time to start ordering a veg box again as the garden no longer produces enough to sustain our hunger throughout the week. As November appears, we also make it a priority to order some venison alongside the veg box. A lean meat, venison can be somewhat dry if you don't cook it right, so stewing it is a great way of preserving its flavour and rich texture. However, it's just as good in burger form. Try this recipe or head over here to order them ready-made to enjoy with homemade wedges and ketchup.

Meat aside, there are many other gastronomic delights to be had and recipes to try out over the month, including this kale and mushroom lasagne - perfect for a family dinner. If you're after something sweet it's still prime time for apples, so why not try an apple pie?

What will be on your plate this month?