Posts tagged Seasonal
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.

Why Blogging with the Seasons is the Key to Success

I’ll let you into a secret: every month, you could increase your blog readership, guarantee inspiration and enhance your creativity through just one simple change. It’s not difficult to implement, and I’ll make it even easier for you with a helpful reference guide. Sound good?

All you have to do is post relevant, seasonal content.

That’s it!

So why should I be doing this again?

If you’ve ever looked at trending Twitter hashtags, you’ll know that people mostly communicate about up-to-date issues and events, and on social media sites your content is much more likely to be noticed if you follow suit. Let’s use my eat seasonably post series as an example: this set of posts go out monthly and run through everything that is good to eat during those 4 (or so) weeks, and they frequently outperform other content. The best thing about it is that I never intentionally set out to run this as an ongoing series, and the main reason I initially started writing was to remind myself what I should be shopping for. As the posts evolved and improved in terms of content, readers began to let me know how useful they found them, advising that they also use the posts inspiration for their monthly meal plans.

Readership aside, choosing to blog with the seasons is also a way to guarantee a source of inspiration. Let’s imagine you’re reaching the end of May and are running out of ideas on what to post about. You might have an inkling of an idea or a theme in mind but nothing seems to be formulating. The solution? Make it relevant and seasonal.

How does this all link to my blog?

May is the time for tall spindly stems of cow parsley, for fields that glow yellow, for maypoles and floral garlands and for a gradual warming of the earth. So if you’re a lifestyle blogger get out and enjoy the best that the British countryside has to offer at this time of year; take photographs of morning walks, capture outfits in a yellow field rather than in front of a brick wall and take part in seasonal events. If you’re a creative blogger then make something with a seasonal slant (you’ll find more ideas over here) or simply use colours and shapes from nature to guide your design process. If you’re a food blogger then you’ve got it easy! Simply choose recipes with seasonal ingredients, or visit restaurants that serve seasonal and local food.

It can be so easy to forget what’s on our doorsteps once we get embroiled into creating blogging content that must be like this, or should really contain that, but if you alter your focus and instead shift to what you see, smell or hear from the natural word, there will always be something new to discover.

Won’t everyone be posting the same things then?

In short – no! What’s inspiring for one will do nothing for another. What sparks an interest in using colour creatively in one will inspire another to pick out structural features to design something new. You are unique, and therefore your outlook and approach to nature and the world around us will also be. Just don’t be afraid to create something a bit different; those posts you’ve written but squirreled away because you’re afraid to share something that no one else really is, are often the best and most inspiring to your readers.

What other benefits are there to blogging with the seasons?

It’s not only your blog that will profit from your new-found focus; creative acts and your personal life will also flourish. At the beginning of each month I post about how to live seasonally, and throughout the month I will use that post as a guide for what I could (and would love) to be doing. So in May so far I’ve created and delivered a May Day posy, I’ve orchestrated a huge spring clean and I’ve written about seasonal wildflowers and asparagus (as well as eating quite a few stalks too). It’s not about forcing yourself to write or create something you wouldn’t normally; it’s simply a way of guiding your lifestyle and blog to follow a more natural route aligned with seasonal change.

How do I know what to look out for?

If you’ve been reading and have decided that while this all sounds lovely and interesting, you’ve got no idea how to shift your focus and start to blog with the seasons, then panic not, for I’ve created a handy reference guide for you. It covers what to look out for in each season and details any celebrations / events that may also be of interest.

BONUS: Not sure what happens when in the seasonal calendar? You need my month-by-month guide.

If you’re a creative as well as a blogger (and let’s face it, most of us are both!) then you might also like my seasonal creativity eBook – get it over here if you’re looking for even more inspiration.

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.

Flowers in Season in Spring

Buying British products and produce is something that I will be forever passionate about. If it's available in the UK, why waste time, money and air-miles on products flying in from far afield? Nearly 90% of the flowers we as a country buy are imported, often travelling thousands of miles before being packaged and placed in our shops and advertised to sell as 'fresh' flowers. What's fresh about that? Perhaps more importantly, why do we feel the need to buy in these exotic blooms when British flowers are so wonderful?

A posy picked straight from the garden is always going to make a house feel firmly rooted in the season. Failing that, a bouquet or small bunch from a local florist will do almost as well. They might be a little more expensive if you choose certain flowers, but go for the ones that are abundantly in season, and you'll find they're usually cheaper than any other flowers you can buy. In March, daffodils often go for a pound a bunch and can brighten up any frosty Spring morning with their vibrancy. As we get further into the season, tulips can often be just as inexpensive and can surely satisfy that need for pops of colour in our vases? You'll also be helping to support the habitats of insects in the UK; from butterflies to bees they all need flowers, but farmers will only grow them if there is the demand.

With this in mind, here's a quick summary of what's in season (florally, of course) during Spring...

  • Daffodils {so easy to grow in the garden}
  • Tulips {look for different varieties - there are plenty!}
  • Hellebores
  • Hyacinths
  • Irises {a particular favourite of mine}
  • Lilac
  • Bluebells
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.

2014

2014 has been a strange one. There have been some joyful moments: the day we got Bella; our camping trip to the Lakes; travelling to Northumberland with family; and starting this blog. As always, I've also enjoyed watching the seasons change, and have tried to live according to their ebb and flow, but it's been a struggle at times; I've never been busier. As a result, the vegetable patch has remained empty for parts of the year and time that should have been spent in the garden had to be allocated to other more pressing matters. Sadness ran through the veins of the latter part of the year, and sometimes just continuing with daily life has proved a struggle; yet despite these tough times moments of light and happiness have been frequent. As one year closes and another begins it's a chance to reflect on these junctures with a smile.

Spring

Spring-2014-Creative-Countryside
Spring-2014-Creative-Countryside

Daffodils graced the green banks, dancing in the wind and bobbing their heads with the elements; I began the season by attempting to improve my bread making skills, which have sadly fallen by the wayside ever since; watching the sunset from a Northumbrian balcony; produce was plentiful in the first few weeks of the season.

Summer

Summer-2014-Creative-Countryside
Summer-2014-Creative-Countryside

I've never seen or smelt such beautiful roses as this year; early evening sunlight cast shadows across the beginnings of wild flowers; the harvest was ready early after a hot few weeks; butterflies fluttered majestically and visited the bright pops of summer colour.

Autumn

Autumn-2014-Creative-Countryside
Autumn-2014-Creative-Countryside

The season started early with seed pods and fallen nuts appearing everywhere; our apple trees finally started to fruit; a new addition to our family; the sky blazed as the evenings drew slowly to a close.

Winter

Winter-2014-Creative-Countryside
Winter-2014-Creative-Countryside

A crisp frost to end the year with a chill; roaring fires warmed us as the nights drew in; zesty oranges and cinnamon sticks made the perfect Christmas decorations; early morning walks as the sun rose caught the best of the day.

On reflection, as Sinatra would say, it was a very good year.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2015!

Blog Signature
Blog Signature
Eleanor Cheetham2014, Seasonal
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?

Eat Seasonably in October

Although this post is excessively late in that we only have a few days left of the month, I still wanted to post it as one of the key seasonal meals of October is served up on the 31st - Halloween. I've never been quite sure what to make of this annual celebration; trick-or-treating didn't really take place in our household as I was growing up and it would often drift by without me or my sister really noticing. However, I'm more than willing to embrace the joys of cooking a hearty meal and partake in a spot of apple-bobbing should the mood take me.  But what to cook?

The obvious choice is pumpkin, and how much simpler could you get than pumpkin soup in a pumpkin? Head over here for a delicious, easy recipe.

Or if you've got a sweet tooth, why not try this pumpkin and ginger teabread - perfect fresh from the oven with a thick smearing of butter that soaks through the crumbs.

If pumpkins and squashes aren't your thing (and despite being an autumnal food-lover they're not my favourite thing in the world), go for something a little less orange and try a chicken and leek pie with celeriac mash. If you've never tried out the glorious vegetable that is the celeriac, make sure you do this year; it's a triumph and works especially well roasted alongside other root vegetables if you're not in the mood for mash.

If you're thinking ahead to Christmas and beyond, why not make the most of a seasonal glut of apples and try your hand at cider making? Darina Allen has the easiest apple cider recipe that dates back to the 19th-century in her recipe book Forgotten Skills of Cooking (featured previously in this post) and I have used this recipe with no problems for the last couple of years. Simply do the following:

  • Grate 3kg of apples (the recipe says cooking apples but I used a mix of both) into an enamel/stainless steel/fermentation bucket. I use a food processor to do the grating for me as I make large quantities.
  • Cover with 7.5 litres of cold water. Stir with a sterilised spoon every day for a week.
  • Strain and stir in 900g sugar, 50g fresh ginger and 3 cinnamon sticks.
  • Leave for another day then strain again through muslin.
  • Pour into sterilised bottles and seal tightly.

The theory is that making the cider now will provide enough for over the festive period, but if you leave it a little longer I have found that the taste does improve.

A Seasonal Life

Living life by the seasons isn't something I've always appreciated. Despite the fact my parents have always lived in a similar way, as a teenager and even into my very early twenties it wasn't top of my agenda; I was distracted by the dreams and desires of others. Although this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, I neglected to consider what I really deemed important in life and what made me truly happy. I will readily admit that I'm not a positive person every minute of every day; I fall into spells of blue moods, get riled up when things don't quite go to plan and snap at others if I'm tired. But no one is perfect. Choosing to live a seasonal life has without a doubt improved my health, my mood, my relationships and my  happiness.

There isn't a one-formula-fits-all for living seasonally, but there are certain principles which weave their way through the lifestyle. Eating what's currently being picked on English soil is one. Not only is the taste superior but your bank balance will thank you throughout the year, especially if you shop locally as well.

Another is to understand and appreciate what makes each season so different, and revel in it. Spring brings new life, a freshness that is missing from the other seasons, and the chance to breathe into the year. The sky is often crisp and light and it is the perfect time of year to sow seeds, plant ideas in preparation for later in the year. Spring is also about faith: faith that the seedlings will turn into magnificent flowers and succulent produce; faith that the ideas you plan for today will succeed tomorrow; and faith that after a deep, dark period of the year there is hope of fresh, new life at the end of it.

Summer is the season of hard toil, long days, and feeling the heat of the sun on your skin. It's also about long evening walks and stargazing without a jumper, a glass of something sweet in hand and the warmth of the day still tingling on your cheeks. Summer is a time to relish the green of the English landscape - whether hiking up a mountain or meandering through a meadow surrounded by the hum of bees, the colour seeps into all the eye surveys.

Then, quite suddenly, things turn. Autumn creeps upon us and turns the leaves crimson and brown, turns the garden into a patchwork quilt and nips the hairs on the back of our necks in a morning. Haystacks litter the horizon, glinting as the late afternoon sun slowly seeps away. It's a time to preserve both our memories of summer and the berries in the hedgerows, and to take stock and prepare for the final stretch of the year.

The winter months are spent squirrelled away, taking solace from the elements in front of a roaring fire. The air is cold, menacing even, but the wind and snow form an impressive backdrop to cheerful carols and celebrations with friends and family. It's the time of year to open a few books and be creative, to return from a long frosty walk to a hot cinnamon tea and admire the persistence of nature through the cruellest of weathers.

I honestly could not imagine living anywhere that did not ebb and flow with the seasons. My house looks different in every one; I look different too. Until returning to live in the countryside I didn't fully understand how much life can be led by these changes, but letting nature dictate certain parts of your life has a strong sense of primitive purpose. The outside world has, and always will, alter with the year, so why shouldn't we?