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Celebrating the seasons

Make the best of what’s around you this winter harvest – our tips on how to prepare and cook in-season fruit and veg.

Winter vegetables
Photo by Nick Fewings (Unsplash)

Enjoying the best of the harvest in January, finding new recipes to try and sourcing ingredients to cook with is a positive way to start the year.

There are plenty of fruit and vegetables in season and the majority are grown in the UK. The best are root vegetables - parsnips, cabbage and celeriac - together with fruits like apples, pears and forced rhubarb.

Enjoying fresh food when it’s in season is more economical, it will taste better and it’s more environmentally friendly. You can cook batches of warming soups, make easy stews in the slow cooker and get a comfort food fix with a hearty pie.

To help inspire you, we’ve picked four of our favourites in season right now and included recipe tips, advice on preparation and ideas for flavour pairings.

Celeriac

Celeriac may not be the most appealing looking vegetable, but don’t let that put you off. It has a celery-like flavour and can be roasted, used in mash or sliced raw in salads.

Due to its knobbly shape, it can be tricky to peel. If you cut the base and top straight it will give a level surface to peel from. Use a potato peeler rather than a knife to peel and once chopped, add a squeeze of lemon to minimize discolouration.

If you want an easy option, you can roast celeriac whole and serve it as a vegetarian centrepiece, sliced into wedges with steamed vegetables.

To enjoy it roasted, place it on foil on a baking tray, rub it all over with olive oil and season it. Add garlic cloves, bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Wrap the celeriac in foil and roast for two hours, unwrapping near the end to allow the skin to crisp a little.

Other ingredients which work well with celeriac include bacon, toasted hazelnuts and walnuts, and blue cheese is great in a celeriac soup.

Parsnips

Parsnips are sweet and earthy, a great accompaniment to a roast dinner.

To help get them nice and crispy, we’d recommend peeling, cutting them into chunks and par boiling for five minutes. Then give them a good shake in the pan to roughen the edges.

Make sure the fat in the baking tray is hot before you transfer them to the oven for roasting and don’t overcrowd them in the tray.

Add your favourite herbs and spices at the end of cooking for seasoning. Fresh rosemary, sage or thyme work well. If you want a twist, try a spice mix of cumin and turmeric. Any leftovers can be used in soups with added flavour boosts of apple, ginger or a scattering of parmesan.

Did you know parsnip works in cakes? We’ve seen a few recipes which use grated parsnip with orange or spiced ginger.

If you want to try your hand at homemade parsnip crisps, use a peeler to slice long strips and heat a pan of sunflower oil. Take care, because it will need to be hot. Fry in small batches, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and season with salt.

Jerusalem Artichokes tubers

Jerusalem artichokes tubers.

Christian Guthier (Wikimedia Commons)

Jerusalem artichokes

The Jerusalem artichoke is a knobbly tuber which is actually a variety of sunflower. It has a sweet, nutty flavour and can be cooked in the same way you would potatoes.

They work well sauteed and roasted. They can be peeled or unpeeled. Just scrub them well if you are leaving the skin on. Chop, slice or leave whole and serve them with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and chopped thyme or sage leaves.

Jerusalem artichokes are lovely raw or cooked in salad and they pair nicely with lemon and bacon. We’d recommend trying them roasted in a warm salad, tossed with smoky bacon and garlicky greens or pureed into soup seasoned with a topping of goat’s cheese.

Be warned: they have a reputation for their wind-inducing side-effects. But don’t let that put you off. We are all spending more time at home, after all.

Forced rhubarb

Forced rhubarb is grown in dark sheds and as a result it has a vibrant pink colour.

To prepare rhubarb remove the leaves, as these shouldn’t be eaten, and wash the stems well.

Its sourness benefits from being paired with sweet ingredients and spices. Roasted with sugar and cinnamon with a portion of vanilla custard or ice-cream is a winning combination.

It’s also easy to poach rhubarb. Just mix caster sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add chunks of rhubarb and take off the heat after a minute, taking care to not overcook. Leave the rhubarb to cool in the syrup.

If you want more oomph, add star anise and a squeeze of orange juice. Serve the compote cold, stirred through Greek yoghurt or on pancakes for a weekend breakfast.

You can make the classic apple and rhubarb crumble with a flavour boost from freshly grated ginger and orange zest added to the mix. For something a bit different, try poached rhubarb with savoury ingredients like sausages, roast pork or grilled mackerel.

Check out this month’s recipes from local foodie Rebecca Currier: Parsnip Rosti and Celeriac & Apple Soup.

Follow Rebecca’s delicious vegetarian and vegan cooking adventures on Instagram.

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