With supermarkets choc k full of wonderful exotic ingredients year round, it can be a difficult to work out what is actually in season each month. But there are real advantages to eating seasonably, not least because food actually tastes at its best. After all, I’m sure most people have had the rock solid flavourless tomato experience that is a total contrast from the succulent, tender and sweet tomato that is properly seasonal.
Not all of us have access or time to get to a farmers market – but we can still eat seasonably at the local greengrocers or the supermarket, it’s just a matter of knowing what to buy. And another great advantage is that fruit and vegetables that are in season are actually cheaper as they are in abundance at this time. So, it’s a win-win situation to eat seasonal fruit and veg, both in terms of taste and budget.
Four foods that are in season in Britain right now:
Radishes – Goodness, I love radishes. All the crunch of a good vegetable, but with some added fire! Fresh radishes are quite gorgeous served simply as crudités with a selection of other fresh vegetables, with some home-made (ideally) mayonnaise and a little crushed sea salt. Otherwise they add colour, flavour and texture to a whole range of salads. They combine well with Asian flavours like soy and coriander, and their pepperiness is good balanced with an orangey vinaigrette or the aniseed note in fennel. I’ve created a seasonal salad recipe below.
Spring Green Cabbage – Much underrated, cabbage properly cooked is truly delicious. But don’t let it linger in the fridge for ages as it loses nutrients. Spring green cabbage has a sweetness that is unlike other cabbages and one of the easiest ways to cook and serve is to shred the leaves and boil briefly (3-5 minutes) in salted water, then toss in butter and season. Just like pasta, make sure it’s al dente – most folks I know have terrible memories of school’s soggy cabbage. Another great way to cook it is to stir fry them with a little cumin or fennel seed and olive oil.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli – Leafy and fabulous, purple sprouting broccoli has great flavour. Sadly much of its lovely colour is lost in cooking – the best way to preserve it is to steam very lightly and eat it in salads or to sauté it briefly in butter (which is quite delicious!). Delia Smith has it stir fried with grated ginger, soy sauce, garlic and sherry vinegar – also really good.
Rhubarb – Rhubarb is a complicated thing. We think of it as a dessert ingredient, but actually it’s a vegetable. Its leaves can be poisonous and in the UK it’s grown in penumbra, knee deep in manure, requiring a good cold snap to push forward its growth. There’s a particular part of Yorkshire called the ‘rhubarb triangle’ between Wakefield, Leeds and Morley that produces a sweeter stem around this time of year. Rhubarb crumble is the stuff of dreams, but it is gorgeous in other old fashioned puddings such as possets or cobblers. Stewed or roasted, with a blob of thick cream or Greek yoghurt, it is simply delicious.
I hope this gives you some inspiration for a month of great seasonal eating!
Puy lentil salad with radishes, fennel and feta
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course. Make sure you serve it at room temperature, or with the lentils lukewarm – the flavours come out much more. This is a healthy, delicious and tangy salad.
- 200g Puy lentils
- 100g feta cheese, cubed
- A medium fennel bulb, finely sliced
- 1 blood orange, peeled and sliced
- Handful of radishes, washed and halved
- 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar
- Generous handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
- Salt and pepper
Cook the Puy lentils in gently simmering vegetable stock until just tender (around 25 minutes). Drain, season well and stir though the olive oil and vinegar.
While your lentils are cooking slice your fennel in fine slivers, wash and halve your radishes, and wash and finely chop the parsley. Cube your cheese, peel and slice your orange horizontally and then again in half so you end up with pretty semi-circles.
Stir the parsley, fennel and radishes into the salad. This salad is nice on a bed of baby spinach or crisp leaves, so you could lay that out, then cover with the lentils and vegetables. Finally top with the slices of orange and cubes of feta and serve. (These latter two ingredients are best not stirred through as they can disintegrate!) If you are hungry, serve with some warmed flat breads too.Last modified: December 31, 2020