Those of you who have read my monthly posts on seasonal foods will know that I’m a big fan of eating food when it is at its freshest and best – that is to say, when it’s in season.
This year, more for my own interest than anything else, I’ve started to keep a food diary, recording our evening meal each day so that I can refer back, both for inspiration and for sheer curiosity.
I’m pretty sure getting into a food rut isn’t a problem that’s unique to me so I’ve decided that each month I’ll share a few of our family favourites from the previous one in the hope that it may spark a few ideas or even inspire you to try something new. Some may be seasonal, others just something from a much loved cook book or even a family favourite passed down from my Mum.
We’re not Scottish but I can’t let Burn’s Night pass by without making the most of an excellent excuse (as if I need one) to eat haggis. Now, if you’re one of those people who crinkles their nose in disgust at the thought of haggis – then take my advice and don’t think! It tastes like beautifully spiced mince. It’s warming, comforting and I love the stuff.
We eat it with: Mashed potato, Marrowfat peas and gravy.
This was the perfect recipe book for me in January. It’s full of simple, nutritious meals. The kind that are comforting enough for even the coldest of January days, but also full of great ingredients that you can feel doing you good and restoring you after the festive season of excess.
My favourite 3 recipes this month were;
…a simple, spicy pasta dish with tomatoes and crispy bacon. Quick to make and with a kick that warms you through to your cockles (to use the medical term).
This is a lovely, simple way to cook fish. The flavours are subtle, but fragrant and delicious. Beautiful fillets of cod are coated in a spiced yoghurt that is speckled with mustard seeds which add a satisfying crunch. The dahl is the perfect accompaniment and if possible, it’s even easier. Just lentils, coconut water, a cinnamon stick and cardamom pods make up this lovely little side dish.
When I first presented this to hubby, it was with a certain amount of trepidation. No meat, just a plate of cauliflower and chickpeas. Somehow though, this combination of a few simple ingredients just works. I mean, really works! Even hubby is converted and has since asked to have it again. As the book’s title suggests, this recipe is simple. It’s also delicious, filling – and super healthy. Hurrah!
For me, December is all about the lead up to Christmas and that means it’s filled with seasonal flavours and smells like cinnamon, ginger, citrus and …. well, sprouts.
Now is the time that I do my present shopping – mainly online because frankly it’s so much less stressful. I do however treat myself to an annual trip to the Christmas Market in Nottingham and it never fails to fill me with Christmas spirit (thanks only in part to the obligatory mulled wine stop). The smells of German sausage, roasting chestnuts, mulling spices and gingerbread waft across the square and can’t help but give you a rush of excitement for the coming festive season.
As far as seasonal food goes, the Christmas theme continues. It could be said that December pickings are rather slim in comparison with other months but honestly, who could really claim that the month which gives us mince pies, sweet roast chestnuts and Christmas dinner is anything but bounteous?
Ok, let’s talk about sprouts. As a wise reader of Eat Drink Cook, I don’t think I need to convince you of their merits do I? I mean, you already know right? Right?! Ok. Good. Let’s move on…
On to parsnips. Much like dogs, parsnips are not just for Christmas. Yes, the little maple glazed beauties are one of the stars of the festive table, but don’t be afraid to explore other options. Spicy Parsnip & Apple Soup, Parsnip Fries or just chucked into a hearty stew.
I’m going to leave it at that. Someone tweeted me the other day to ask if I have any turkey recipes (shout out to you Andy Hose!) I’m embarrassed to say that this will be my first EVER year of actually cooking Christmas dinner. We have always spent previous years at my parents’ home where my main responsibilities were veg chopping (always a team game it must be said) and writing the all-important (or so my Mum told me..) Christmas dinner timetable.
This year, I’m sticking with Nigella. Her books are the most used of my large and ever-growing cook book collection and she has never let me down yet.
November has arrived, bringing with it a blanket of fog (in Nottingham at least). I’ve often found that fog, rather like snow, seems to induce a childlike frenzy of emotion in otherwise mature and well-rounded adults.
Some find it exciting and mysterious, others, creepy and eerie. A few think it’s just plain gloomy. For me, fog awakens my need to feel cosy. Walking to work, there’s almost a ghostly quality to the city. Everyone drifting by as if in a dream until eventually, growing more distant, they’re swallowed by the mist.
Autumn firmly here – in fact, winter edging ever closer, it’s not surprising that this month’s seasonal foods are rather few and far between…
You would be forgiven for thinking that the humble cauliflower is the least exciting of this little bunch. Perhaps it is, if it’s just boiled to within an inch of it’s life, and then served plan. Curried however, it’s a wondrous thing. Cooked with onion, cubes of potato, and a few well chosen spices it makes a simple to make but really rather wonderful treat!
As for cauliflower cheese, I can’t think of many dishes (especially vegetable dishes) which offer such creamy comfort. As a child, we often used to have this as a main meal, with more vegetables on the side for good measure. I never once felt there was anything lacking in such a meal!
I cooked venison for the first time last year, making my ‘Harty’ Venison Stew (I was very pleased with that little pun at the time – and I must say, I still am!)
It makes a lovely, more gamey alternative to beef, and in this rather cold and blustery month, it provides robust flavour to bolster you against the chill!
Well, here we are again. The start of another month. As the days grow shorter, so does the time we have left until Christmas. In fact we have just 12 weeks until another year’s turkey and stockings are stuffed.
If the sheer mention of the ‘c’ word fills you with a sense of dread then take a look at my 12 part guide to a Stress Free Christmas – guaranteed to fill you with a sense of seasonal serenity instead…
We’re not there yet though so forget the Christmas shopping for today and take a moment to enjoy October and the seasonal gifts it has to offer…
Sweet potato is a huge favourite of mine. Its nutritional benefits are unquestionable – unlike normal potato it even counts as one of your five a day! Better than that though, whether it’s roasted, mashed or made into soup, its honeyed tones add an almost dessert like sweetness to any dish, which is pure comfort on a chilly October day.
If you’ve never cooked with Duck then do give it a go. These days it’s not too tricky to get hold of duck legs or breasts so you don’t have to tackle a whole bird if you don’t want to. It has a slightly stronger flavour than chicken but isn’t as ‘gamey’ as other birds like pheasant or goose. The fat makes great roasties too…
If you want to get more fish in your diet then haddock is a wonderfully versatile and widely available fish. A fish shop favourite, haddock doesn’t have to be covered in batter. It can be cooked simply with some lemon juice and parsley as a healthy alternative. Smoked haddock is one of my favourite fish – poached and served with creamy mash and poached egg on top. That moment when you break the yolk and it oozes into both fish and mash… sublime! It’s a must in fish pies and it makes a mean chowder too.
Could there be anything cosier than pulling on your woollen sock slippers, pouring yourself a nip of sloe gin and enjoying the smell of sweet roasting chestnuts as you warm your cockles by the open fire? (Figurative cockles, rather than literal that is – actual cockles are just going out of season..)
It only seems like yesterday that I was writing this post for August and looking forward to the joys of figs and crayfish. However, here we are at the start of September and perhaps more significantly, the arrival of Autumn.
The bold colours of summer are subtly changing to burnished reds and golds. The wild flowers that carpeted the countryside are replaced with fallen leaves, just waiting to be kicked by little wellingtoned feet.
Apples play a big part in ushering in Autumn. Now is the time of year when pudding after your Sunday roast switches from pavlova or ice cream to gooey, sweet apple crumble with a browned, burnished topping (or if you’re very lucky, Salted Caramel Apple Crumble)!
Butternut Squash is a favourite of mine. In soups, in curries, in stews or just roasted – it’s beautiful, sweet and golden and it wouldn’t fit anywhere else, but Autumn!
Autumn Lamb just fills me with images of big Sunday dinners. Lots of friends and family chattering and laughing, bottles of robust red wine, overflowing dishes of roast potatoes and, at the heart of it all, a bronzed and meltingly tender, roast leg of lamb.
Love lamb? Try my Slow Cooker Lamb Shanks 🙂
Other than horseradish sauce, I can honestly say that I’ve never cooked with horseradish, elderberries or damsons. This month, I intend to change that, so keep an eye out for seasonal recipes coming up….
ps – it’s worth noting that elderberries should never be eaten raw because they contain a poisonous alkaloid which becomes harmless once cooked
Want to know more? Here’s what I wrote last September!
August has a lot of pressure on it in my book. I always consider it to be the heart of the British summer and the sultriest month of the year. So when it isn’t, then that’s summer ruined. August is the last chance for a heatwave – next stop, Autumn, so it had better be good!
With clement conditions, August brings forth yet more wonderful seasonal produce for us to drool over, dribble down our fronts and delight in…
Figs always remind me of wonderful childhood holidays in Malaga, with my Auntie and Uncle. They grow figs and at this time of year, there is always an absolute glut (if that’s possible – not sure there is such a thing as too many figs!) so we would have them for breakfast with Greek yoghurt & honey, for lunch with salad, Serrano ham and goats cheese and for snacks whenever the mood took us…which it often did.
Fig Recipes from Martha Stewart
Sweetcorn is one of those wonderful vegetables which is so simple to prepare but so wonderful to experience – emphasis on the word ‘experience’ and not just ‘eat’. Who isn’t taken back to childhood BBQ’s or summer meals, where you’d gnaw at the cob to get every last kernel, buttery goodness all over your face but you really don’t care because it’s just so good?
As for plums and blackberries, these always signal the first signs of Autumn to me (alert! alert!) but what sweeter, juicier signals could you ask for? They’re just begging to be picked and turned into all manner of wonderful jams and puddings – all of which will make you feel much better about the impending arrival of colder weather and darker evenings.
Plum Recipes from BBC food
I love all shellfish. My son often asks me what my favourite food is and after much tortuous soul searching, I nearly always tell him that it’s crab.
The crayfish which is native to our waters is actually protected, but luckily, our waters are teeming with the Signal Crayfish, originating from North America. These are fair game and even fairer eating.
Barbecued Lime and Chilli Crayfish – Nadia Lim
I’ve always dreamed of living by the sea. I even have my own ‘Dream Beach House‘ board on Pinterest for goodness sake! I long for romantic candlelit dinners on the beach and long, barefoot walks with my big, shaggy (currently non-existent) dog, first thing in the morning as the sun just starts to rise on another perfect, blue skied day….. ahem, anyway, one of the OTHER reasons, is that I rather like the idea of foraging for wonderful seaside goodies like sea purslane and samphire. If you’ve never tasted samphire, then the best way that I can describe it is to say that it tastes of the sea and (not surprisingly), goes best with other seafood.
Wild mushrooms are another goodie, which signal the start of Autumn. While crab is probably my favourite food (I can’t bring myself to commit 100%), then Wild Mushroom Risotto (done well) is probably among my favourite meals (again, notice the lack of real commitment – afterall, there are just so many others!)
I SO know that feeling. It’s kind of like writer’s block for cooks. You’re sitting, pen in hand and surrounded by recipe books, trying to plan your week’s meals but completely without inspiration. Or worse still, you’re stuck in supermarket hell – no list, no plan, no clue – and no escape until you’ve managed to fill your trolley with ingredients for the next seven days.
You end up with the same old tried and tested meals week in and week out. You make them in auto-pilot while absent-mindedly reliving a conversation with some idiot who annoyed you earlier in the day (only this time giving them a much wittier and more cutting response). Then you and the family sit down and eat the meal without really noticing it as you all gaze at the telly letting yet another repeat of The Simpsons wash over you…
In this new monthly post, I hope that I can help you to keep things fresh (literally and metaphorically) by keeping them seasonal.
I’m a big fan of seasonal eating and in today’s world of ‘natural’ this and ‘free from’ that, then what could make more sense than planning your meals around foods that are local, fresh and at their cheapest and most delicious?
Regular readers of my blog (I love you all – thank you!) will know that I post a monthly summary of the foods that are coming into season along with a few suggestions on what recipes you could make with them.
Plus this month I did this guest post with three great seasonal recipes for July!
In these new seasonal feast posts, I will combine two of my favourite foodie topics – eating seasonally, and turning mealtimes from something functional and habit driven into an occasion to savour and take pleasure from.
Here’s a quick re-cap of what’s in season this month...
This is when we hit the peak of British summertime (although admittedly it can sometimes be hard to believe. I write this as the rain beats down outside…)
Ideally it’s a time when we can make the most of our outside spaces, whether they be gardens, local parks or beaches. So why not grab a basket, cool box and a few blankets and surprise you family with an impromptu picnic one evening instead of the usual TV dinner?
It doesn’t need to be fancy, elaborate or time consuming – you don’t even need to go further than your own back lawn if you don’t want to! Just get out there, chat about your day, laugh about that annoying idiot from earlier, and savour the tastes of the summer!
Don’t you just love the explosion of colour in summer? The soft, blossomy pinks and yellows of spring have subsided and have been replaced by brighter, bolder colours more fitting for the dramatic weather of July. Sultry and sweaty one moment, then dark and stormy the next. Fantastic!
As always, the month’s seasonal foods share this sense of drama with big, brash colours and dark, heavy flavours…
I love beetroot in all its forms – pickled in a ham sandwich or just boiled and in a soup or salad. It’s sweet, earthiness goes brilliantly with a sharp, creamy goats cheese, or tangy orange.
Peaches are so tantalizing this time of year, that it almost seems a shame to do anything more with it than just pluck them from the fruit bowl and gratefully savour each bite. That being said, a peach tart with crumbly, buttery pastry and the sweet, juicy fruit, really is something to behold. The only way to improve it is to add a dollop of vanilla ice cream…
As for watermelon, well they’re virtually medicinal this time of year. On those really hot days when you just can’t get cool, then a big slice of chilled watermelon is like a blissful dive into a cool swimming pool on the first day of your hols. Try whizzing it up in your blender with some ice cubes and a bit of lime juice. Doesn’t get more refreshing than that! If you want to add a drop of vodka then I’m not going to stop you…
For some recipes including all three of these fantastic seasonal treats, check out a recent guest post that I wrote over on Allspice & Acrylics for a really inspirational blogger called Amy Oestreicher. Do take the time to have a look round her blog too – her story is an amazing one.
It’s a great time to live by the sea! Shame I live in Nottingham really… These are some of my favourites when it comes to seafood. Scallops are such a huge luxury for me. Done properly they just melt in your mouth and are sweet and beautiful. I absolutely love them cooked simply in some butter, maybe with some crispy smoked bacon lardons or some pureed, minted peas… As for squid, these are so often maligned, being called rubbery and chewy. This is only the case if they’re over-cooked. Done just right, they are tender as can be and just perfect with some garlic, lemon and chilli.
Scallops with Pancetta & Mint Butter – Jamie Oliver
Scallop Pops – Josh Eggleton/Great British Chefs
Salt & Pepper Squid – Nigella
Greek Style Squid with Lemon, Garlic & Olive Oil – Delia Online
I love this time of year. Everything looks lush and green and full of colour. It’s as if the world (or at least our little corner of it) has woken from a long, winter sleep and new life is shooting up everywhere you look.
As you might expect, it’s a month of plenty when it comes to seasonal food, so get out there, stock up and enjoy some fresh, local produce at its best 🙂
Well of course strawberries are in season – it’s Wimbledon at the end of the month! Doesn’t this seem like the perfect month to make the quintessentially English favourite, Summer Pudding? As a kid, I was always a bit squeamish about eating this because I didn’t like the idea of bread in a pudding. However, I grew braver in adulthood and am so glad because Summer Pudding is now one of my absolute favourites, served chilled with a good splash of single cream. Bliss!
This month, why not enjoy some of the wonderful seafood available? This list reminds me of holidays in Cornwall where virtually every meal is fresh fish of some sort (well apart from the odd pastie thrown in of course!) The beauty of it is, you have to do so little to it to experience it at its best. Just keep it simple and enjoy the wonderful taste of the sea.
Firstly, an apology is in order for missing the last few months and not posting any seasonal food between February-April. Today, I’m putting things right with a reminder of all the wonderful foods out there that will be in season in May…
Just seeing those top two, fills me with a real sense of pleasure. Asparagus is always such a treat and I really believe that not much beats the humble pea. My little boy and I love to sit and munch our way through bags of fresh peas at this time of year – although I can’t help but feel that I’m doing all the shelling and Jacob is doing all the eating…
Another gorgeous selection! Sardines always remind me of holidays to Spain where we eat them fresh from the BBQ with a beautiful zingy salsa full of zesty lemon.
This is the one that I’m MOST excited about! Last year, I was given a recipe for Elderflower Champagne, but I didn’t get around to collecting any Elderflower before its season was finished so I’ve waited a whole year in anticipation of finally giving it a go! If it’s good, I’ll be sure to post it but in the meantime, here’s something to be going on with…