Saturday, 5 January 2013

What's in Season... January

We've made it through the gluttony of Christmas and should probably be looking to detox and diet our way through the dragging month of January but, according to Paul Waddington in his book Seasonal Food, instead the seasonal foodie should be celebrating the rare and wonderful treats in season this month. It can't be denied that January is traditionally one of the leaner months on the seasonal calendar, a time when food from store would have been heavily relied upon. There are a few seasonal highlights making an appearance this month, however, which promise to brighten up any winter plate. 

Waddington recommends getting to grips with a whole hare this month, the wild hare not only being a rare find these days but a larger, richer and more gamey meat source than the rabbit. Vegetarians, look away now. Traditionally the whole hare was utilised, its blood becoming quite the delicacy when thickened and used to flavour a stew of the legs, or cooked in a tall earthenware jug in a large pan of water to produce the classic "jugged hare" stew. Although not sure I'm up for the challenge, the head is also recommended for making good gravy to accompany the roast shoulder and saddle.

January brings good news for fans of fancy and flavourful vegetables. Seasonal Food celebrates kale, now well-known and relatively trendy, as one of the hardiest plants in the garden along with leeks and swede, surfacing in January to give us some much-needed colourful comfort food. Kale is the last man standing of the winter vegetable crops and becomes a healthy addition to a steak, roast dinner or casserole when steamed for a few minutes, seasoned and served on the side. The leek is another reliable winter ingredient, although in season from August to March it livens up the lean offerings from the garden at this time of year and is essential for the ultimate comfort food: Vichysoisse and Cock-a-Leekie soups. I use it to add flavour to boring old casseroles and stocks and, since being educated on its gourmet qualities on a recent trip to France, will be reproducing a delicious creamed leek, spinach and garlic side dish this month. 

New in season is the very attractive and equally tasty purple sprouting broccoli, which is perfect lightly steamed so it retains a little crunch and served alongside fish such as the seasonal turbot. January is also the season of the often overlooked swede, just in time to be mashed as "neeps" and served with haggis for Burns Night suppers - a rich, meaty remedy to the post-Christmas blues.

Seasonal Food by Paul Waddington is published by Eden Project Books.

Read my last post: What's in Season... December