Its January…a new year begins and I’m sure many of you are thinking that a new you will emerge. Christmas parties, dinners, mulled wine, mince pies, champagne, cake, pudding, chocolate (the list goes on and on…) will have taken their toll and most people will be starting to crave eating a bit healthier, drinking a bit less and exercising a bit more. Of course, the miserably cold weather outside won’t be helping matters but I guess that’s what gym memberships are for. I, for one, certainly need to get back on track with my marathon training. In just 111 days I will be attempting to run 26.2 miles around London, and my training has taken a beating with all this rain, a cold, and what seems like a limitless supply of cake at my parent’s house!
So, like thousands of others, I will be taking it easy on the food and drink in January, and stepping up the exercise. As always, its best to eat seasonably if you can and kale is bang on season in January. It is a great detox food as its full of fibre and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.
Related to the cabbage family, kale is a great alternative to cabbage. It has a much stronger taste and works really well when blanched and sautéed with garlic and a little chilli. Kale is one of the few green vegetables that is more abundant and flavourful during the coldest months of the year and its perfect for adding to stews and soups.
High in fiber, it is great for aiding digestion. It is also a terrific source of iron, vitamins C, A and K, and is packed with antioxidants.
Make sure leaves are green when you buy it…yellow or mottled leaves will be bitter.
Also at their best are carrots.
Crunchy and tasty, carrots will keep you fresh all winter. There is so much flavour packed into their skins, they simply need steaming or boiling gently for between three and five minutes (depending on how crunchy you like them). Their delicate flavour can be complimented with a little butter and orange zest, or tarragon and thyme. Many will pair them with coriander but personally I think coriander is the devil’s herb so I won’t be doing that myself.
Carrots are so versatile, you can roast them with some garlic and a scattering of cumin seeds until caramelised and golden. Or you can mash them with lots of butter, salt and black pepper. I like to mash them with other root vegetables such as parsnips and sweet potatoes You can also make soup, carrot and coriander being a favourite amongst many people (those who don’t find coriander evil). I add carrots to my butternut squash soup. Carrots are also delicious simply eaten raw as a healthy snack.
Of course, if you want to take the slightly sweeter route, carrot cake is always a winner, especially when slathered in cream cheese frosting. I have made this recipe many times and it always goes down a treat.
Another vegetable in season right now is the swede.
Swedes (known as rutabaga in the US) are often mistaken for turnip but they are in fact a cross between turnip and a variety of cabbage. They may not be too pretty (so lumps and bumps are fine when buying them) but with their creamy purple skin and rounded shape swede is a popular root vegetable. Swedes have a pale orange-yellow coloured flesh with a bittersweet, mustardy flavour and they are extremely tasty, going especially well with carrots and potato. They purée well and in combination with root vegetables makes delicious, sweetly nutty mash. They also works well mixed with root veg and onions in beef or lamb stews.
However swede can be simply boiled or steamed and dressed with olive oil or butter, roasted like potatoes, or sliced and fried with garlic until browned, then sprinkled with salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese. You can also eat it raw as crudité or shredded in salads.
Traditionally served with haggis in Scotland on Burn’s Night, swedes are a great source of vitamin A and some minerals, such as magnesium and potassium. Larger swedes tend to be woody and tough so choose young, smaller swedes with smoother skin if possible, they should be much tastier.
Beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage (savoy and spring green), cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chicory, horseradish, jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, parsnips, potatoes (maincrop), salsify, shallots, swede, truffles (black), turnips.
Apples, chestnuts, clementines, walnuts, pears, seville oranges.
MEAT & GAME
Duck, pheasant, guinea fowl, hare, mallard, partridge, turkey, venison.
FISH & SHELLFISH
Clams, cockles, dab, dover sole, gurnard, haddock, halibut, hake, langoustine, lemon sole, lobster, mackerel, mussels, oysters, red mullet, scallops (queen), sea bream, skate, turbot, winkles.