Anyone who knows me knows I am a lover of nature and I firmly believe that we should all be working more in harmony with it, and if we do so, we will reap far greater rewards. One way that we can do that is by eating seasonal produce. Not only do we get great tasting fruits and vegetables at their very best, but it benefits our pockets too. You will also notice that nature has a great way of telling us what goes well together, as quoted by Mike Jennings “Nature puts certain produce in front of us at certain times of the year for a reason. You get grouse and at the same time you get blackberries and elderberries. So it is nature’s way of saying there is a classic combination.”
When you are planning your meals over the next few weeks and out shopping for your groceries, or getting the “messages” as some of us say in Scotland, look out for the following;
vegetable wise we have Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, and Swede. In the fruit bowl we should be placing Seville Oranges from abroad and on the butchers block hare and venison.
Now when was the last time you saw hare down Sainsbury’s? hmmm, probably not for a while, you will most likely have to head out to your nearest butchers or farmers market to get some. Unless you live in the countryside of course when I’m quite sure it will be readily available from your local gamekeeper or farmer. Hare much to my surprise can make quite a few meals serving up to eight people. Make a roast of the shoulder and saddle, stew from the legs and soup from the head and trimmings. And if you have the stomach for it ‘jugged’ hare which is made from the blood and offal, said to be a very fine stew rich in flavour and texture. Hmmm, yummy!?
Venison like hare is a rich gamey meat, but has a tendency to dry. Moisture can be locked in by wrapping the haunch, which makes a delicious rare roast, in the skin of a ham. A recommended accompaniment with the meat is a Cumberland sauce. Tougher cuts make great hearty stews full of rich flavour. If made the day before eating the flavours intensify and really come into their own.
Now I confess I have never eaten Kohlrabi so I would welcome any comments or suggestions on this hardy winter vegetable. I believe it is related to the turnip and swede, both of which I am familiar. Swede or when mashed, neeps’, is obviously a Scottish staple and most often eaten alongside haggis. When mashed together with potato it makes the lovely Orkney dish called clapshot. Swedes are also lovely roasted alongside parsnips and carrots.
Kale is probably one of my favourite winter vegetables which I am particularly fond of crisped. Just wash the chopped kale, drizzle with olive oil, season and place on a baking tray in the oven for 6 – 7 minutes at 200 degrees C / 400 F / Gas mark 6 . Watch out for it because it turns very quickly. It tastes just delicious this way. Of course it’s great steamed too but if you have never tried it crisped, then you definately should.
Leaks are probably a little forgotten about but they really do make a nice dish. They are lovely as an accompaniment sauted in a little butter and seasoned. I have been served them stir fried with chicken before which was really quite lovely or add them to soups and stocks for great flavouring.
And last of all Seville Oranges, almost all of which are shipped from Spain to Britain, are very bitter and only around for eight weeks, January through February. Their bitterness and special flavour in the rind make great marmalade!
Now I appreciate that not everyone is into making marmalade and quite possibly you may never have had hare in your life! So why not make an easy new year’s resolution and try out at least one new ingredient that is in season each month.