Special snow edition with extra recipes!
I do feel better for having a winter salad every day. The idea is simple, but the result depends on the quality of ALL the ingredients: dressing, veg and fruit. These can be any or all of: raw grated beet/swede/celeriac/parsnip, finely sliced cabbage/fennel, grated black or white radish (mooli), plenty of eating/cooking apple, oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, yoghurt, raisins, nuts or seeds. The type of apple is important: if you use cookers, you may not even need vinegar or lemon juice.
In the garden, don’t be too tidy: don't cut down perennial plants until spring: they provide habitat for overwintering creatures and lovely seedheads for the birds.
As ground becomes vacant, you can dig it over and spread manure. Leave the soil roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break them up as they get the manure. The freezing and thawing of water will cause the soil to break up finely so it becomes easier to handle in spring.
Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day, and you can still plant garlic. They like sun, and woodash.
If you leave veg in the ground, apply a thick mulch (straw, bracken) for protection, and to get them out more easily.
It's good to give the brassica's some attention before the worst of the weather. Firm the soil around the stems, mulch with well rotted manure and support them with canes where necessary. Pick off yellowing leaves.
As ground becomes vacant, dig it over and spread manure. Leave roughly dug in large clumps and the worms will break them up as they get the manure. The freezing and thawing of water will cause the soil to break up finely, so it becomes easier to handle in spring.
Veg: Brussels, beet, sprout tops, cabbage, celeriac, celery, corn salad, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, rocket, salsify, kale, kohlrabi, landcress, leeks, parsnips, pumpkin/squash, spinach, swede, turnips, winter radish, endive, winter purslane.
Game: wood pigeon, pheasant, wild duck, goose, grouse, partridge, venison.
Fish: dab, megrim, clams, crab, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, scallops, sea bass, whiting. Megrim or Cornish sole is cheap, sustainable and local. Cook like sole or plaice.
Kale is my favourite veg, not least because it contains an inordinate amount of vitamins and minerals. This is what Michel Roux Jr says about it, according to the Guardian:
"I would suggest kale as an excellent alternative for your Christmas meal. It's a wonderfully British vegetable; it's in season now and, in my opinion, is far superior: it has a naturally sweet taste, as opposed to the slightly bitter flavour of sprouts. Simply boil the kale in water, making sure you add plenty of salt. Remove from the boiling water and place immediately in iced water, which will help to retain the crunch. Toss in butter, with salt and pepper. Add a touch of nutmeg for an extraChristmassy flavour."
To use up brussels sprouts:
-Raw: shred very finely, fry with bacon and garlic.
-Cooked: add leftovers to bubble and squeak, top with fried egg.
To use up white cabbage:
-Stir fry with garlic and ginger, serve with sesame seeds and soy, good oil and lemon.
-Make coleslaw: shred red and white cabbage or fennel with apple. Mix, add finely diced red onion, mint, parsley, mustard seeds. With yoghurt and cider vinegar dressing.
BUBBLE 'n SQUEAK
Great for leftovers. Serve with egg and crispy bacon, poached smoked haddock fillets or grilled trout.
1 red onion, finely chopped, 4 rashers streaky bacon cut into small pieces, 450g leftover mashed potato, 300g leftover mixed cooked veg – like parsnips, brussels, cabbage, carrots, cauli or broccoli, chopped; 25 g grated cheese.
Heat oil, cook onion till soft. Add bacon, cook for a further 3-4 mins. Remove pan from heat, transfer contents into bowl. Add mash and veg, season. Add cheese, divide into 6 cakes. Coat each in flour. Fry until golden.
These cakes can be frozen before frying.
Alternative Christmas Dessert: SWEET-BAKED BUTTERNUT PUD serves 6.
500g peeled, cooked, mashed butternut squash, 2 eggs, 350 ml cream (or evaporated milk), 100g brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla bourbon (optional), 1 tsp cinnamon (and/or nutmeg, mixed spice), 1/2 tsp ginger, pinch of salt.
Preheat oven to 160°C. Beat eggs; mix in squash. Stir in the rest. Pour into dish. For best results, place dish into larger pan, add 1" of hot water. Bake for 40 mins. Test with skewer. Serve hot.
PUMPKIN and PARSNIP CASSOULET
2 tbsp oil, 2 large chopped onions, 500g peeled diced pumpkin, 500g diced parsnips, 3 crushed garlic, 600g cooked drying beans (if tinned: weigh after draining), 780g tin tomatoes, 225ml red wine, 300ml stock/water, thyme, 75g breadcrumbs, 25g grated mature cheese.
Heat oven to 180°C. Heat oil, add onions, fry for 5 mins. Add pumpkin, parsnips, garlic and cook for 3 more mins. Stir in beans, tomatoes, wine, stock, thyme, sugar, seasoning. Bring to boil, cover, cook for ab. 15 mins. Transfer to oven dish, press beans/veg beneath the liquid. Sprinkle with crumbs and cheese. Cook for 40 mins.
ROOT VEGETABLE CRUMBLE with CHEESY TOPPING
300g carrots chopped small, 500g cubed mixed root vegetables eg parsnips, swede, celeriac, kohlrabi; 1 chopped onion, 2 tbsp olive oil, 40g flour, 40g butter, 400ml milk, 1 tbsp parsley, 1 tbsp creme fraiche, 1 tbsp horseradish, 50g grated mature cheddar, 50g wholemeal breadcrumbs, sea salt, black pepper, nutmeg.
Heat oven to 190°C. Heat a frying pan, add olive oil and saute carrots, roots and onion for 4-5 mins. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg. Put in oven proof dish. For the sauce, melt butter, add flour, cook for 1 min. Don't brown. Remove from heat, add milk, whisk until smooth. Place back on heat, bring to boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for 1 min., remove from heat. Add horseradish and creme, season, pour over the mix. Mix cheese and crumbs, sprinkle over veg. Bake in oven for 30-40 mins. You may add kidney or butter beans.
WARM SQUASH and WALNUT SALAD
800g squash, 100g walnut halves, peppery green leaves like rocket, (grated mature cheese), large head of garlic, 12 sage leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper.
Peel and deseed squash, cut into small chunks. Break garlic into cloves, don't peel! Toss squash and garlic with little oil, salt, pepper, sage. Roast at 200°C for 1 hour till squash soft and browning at edges. Put walnuts in separate dish, put in oven for the last 15 mins to toast lightly, toss with squash and garlic. Put pile of leaves in individual dishes, scatter squash, the garlic squeezed out of its skin, walnuts over. Serve straight away with cheese or with pan-fried white fish (pollack, bass, bream) or scallops.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH with STILTON
Squash: 1 lb peeled, deseeded, diced; 8 oz diced potatoes, 5 oz crumbled Stilton, 4 fl.oz sour cream, 1 chopped red onion, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp fresh chopped basil, 1 large crushed garlic clove, 1 tsp tabasco, parsley.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Mix everything together, put in shallow dish, foil on top. bake for 15 mins. Remove foil, bake till done.
2 parsnips, swede or large carrots; 200g cooked chick peas/dry beans; 1 sliced onion, 4 sliced garlic cloves, 1-2cm grated ginger, 1 chopped fresh chilli, ½ tsp cumin seeds, ½ tsp coriander seeds, (½ tsp fenugreek seeds), 1 tin chopped tomatoes, (seasonal greens), salt, oil.
Heat pan without oil. Add cumin, coriander (and fenugreek), cook for 2 mins until they jump. Take from heat, crush. Saute onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in oil until soft. Add ground seeds, cook for 2 mins. Chop parsnip into smallish cubes. Add to pan, stir. Cover, saute for 5 mins. Add tomatoes and peas/beans, stir. Cover, simmer for 20 mins. I like my greens, so I add finely cut spinach or escarole at the last moment, and let it warm through for a minute or two. Season.
The flavours improve on keeping.
BAKED BUTTERNUT SQUASH serves 4 as a side dish.
This can be roasting whilst you’re cooking the rest of the meal.
1 large butternut squash, 15 ml vegetable oil.
Chop squash in half, remove seeds. Brush cut surface with oil. Bake at 180°C for 30 mins, until soft. If it starts to brown too much, lightly cover with foil. Serve as a side dish.
For variation, stuff with: finely chopped onion, garlic and thyme leaves
or sweetcorn, Cheddar and chilli
or crushed pine nuts, breadcrumbs and sage
or chopped dried apricots, raisins, grated apple and ground almonds.
POTATO and GARLIC CELERIAC MASH serves 4 as a side dish.
Celeriac is a useful source of vitamins/minerals; garlic an immune system booster.
1 celeriac, 3 potatoes, 3 cloves garlic crushed, 1 tbsp olive oil, 25g butter, 50ml milk, 1 tsp mustard, salt, pepper (50g grated cheddar).
Peel celeriac, chop into 2 cm chunks. The same with the potatoes. Boil together for 15 mins, drain. Heat oil and butter in the potato pan, add garlic, saute gently until soft. Add milk, salt, pepper, mustard: mix. Return potatoes/celeriac to pan, mash, (add cheddar, mix).
KALE PESTO PASTA serves 4 as a light lunch.
Even kale-haters may well like this. It also works with spinach, chard or black nero cabbage. Use kale as soon as possible after getting it, or it goes bitter.
Pasta for 4, 100g stripped kale (or spinach/swiss chard), 2 crushed garlic cloves, handful pine nuts, 3 tblsp double cream or crème fraîche, (grated mature cheddar), 1 tblsp oil, pinch of salt.
Heat oil, gently saute garlic 2 minutes. Wash kale, chop roughly, add to garlic. Cover, cook 2 mins until kale starts to wilt. Blend pine nuts until smooth. Add cream (and nutmeg), blitz again. Add kale and garlic, process until smooth. Season, add cheese. Cook pasta, drain. Add veg pesto to pasta, mix.
highly recommended: The Yoga of Eating, by Charles Eisenstein. This book does not tell you what to eat and what not to eat, nor is it a book about nutrition, or a “yogic diet.” Instead it is a practical and inspiring manual that explains how to access and trust the wisdom your body has to offer.
NEXT MONTH: kale, and sugar (not at the same time, although ....)!