Eating winter

Eating winter

By
Tom Hunt
Contains
42 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849494182
Photographer
Laura Edwards

Celeriac

October to March: Celeriac takes the prize on my table during the winter months for being the ugliest (by quite some distance), yet tastiest vegetable. Try roasting it to bring out its intense nuttiness and anise aroma and serving it with crème fraîche, or make a snowy white purée that is so rounded in flavour and sweet. You can even eat celeriac raw, thinly sliced into salads or made into a crunchy rémoulade.

When preparing celeriac, remember it can discolour quickly. This won’t affect the flavour but, if you want to keep it white, put the prepared celeriac in a bowl of water acidulated with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Choose a firm root that feels heavy for its size, as the centre can become light and fluffy and unusable. Celeriac keeps best in the fridge, although it will also be fine at room temperature. The tough skin is thick and needs to be removed, which can waste a lot of the root. Peel it with a serrated knife, removing any tough green flesh at the same time, then cut off the roots from the base.

Pumpkins

October to January: As other local vegetables become sparse on the market shelves, pumpkins keep swelling cheerfully and roundly in many guises, shapes and sizes that are a pleasure to explore. My favourite has to be the Crown Prince, a bulbous pumpkin that has a teal to Tiffany blue skin and a sweet, deep vibrant orange centre. It is perfect for blending into silky soups and purées. Other varieties, such as the yellow, voluptuous butternut, are good roasted.

Pumpkins are a mainstay of the cook’s autumn and winter larder. Storing well at room temperature, they keep for ages, even when cut open (it’s best to keep them in the fridge once they are cut). Buy pumpkins that are heavy for their size, as they will have more flesh and a smaller hollow at the centre.

The skins of some pumpkins and squashes, such as Crown Prince and butternut, are great roasted, so there’s no need to throw them instantly to the compost monster. I like to serve huge, rustic wedges of pumpkin for people to tackle and gnaw as they would a melon.

Pumpkin seeds are easily made into a delightful snack. Dry them in the oven, then season with spices and butter and/or sweet maple syrup.

Leeks

September to March: Leeks are one of our main winter crops and keep us going through the coldest months. They don’t only have to be used in standard soups, stocks and stews, however comforting those might be. Experiment with this earthy vegetable and discover your own treatments. Try leeks as they are here, in new guises: char-grilled in salads, on pizza with potatoes, or braised with wine and herbs.

Buy leeks that are a vibrant green, firm and crisp. Small leeks are better for char-grilling, while big leeks are good for stews and braising. Leeks keep well at room temperature, but will last for a bit longer if stored in the fridge.

The green tops are earthy and tough, but still full of flavour. Compost only the very darkest green tops, chop the rest finely and cook it all up alongside the lighter green-and-white stem, or use the dark green bits in stocks and broths.

Winter greens

October to February: Kale and chard are my favourite winter vegetables. Each time I eat them, I feel physically healthier and full of energy. We’re spoilt for choice these days with all sorts of varieties, from the purple Russian kale – my favourite salad leaf – via cavolo nero, the amazing black kale originally from Tuscany but now grown locally, to rainbow chard with its fabulous eye-popping colours. All these varieties are found in markets now without too much difficulty.

Buy smaller leaves for salads but, for cooking, large leaves are tastier and rich in iron. Look for fresh leaves that will be perky and squeakily crisp. Leafy greens often have a high level of pesticide residues, so buy organic when possible. Store, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the fridge.

Turnips

June to January: Turnips are understated gems, prime winter vegetables that are both cheap and fantastic to eat. Grate them and eat raw with a simple dressing, char-grill them and dress with yogurt, even eat the green tops wilted with spices.

Way back when they first appear on our shelves, in the warmth of June, turnips are sweet, small, crunchy little roots much like a radish. By the time we reach winter, they have grown into larger spheres with a more assertive, peppery twang.

Buy turnips with bright green, perky leaves. If they are old, they can become spongy inside, so choose roots that are heavy for their size. Remove the leaves and stalks and keep them in a bag in the fridge, storing the roots in the fridge separately.

Turnip leaves taste great. They can be cooked in a similar way to any other leafy green and are full of calcium and vitamins. The leaves will perish quickly, so use them up fast. The purple and white skin of the turnip root itself is also edible and best left on.

Cauliflowers

December to March: Cauliflower has had a kitchen reinvention in the past few years. Gone are the days of cheddar-laden cauli cheese and soggy, tasteless, over-boiled florets. Hello smooth cauliflower purée with roasted scallops and truffle, roasted cauliflower with exotic spices and herbs, and raw cauliflower ‘rice’ sushi.

Cauliflower is a crisp, subtly flavoured vegetable that should be revered. Choose those with white (not yellowed) curds with plenty of the leaves that protect them from bruising, and store in the fridge in a plastic bag. Cauliflower stalks are just as tasty as the florets, so don’t forget to add them to your dish; peel them first if the skin is a bit rough. The bigger green leaves can be tough and are best fed to the compost monster, but the smaller, yellower leaflets are delicious.

Oranges

December to March: Oranges are best in the UK during winter and into early spring, when they are imported from France and Spain. The main varieties are navel oranges – which are pipless, sweet and delicious eaters – and Seville oranges, which are sour and bitter, good raw but also used in bitter marmalade.

The main recipes I give here are desserts, but oranges work well in savoury dishes, too, such as in ceviche and salads. Try dressing carrots with a little freshly squeezed orange juice and a sprinkle of cinnamon, for a Moorish salad.

Buy firm oranges with no soft spots. Look for fruits that are heavy for their size; they should be juicier. Oranges keep well at room temperature for two weeks.

Orange zest is usually discarded, but can be used in a variety of ways. Use it in savoury recipes, such as red meat braises, for a boost of citrus twang. Dry the peel to use in mulled wine, or candy it by boiling in sugar syrup to use in fruit cakes and desserts.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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