In-season Christmas picks
You know it’s Christmas when the radio starts playing all those seasonal belters. But another key marker of the festive season is all those gorgeous smells coming from the kitchen. A quick browse of our produce aisles will reveal a few seasonal gifts that keep on giving.
In-season produce picks
Larger than the turnip and with a rough skin that’s partly tan and partly purple, the swede’s unpolished appearance belies its fine texture and distinctively sweet-tasting flesh. When roasted or mashed, swede makes a simple and tasty side dish. It can also be used to add interest to stews or in a variety of twists on mashed potato
This way it won’t drop inside the pumpkin when you put it back on top, like it would with a straight up-and-down cut. A boning knife should work well for this.
We have the Romans to thank for Britain’s abundance of sweet chestnut trees – they highly rated chestnuts as a cookery ingredient and rightly so. These beautiful, shiny nuts are wonderfully versatile and, in spite of what the name may suggest, they’re equally at home in sweet or savoury dishes. The chestnut season is brief, but whole peeled chestnuts are easily found through November and December.
It’s a staple on Christmas Day but, as its season is coming to an end, why not make more of it in late autumn? It lends itself well to slow cooking, but it’s also good when shredded raw into winter salads. Look for firm, shiny cabbages that feel heavy for their size. Red cabbage keeps well when wrapped and chilled.
Pale yellow or ivory in colour and shaped like a slightly bulbous carrot, parsnips are one of the tastiest and most appealing root vegetables. This hardy root vegetable enjoys cool climates – it requires frost to convert its starches to sugars and develop its sweet, nutty flavor. Cheap and simple to prepare, their soft, fragrant, slightly sweet flesh adds a warm, comforting element to dishes.
Clementines & Satsumas
Whether they’re placed in a decorative bowl or stuffed in a stocking, these citrus fruits are a staple part of Christmas and at their best. Although we may associate citrus fruits with sunshine, they typically don’t become ripe until autumn and winter months, so have traditionally been seen as a signal that Christmas is on the way.
With their glossy, leathery skin containing hundreds of seeds that sparkle in bright pinkish-red pulp and juice, there’s something very festive about pomegranates. Their attractive appearance and fragrant sweet-sharp juice adds excitement to both desserts and mains.
Like Marmite, Brussels sprouts are a somewhat divisive food, although there are plenty of ways to bring out the best in these seasonal greens. When prepared with a little care, sprouts are a wonderfully satisfying vegetable with a delicious, fresh flavour and just the right amount of crunch. They can be served simply as a side vegetable (perhaps with some chopped chestnuts or a sprinkling of sesame seeds), added to casseroles or sliced and stir-fried. We recommend trying them with beef and oyster sauce.
In-season poultry picks
Before being usurped by turkey, goose was the preferred choice for the Christmas lunch table in England. More recently, there are signs of it making a bit of a comeback. Goose meat is richer and darker than turkey. It has a higher fat content, but a lot of that melts away during cooking leaving deliciously tasty and succulent meat. Although not cheap, goose makes a wonderful treat for any special meal and the fat can be used for incredible roast potatoes to go alongside it.
While it’s the traditional Christmas bird, turkey is good to eat all year round. Although, it’s only readily available in portions (rather than a whole bird) most of the year. You may not be able to carve up a turkey for 12 but, with smaller gathers now the norm, that should suit just fine.