February - seasonal food & recipes
|Published: 6th February 2011 09:28|
Two of the foods which have remained seasonal are available in February. Forced rhubarb's season is just starting and Seville oranges' is unfortunately coming to an end for another year. Also available at this time of year is Wild salmon, it is very important to look at where your fish is coming from in these times of over-fishing and pollution. Broccoli is a colourful highlight this month, a touch of green to liven up those root vegetables that have seen us through the winter. Guinea fowl, hare and venison are still in season and make a tasty game pie.
Grown in the dark in the Rhubarb triangle in Yorkshire, between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford, rhubarb is actually native to Siberia, not quite sure what this says about Yorkshire, but anyway that's where the best rhubarb is to be found. The first tender British rhubarb stems arrive in February, bringing tart tangy flavour and pretty pastel pink colour. Grown in the dark and picked by candle light, apparently it grows so fast you can hear it creak as it grows. It is at it's best very simply braised in the oven in the minimum amount of water and sugar, to intensify it's natural flavour. You can make a classic crumble or cobbler, or a more sophisticated lightly set seductively wobbly jelly.
Who could forget that St. Valentines day is also in February so try Our Romanic Rose and Rhubarb Pavlova.
Or our super simple Rhubarb and ginger tart.
Lightly blanched or steamed broccoli is delicious, crisp and nutritious but star getting into the realm of the over cooked floret and things are very different. It's a good source of Vitamin A, and vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B9, iron and fibre. Broccoli has as much calcium ounce per gram as milk and contains a few important phytochemicals. Phytochemicals prevent cancer causing substances from forming. They also stop carcinogens from getting to target cells and help boost enzymes that detoxify carcinogens. So get eating that Broccoli. Purple sprouting broccoli is also good, smaller tender stems, great gently steamed and then tossed in butter and parmesan. To encourage my daughter to eat broccoli I make little broccoli and cheese cakes, she love to help me mash the potato and shape the little patties. You can also make a food picture with the broccoli as trees. I love broccoli in a stir fry, barely cooked and really crunchy.
See our recipe for family friendly Broccoli cakes.
I couldn't live with out onions, I think I must use at least one a day everyday. They form the base for stews, soups, pasta sauces, gravies, curries, chillies, stir fry they are low in calories but high in flavour. A roast onion makes an interesting change as an accompaniment to roast beef. You can't beat French onion soup with crusty bread smothered in melting gruyere cheese for a warming lunch. Onions should be kept in a cool, dry open space away from bright light, and keep better in an area that allows air circulation, because onions absorb moisture it is a good idea to keep them away form the fridge which is actually quite damp. If kept correctly onions can keep for up to eight weeks.
See our French onion soup recipe.
Vastly superior to farmed salmon, wild salmon is naturally a darker pink, leaner and has fewer toxins than farmed salmon. Because of its rich Omega 3, 6 and vitamin E content salmon absorbs and retains PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls, which are about as good for you as they sound) which are much higher in farmed salmon than in wild salmon. It is however on the ‘Marine Conservation Society's do not eat list' and has a woeful sustainability rating of 5, the advice that they give is to avoid eating wild caught Atlantic salmon from depleted stocks. Choose MCS certified wild caught Pacific salmon from Alaska. So have one piece and really enjoy it!
See our seasonal feast of Pan seared Wild salmon with celeriac mash and buttered leeks.
Seville oranges have the most amazingly strong and somewhat bitter orange flavour, making them perfect for cooking with, but you wouldn't exactly like to sit down and eat one. These fabulously tangy fruit only have a short season and one of the best ways of extending this is to make marmalade. Marmalade made with Seville oranges is the best, because of the strong bitter flavour is not overtaken by the sweetness of the sugar.
See our Seville orange marmalade recipe.
Also see our Marmalade fruit loaf recipe.
One of the few salad leaves available in February, chicory sometimes called endive or radicchio can be eaten raw or cooked. In Italy especially in Rome, chicory is used widely as a side vegetable braised and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, in France it is more commonly served Au gratin in a creamy cheese sauce. It has a slightly bitter herbal taste but has a welcome freshness and works well with creamy dressings.
Try our Chicory Caesar Salad
Brill is delicious simply cooked. It can be poached, steamed, fried, seared or grilled, then served with a classic French sauce such as champagne beurre blanc. Incorporate it in soup-stews such as bourride or, for something more contemporary, try it raw as part of a sashimi platter.
To see our recipe for Steamed Fillet of Brill with a Sweet Pepper Sauce.
Cabbage is used through out the world in almost every cuisine. It is fantastic in a stir fry, as a side dish with liver and bacon casserole or preserved as sauerkraut. At this time of year it is also nice to make a simple coleslaw to brighten up the seasonally heavy dishes.
Try our vegetarian winter warmer, winter cabbage rolls
Simple cooking styles work best with freshly caught mussels -buy them live, from Ocean Catch, Minehead for best results. People are often frightened of Mussels but there's no need to be if you follow a few simple rules. When you buy mussels, they should all have closed shells. If any are open, give them a firm tap on the kitchen counter on their base and they should close after a few seconds. Discard any that don't close, as they run the risk of contamination. Keep mussels damp and cool until you want to use them. Use them on the day that you buy them.
Mussels are usually steamed in a little flavoured liquid until the shells have opened. In the Belgian way with white wine and parsley and finished with cream served with fries, crusty bread and a cold Beer. They're often baked or grilled on the half-shell too.
Of course February means Shrove Tuesday (February 16th) which means pancakes! Traditionally made to use up all of the goodies in your cupboard before Lent, which was traditionally a period of penance for all. English pancakes are thicker than the French crepe, but much more delicate than their rather substantial American cousins. Pancakes are great with in season tangy Lemons, Oranges and Blood oranges and of course a good sprinkle of granulated sugar.
See our fool proof pancake recipe.
Article, recipes & pictures by Emma Allsopp