Bristol Fruit Market Report
Winter brings a time for slow cooked, hearty and warming dishes that fill the house with aromas and fill our bellies with fuel. It is a time for cooking root vegetables and warming soups, big stews and chillies packed with vegetables, beans and spices as well as traditional roast dinners. I wanted to write a post that is about winter rather than Christmas, so I’ve chosen recipes that will see you into the New Year. I have always been a cook who is happy to cater for many different diets at once; both at home and at work. In our house we are half meat eaters and half vegetarians so I always make a veggie centrepiece for festive meals that can be enjoyed by everyone, with a side dish of turkey or chicken if required! This month’s main course recipe is for a Vegetable Wellington which looks really festive (especially if you decorate it with pastry stars) but I make this all year round with a seasonal tweaks. This freezes well, of keeps in the fridge for a couple of days, so you can make it ahead so that you don’t have to cook this from scratch for Christmas lunch. You can make individual versions of this rather than big ones and have them in the freezer for any vegetarian guests; it is also a recipe that works well using dairy or gluten free alternatives.
Seasonal fruits are mainly imported during the winter and it is at this time that citrus fruits really come into season. Satsumas, tangerines and clementines are all at their juicy best, even if few people can tell the difference between them! I found out that the difference is in the shape and peel of the fruit; all three are cultivars of the Mandarin which was originally grown in China and Japan thousands of yours ago, and not imported to Europe until the 1900s. One main difference is that tangerines have a loose skin; clementines have a tight skin and are harder to peel, but have more flavour. To celebrate the citrus fruit I have written this Caramelised Clementine Tart recipe which lies somewhere between a Tart Citron and a Creme Brûlée: with an added twist of caramelised fruit. This recipe is one for a special occasion and is worth the effort of making your own pastry; I usually make a double pastry quantity to freeze for another day as it is just as easy to make a larger batch. You can use lemons in place of clementines or use any other variety of small orange or mandarin.
Part of making Christmas a relaxing time rather than a manic cooking rush is to cook ahead. I make different versions of cranberry sauce every year as well various pickles and crackers so that friends and family have a homemade gift rather than something shop bought. Cranberry Sauce is a tradition that has come from the USA as part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Homemade Cranberry Sauce is really easy to make and it is fun to add your own flavours and twists to a basic recipe. If you store Cranberry Sauce in a sterilised sealed container such as a Kilner jar it will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge but it doesn’t contain enough sugar to preserve it for as long as a chutney or pickle. You can freeze cranberry sauce in small quantities if you don’t like the idea of eating it for weeks. Cranberry sauce can be used a splash of colour and sharp taste for canapes and party food, you could also add a spoonful to cocktails or gravy. I’ve made a Gin version of cranberry sauce this year to add a modern twist but it is fine to make it with fruit juice or water instead. Add whatever fragrant spices you like to this such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise or nutmeg but try and remove them before you serve the sauce as there’s nothing worse than a bite of clove with your roast dinner!
Now Brussels Sprouts are one vegetable that is guaranteed a reaction no matter who you ask! They are a true ‘love them or hate them’ veg and it seems to me that there are more haters than lovers out there? I am firmly with the sprout lovers; I actually look forward to their season and eat the leaves as well as the sprouts. To me they are more interesting than cabbages and they are something that I hand over to my kids to prep, which is particularly fun if they are still attached to the ‘sprout tree’. I do have horrible memories of school dinner sprouts where they were boiled until the turn a palid yellow and I think this has influenced my preference for a bit of crunch! I like to lightly cook sprouts by steaming or stir frying them, or I cook them in the oven, as in the recipe I’ve written here. This recipe is a great side dish which is simply roasted, I love the combination of chestnuts and sprouts and adding chestnut mushrooms adds another flavour. I like leftovers of this the next day, and it tastes great stir fried with a little chilli and soy sauce served with noodles or rice.