Where is winter? Where is the winter this year? Am I making a fool out of myself writing about winter warmers, comfort food, soups and casseroles when it looks outside like we should be having picnics and barbecues? I guess I am.
Onwards to picnics then – hang on! I’m NOT doing it. Even if winters are no more in my part of the world (please, no!), it doesn’t mean we are having strawberries in February and asparagus in March (or at least not yet). No – it's seasonality, it’s beetroot, sprouts and mussels.
Mussels are absolutely the best this month in the UK, and cheap, so grab a bagful and don’t resent scrubbing. I secretly suspect they don’t scrub them in restaurants but just rinse and de-beard, but it’s your choice. Personally, I scrub. Cook them simply in creamy sauce, or make these gorgeous grilled moules with black pudding.
While we’re at cheap and seasonal seafood, see if you can find sprats at the fishmongers. Sprats or whitebait, if you don’t want to smell the house out and you shirk from frying (though they are arguably the best fried like this), whack them under the grill for three or four minutes; either way eat with your fingers – that’s a must.
Talking about smell (but I promise they won’t give you bad side effects if you add herbs like tarragon or mint to them), there are Jerusalem artichokes begging to be made into this creamy gratin. They have half the calories and half the starch of potatoes, if you’re interested in info like that. If that’s not your kind of veg, make a celeriac gratin or don’t bother with creamy sauce and bake the brute whole, in a salt crust. That’s a ‘wow’ and not only about how impressive it looks. Either of the above can make a main dish if served with lots of green salad.
For a quick weeknight dish look no further than hasselback chorizo – it’s my favourite quick meal and I can tell you a secret: I make that sometimes with a couple of ordinary frankies. Or you could combine the chorizo with runner beans and bulgur wheat for a satisfying salad.
What’s for afters? Cherry cornmeal muffins, that’s what. They are good for breakfast if you like your breakfast sweet, plus they are gluten free if you need them to be. But if you’re happy to put a bit more effort into your French style breakfast, bake a brioche. That’s a ‘wow’, too. And for those who want dessert for dessert not for breakfast, there are Mokonuts’ rye and chocolate cookies. The recipe is swiped from the famous Parisian bakery and a better cookie is very hard to find. Happy baking!