What you should be eating this January…

After the mince pies have been scoffed and the mulled wine has been sipped (or, more likely, glugged) you might be wondering what’s next on the foodie calendar. While it may be tempting to head straight for the salad bowl after all that indulgence, don’t forgo the comfort food just yet. The New Year is a time for dense, earthy root veggies that make great chunky soups, stews and other hearty dishes – nature’s way of helping us ward off the January blues.

Buying seasonal produce has all sorts of benefits, including lower prices and better quality. What’s more, this season’s ingredients lend themselves to one-pot dishes, which are fantastic for using up leftovers. Thrifty, filling and delicious – what more could you want from a post-Christmas supper?

Ditch the salad (for now) and instead stock up on the likes of leeks, parsnips, salsify, beetroot, celeriac, artichoke and swede. Cauliflower, cabbage and kale are star ingredients at this time of year too. In terms of fish and seafood, sea bass, mussels, clams and oysters are at their best at the moment, as are rich meats like goose, lamb and venison. Snack on zingy clementines and pears, or incorporate them into a fruity dessert to sate your sweet tooth. Speaking of dessert – forced rhubarb is also in season, so stock up and make yourself a tasty crumble, pie or some jam.

So, you see, there’s plenty to be excited about in January – cooking up a storm has never been easier, cheaper or more satisfying. Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

Vegetable Stew with Herby Dumplings from BBC Good Food

What you’ll need

For the stew:
1tsp olive oil
250g shallots
2 leeks
Half a swede
2 parsnips (and/or whatever other veg you have in your cupboard)
250g Chantenay carrots
175g pearl barley
225ml white wine (that not-so-great one your gran brought round on Boxing Day will be fine)
1 litre vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
Small bunch of parsley

For the dumplings:
100g self-raising flour
50g unsalted butter
50g grated mature Cheddar cheese (or any other cheese you have leftover from your Christmas cheeseboard)
2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

What to do

1.    Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Add the chopped shallots and cook for around five to six minutes (until soft) then add the thinly sliced leeks and stir for another couple of minutes, before chucking in the chopped swede, parsnips and carrots (and whatever other leftover veg you have knocking about).
2.    Pour in the barley and wine, and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the stock, bay, thyme, parsley and a bit of salt and pepper. Cover, bring to the boil, and simmer for around 45 minutes or until the veg is tender and soft, checking and stirring occasionally.
3.    No relaxing yet – while your stew is ticking over nicely, channel Paul Hollywood and get making the dumplings. Heat your over to 200C (180C if you’re using a fan oven) or gas mark 6. Rub the flour and butter together to make crumbs, then add the other ingredients and mix up well. Add two tablespoons of water and mix together for form a soft dough. Divide this into six pieces and roll into balls. Dot them on the top of the stew and transfer to the oven, and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the dumplings are nice and golden.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Forced Rhubarb, Apple and Ginger Crumble

What you’ll need
750g cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbsp syrup from a jar of preserved ginger
2 tbsp caster sugar
300g forced rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 3-4cm lengths
2 balls preserved ginger, finely chopped

For the crumble topping
150g plain flour
A pinch of salt
125g cold unsalted butter, diced
75g light brown or caster sugar
75g ground almonds

What to do

1.    Heat your oven to 190C or gas mark 5. Chuck the apples in a saucepan with the ginger syrup, sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes so the apple is tender – just be careful it doesn’t turn into a mushy mess. Remove from the heat and stir in the rhubarb and preserved ginger, and taste and add more sugar if you need to. Transfer to a 20cm oven dish.
2.    For the crumble topping, sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, then add the butter. Rub the butter into the flour until it roughly resembles breadcrumbs, then sprinkle over the fruit to cover it in crumbley goodness. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden brown, and serve with custard or ice cream.

Michelle Grady

Michelle Grady

Michelle is an ex-Fed Up & Drunker who has now been released into the wild.

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