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What's in season?
What's in Season

Food writer, Mary Gwynn's January

The New Year is here and it’s time for those resolutions. The secret to staying the course is to take something up rather than the opposite – be positive rather than negative. And if your commitment is to something as rewarding as a regular trip to your local farmers' market then it should be easy to stick with it all year through.

With some planning and research you should not only manage to eat better but also save money by shopping locally with the seasons. Add to your feel-good factor the support you will be giving local businesses and producers and the whole thing makes perfect sense…

So where to begin this month? Short days and chilly nights mean we all crave comfort foods but after the excesses of the Christmas period, budgets are tight and healthier menus are on everyone’s minds. So it’s time to go minimal in the kitchen and enjoy simple clean dishes that satisfy.

The brassica family neatly fits the bill. Kale, Savoy cabbage, sprouts and spring greens are all full of flavour now and don’t need to be boiled to death. In fact they work perfectly in stir fries, hearty soups and curries, or serve them simply shredded and steamed tossed with a little seasoning, and a dash of cold pressed rapeseed oil.

Mark Twain called cauliflower ‘cabbage with a college education’ and it certainly is a vegetable that deserves more than just a cheesy sauce. Try it in soups, fritters, or steamed then quickly fried with olive oil, anchovies, garlic and chilli for a quick sauce for pasta. Main crop potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, celeriac, swede and turnips provide the starch that keeps us going in the cold so mash them together to go with your meat dishes.

Lemon sole, halibut, skate and turbot are all good at this time of year – try them simply cooked on a griddle with a little oil to prevent sticking and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then sit back and appreciate really great fish at its very best. Shellfish fans should keep an eye out for clams, mussels, oysters and cockles. Try mussels cooked with a creamy lightly curried sauce as a change from the more classic moules marinieres.

For meat eaters, game is an excellent choice for seasonal healthy eating. Venison is plentiful now and, with its lean flesh and high mineral content, is great for those watching waistlines. Game merchants are increasingly specifying which breed of deer they are selling and as with beef it helps to know which one you are eating – fallow, roe, red deer or muntjac all have their own particular characteristics.

The feathered game season comes to a close around the end of the month so now is a good time to use wild duck or pheasant in a casserole or pie. Game dealers should sell game mixes that also are marvelous as a filling for a pasty. Another hearty meat to use this month in braises and casseroles is mutton, perfect in a rich stew or tajine.

Local fruit is not much in evidence this month but there are still apples to be enjoyed – the storing varieties keep well until April so make sure to go on buying local when you see them. Early forced rhubarb is just starting to appear – wonderful in traditional crumbles, compotes and pies, it also goes well with rich flavoured meat and fish so serve a rhubarb sauce with grilled mackerel or spice it up with Chinese five spice and serve with slow cooked belly pork.

What's Cookin'

Order Mary's latest book, commissioned especially to celebrate the centenary of the WI.
WI Cookbook

celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI
celebrate the centenary of the WI

Read more from Mary Gwynn at:

Why buy seasonal food?