For the seasonal eater February is a sparse month in the kitchen. Many of the vegetables that carried you through the deep winter months are coming to the end of their growing cycle, and native gamebirds will not be back in season until mid-August. However, February is a great month for fish lovers. Here are three recipes that make the best of this month’s seasonal pickings.
Garlic Clam Tagliatelle (serves 1)
Clams are back in season this month. Molluscs may be small but they are a nutritious addition to any diet. They can be steamed, baked, stuffed or even eaten raw so they are also very versatile. This recipe is a simple one that pairs the delicious shellfish with one of its best partners – garlic.
- 100g tagliatelle
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 75ml dry white wine
- 125g clams, rinsed in clean cold water
- 50ml boiling water
- 2tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- Cook the tagliatelle in boiling water until cooked. Drain and set aside.
- Put the garlic, white wine, clams, and boiling water in a medium saucepan, cover with a lid and cook for five minutes, or until all the clams have opened.
- Drain and discard any clams that haven’t opened.
- Toss the clams with the cooked tagliatelle, place in a bowl and sprinkle with parsley.
Saddle of Hare with Beetroot Mash (serves 4)
Although the feathered game is now out of season, the hare is still very much available. It is an underappreciated piece of game that is often overlooked but is a very sustainable source of meat. This recipe will work just as well with rabbit and both types of meat should be sourced from a trusted butcher or game dealer. This recipe accompanies the meat with beetroot and red onion – two vegetables that are also in season around this time of the year.
- saddle fillets of 2 large hares
- 1–2 knobs of butter
- 150–170g red beetroot, peeled
- 1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp thyme
- cider vinegar
- 1tsp redcurrant jelly
- 150ml chicken stock
- 1–2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
- salt and pepper
- 300g yellow or white beetroot, peeled and quartered
- 1 knob of butter
- Put the meat out before cooking so that it reaches room temperature.
- To make the beetroot mash, cook the beetroot in simmering, salted water until tender (around 40 minutes).
- Remove from the heat and mash with butter. Season to taste and set aside to warm up just before serving.
- Heat butter in a saucepan and add the red beetroot, onion, and thyme. Cover and cook over a low heat for around half an hour, stirring occasionally. Add a splash of water if the pan begins to dry.
- Add the cider vinegar and redcurrant jelly to the red beetroot, season and cook for a further five minutes without the lid on.
- Add the stock and continue to simmer until there is around 2–3tbsp of the liquid in the pan. Keep warm.
- Season the hare fillets with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the fillets over a high heat for 3–5 minutes. Make sure you keep the meat quite rare since the meat overcooks quickly.
Forced Rhubarb and Vanilla Clafoutis (serves 4)
Rhubarb is typically considered to be a summer vegetable. However, modern farming methods mean that some foods can be eaten outside of their traditional seasons. For instance, forced rhubarb is grown in sheds, extending the season by a few months and as such yields more tender flesh than the plants grown under the summer sun. This recipe is a hearty pudding that invokes the memories of summer to get you through the long nights of February.
- 20g butter, plus extra to grease the dish
- 400g rhubarb, cut into 5cm pieces
- 2tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 150ml full-fat milk
- 150ml double cream
- 5 whole eggs
- 120g caster sugar
- 75g plain flour
- icing sugar and crème fraîche, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- For the filling, melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat.
- Add the rhubarb and one tablespoon of the caster sugar. Fry for two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- For the batter, split the vanilla pod in half with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds.
- In a separate pan, place the milk, vanilla seeds and pod, and cream over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and leave to cool so that the flavours infuse.
- Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and frothy. Add the sugar and whisk until well-blended.
- Fold in the flour and gradually pour in the milk and cream, removing the vanilla pod.
- Butter a shallow oven-proof dish and lightly sprinkle with the remaining caster sugar.
- Place the rhubarb in the dish, pour in the batter and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden-brown and firm. Dust with icing sugar.
- Put the crème fraîche into a ramekin.
February may be a lean month, but it doesn’t have to be a boring one. This is the perfect time to be varying your diet after the samey months of early winter. As we move into March we will start to see the weather improve and, slowly, more food will become ready for our tables.