Chefs and nutritionists often say that eating seasonally is the way to go, and it has its benefits for both your health and your wallet. Eating something when it’s in peak supply means you are getting it at both its cheapest and best quality. But for the seasonal eater, January could be a potentially boring month in the kitchen that is easily overcome with some culinary problem solving. January is a good month for vegetables, with cauliflower, broccoli, and sprouts all being in season alongside chestnuts and apples. And if you’re into game, this is the perfect time of the year for you! The hunting season for feathered game is ending around now, so this is prime-time to get it cheap from your local butcher. Here are three recipes that make use of some of the best seasonal pickings.
January Cheese Bake (serves 4-6)
This recipe is a great way to get yourself through the cold, rainy evenings of January. It combines the best vegetables available in the month with a rich cheese sauce that will go well with roast potatoes. To keep the seasonality of the dish serve with chicken or beef.
For the sauce
- 25g/1oz butter
- 25g/1oz plain flour
- 1 pint milk
- 1tsp English mustard
- 100g/3oz extra mature cheddar cheese, grated (for added flavour replace half the cheese with oak smoked cheddar)
- salt and pepper
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
- ½ swede, peeled and diced
- 1 cauliflower
- 1 broccoli
- 7-8 brussel sprouts, halved
- Prepare vegetables as listed in ingredients and preheat oven to 180°C.
- Steam or boil vegetables until soft – but with a bite – then transfer into a deep tray or roasting tin.
- Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Stir in flour until it becomes a thick paste and cook for 1–2 minutes.
- Slowly add the milk and stir/whisk until it thickens.
- Add the cheese slowly, stirring continuously to ensure you get a smooth sauce.
- Whisk in the mustard.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the sauce slowly over the vegetables until evenly covered.
- Sprinkle grated cheese on top and transfer to the oven. Bake until golden brown.
Roast Chestnut, Mushroom and Herb Pesto Pasta (serves 6)
This simple yet delicious recipe is one that I have taken with me to restaurants and hotels throughout my career. It is quick, easy and showcases two ingredients that are at their best this time of the year: chestnuts and oyster mushrooms.
- 100g cooked chestnuts
- 50g parmesan
- 2 garlic cloves
- 150ml rapeseed oil
- 500g dried pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 125g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
- 125g oyster mushrooms
- Handful of basil, parsley, and mint leaves
- salt and pepper
- To make the pesto, put the chestnuts into a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.
- Add the herbs, parmesan and garlic. Pulse again until well mixed.
- Add the rapeseed oil, mix together and season. Set to one side.
- Cook the pasta in salted water. Meanwhile the heat olive oil in a frying pan and cook the mushrooms with seasoning for 6-8 minutes until tender and starting to brown.
- Drain the pasta then return it to the pan. Mix in the pesto and mushrooms.
Pheasant Casserole (serves 4)
Pheasant is one of the best-feathered game birds available this month. It has a rich gamey taste and is one of the juiciest of more tender birds out there. The season for pheasant runs from 1 October to 1 February, so now is the best time to get your hands on some. The best and cheapest birds can be found at your local butchers, but some supermarkets will stock them. This recipe is simple and showcases the flavour of the bird with its best accompaniment: red wine.
- 2 tbsp beef dripping
- 2 pheasants, jointed (ask butcher to do this) leg and breast only
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 350ml red wine (North American or New Zealand Pinot Noir)
- salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Heat the dripping in a frying pan and brown the pheasant. Remove from the pan and place in a casserole dish.
- Cook the vegetables into the frying pan and cook in the dripping for 2 minutes. Add the red wine and rosemary, bring to the boil.
- Pour the vegetable mixture over the pheasant, season with salt and pepper then cover the casserole dish.
- Cook in the oven for 1–1 ½ hours until tender.
- Serve hot.
These recipes are here to give you an idea of what can be done with what’s available at the beginning of the year. As we move into February, then spring, more produce will come into season and the scope of what we can make widens.