Styles & Tips -
Garden Styles & Tips
February and March are funny months in the kitchen - from our regular food blogger Linda Williams at With Knife and Fork
As the days start to lengthen the snowdrops come out and daffodil leaves start to peek through the soil. Even some of the fields start to have a green haze as the winter planted wheat begins to tentatively appear.
It feels like spring is on the way and then along cold snap or frost to surprise us.
Food wise a lot of what’s available has been in season for the last few months so it’s easy to become a bit jaded with endless (and ever bigger) root vegetables and variations on a cabbage theme.
Some days we still want hearty dishes but when the sun comes out and the days warm up we also want to eat things that feel more spring like.
There are a few things you can try if you fancy making your cooking feel fresher from searching out particular ingredients to simply cooking in a different style.
Lots of the vegetables that are still in season make delicious salads as well as the more hearty roasted or braised dishes we’ve got used to.
Celeriac, carrots, beetroot, cabbage or kale are all good shredded finely and dressed simply with oil and vinegar, with mayonnaise or with greek yoghurt or crème fraiche. I like to do each as an appropriately dressed solo vegetable but mixing them like in coleslaw is also good.
Its nice to add some spices to perk thinks up: mustard with celeriac is a classic combination, cumin and coriander are lovely with carrots or cabbage and flavoured vinegars also come into their own to brighten things up.
I make some of my own but there are also some excellent vinegars available from small UK producers. I’ve been particularly impressed with Womersley Foods selection; they work well as dressings or added to marinades or splashed in sauces and gravies.
A few things are starting to come into season, like beautiful pink forced rhubarb, thin sweet little leeks and the first of the purple sprouting broccoli. All of these give a foretaste of the spring and summer to come and are a welcome addition to the kitchen.
Don’t just think of sweet dishes for the rhubarb, think also of tangy lightly spiced accompaniments to meat or fish, particularly good to cut through the fatty richness of a pork roast, to make a boiled gammon sing, or liven up some grilled mackerel. It’s delicious too with homemade fishcakes maybe mackerel or crab ones for a good balance of rich and tart.
The sweet leeks and purple sprouting broccoli are lovely just steamed and dressed with extra virgin rapeseed oil and perhaps a splash of those fruit vinegars.
One thing I’m hoping to try more of this year, and which would be great to enhance February eating is micro greens. They’ve been used by chefs over the last few years but there are a few places you can now buy them and seeds are available to grow your own. What are they?
Essentially the first seedlings that pop up on herbs and salad plant. If you recall growing mustard and cress seedlings on damp cotton wool in trays on the window sill as a child its just like that. You cut the seedlings in the same way when the first two leaves are open and mix them to make salads.
They are taste green and zingy and full of the promise of spring. You can of course grow them at any time of year but they are a welcome fresh addition right now as the seasons change and the selection of vegetable feels a little samey.
Smoked mackerel fishcakes with rhubarb salsa and salads
(serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter)
- 3-4 sticks of rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch lengths
- water or a fruit vinegar such as Womersley’s Golden Rapsberry and Apache Chilli
- 2-3 green cardamom
- teaspoon of sugar
- Put the rhubarb in a small pan with the lightly crushed cardamom pods, the sugar and a table spoon of water (or fruit vinegar). Bring to simmering point and simmer gently until thickened (a good 20-30 minutes)
Flake the smoked mackerel and mix with mashed potatoes. Shape into four patties and dip in the beaten egg followed by the flour. When ready cook in rapeseed oil in a large frying pan until golden and crispy, be careful turning them as they are quite fragile. Serve with the salsa and a selection of micro greens and salads from the suggestions above.
- 2 fillet smoked mackerel
- cold mashed potatoes made from 4 large floury potatoes (King Edward are good)
- 1 egg, beaten
- wholewheat flour, coarse rye flour or pinhead oatmeal
- chilli flakes