January is not an exciting month for food - maybe because it tends to be a time of fragile resolutions to eat less? After the left-overs are gone, absolutely or into the freezer, we look around for something fresh and zingy to revitalise our jaded palettes and the locally-grown offer doesn’t always grab our imaginations. This is the month of oranges, of Navels and Sevilles, and they cannot be ignored as they are brilliant for brightening up our meals as well as topping up our Vitamin C levels.
Leafy spring greens, kale and black cabbage are in every farm shop as well as supermarkets. Kale is now a cult having gained Superfood status for its high vitamin content. Anyone under 30 has grown up with chillies, lemon grass and limes as basic ingredients but for anyone double that age they may still be alien. My recipe with Kale and chick peas is always a success with any age group and is quick and easy to prepare if you use canned chick peas.
Living in a beautiful place surrounded by countryside that supports shoots gives an extra boost to our diets this month. January is the end of the shooting season for pheasant and partridge and so there are often cheaper birds around now. Local butchers and game dealers such as Penfolds in Parklands, Chichester as well as butchers attached to farm shops and game dealers at farmer’s markets should all have plentiful supplies of these birds. They are probably best for casseroles now rather than roasts, and you might prefer to just use the breasts as the legs will need long slow cooking to tenderise. Pheasant with lentils and prunes has long been a favourite with us: it sounds posh but it is actually just good, straightforward food if served with mash and a January King cabbage.
There may be less choice on the fishmongers slab this month, which will doubtless be because stormy weather often makes it too dangerous for the fishermen to put to sea. Do remember this when you are shopping. Fish from inshore waters are the most likely to be found so you can use cod or almost any white fish for my recipe with orange-buttered greens.
There is some early forced rhubarb about, but it might be from Holland at the moment and not Yorkshire. One of my favourite ways of serving it if I have a cold (which most people seems to experience at some stage in January) is in a Cranachan-style dessert, with plenty of honey.
All the following recipes are available to download and print by clicking on the links.
Curly kale is good for us! It’s full of minerals, the stalks give fibre to our diet and it tastes great too. The thing is that there aren’t many recipes around for it and kale needs slightly inventive cooking to achieve full potential. I also believe that it needs a brief blanching before stir-frying for the best results - it’s not essential but I think it’s a good move. You’ll need to prepare the chick peas in advance if using dried (better flavour and texture) or opt for the slightly softer texture of convenience in a can. Use good butter and olive oil for maximum flavour.
- 1-2 cloves garllic
- 3 tbsp pine kernels
- 1 red chilli
- 250-350g curly kale
- 150g dried chick peas, soaked overnight then boiled for 30 minutes OR
- 400g can chick peas
- 25g butter
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
- Cut the garlic into slivers and mix it with the pine kernels. Seed and finely chop the chilli. Trim the kale and wash it thoroughly, stripping out any very thick stalks. Add the kale to a pan of boiling water, return the water with the kale to the boil, then drain it in a colander (the aroma of the kale is fantastic). Drain and rinse the chick peas.
- Heat a large frying pan or wok and add the butter and oil. Wait until the foam of the butter subsides then add the garlic and pine nuts and cook for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden. Scoop out of the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve, leaving the flavoured buttery oil for cooking. Add the kale and stir-fry until starting to soften, then stir in the chick peas and continue cooking until the kale is just tender and the chick peas are heated through. Season to taste.
- Serve as a main course snack, garnished with the chilli and drizzled with a little more oil, or to accompany cold meats or grilled fish.
Are the pickled walnuts essential? Well, I think they are but add a spoonful of chutney if you want to in their place.
- 4 pheasant breasts
- 2 tbsp seasoned flour
- 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon
- 1 large onion
- 1 large carrot
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 200ml dry white wine (optional)
- 400ml stock, approx
- 8 pitted prunes
- 75g green lentils
- 8-10 pickled walnuts
- Remove the breasts from 2 large pheasants, or buy them ready done. Turn the pheasant in the seasoned flour (plain flour with salt and black pepper). Finely chop the bacon, onion, carrot and celery.
- Heat a deep sauté pan, then add the oil and the pheasant breasts and brown them quickly on both sides. Remove the pheasant with a slotted spoon, add the prepared vegetables then cover and cook slowly for 5 mins.
- Add the wine to the pan and bring to the boil, scraping up any sediment from the bottom of the pan. Return the browned pheasant to the pan with the seasonings and add enough stock to cover. Stir in the prunes and lentils. Bring to the boil then simmer, half covered, for 45 mins or until both the pheasant and the lentils are tender.
- Slice the pickled walnuts thickly, add them to the pan and heat through for 2-3 mins. Season to taste before serving, perhaps with a creamy mash with celeriac in it.
You could make this delicious dish with any white fish.
- 2 oranges
- Small bunch of fresh parsley
- 800g prepared spring greens
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 50g butter
- 4 pieces of cod fillet, about 150g each
- 200ml orange juice - you’ll need less if the oranges are very juicy
- Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 220°C. Butter a shallow roasting tin.
- Grate the zest from the oranges and set to one side, then peel the fruits and roughly chop the flesh. Finely chop the parsley. Finely shred the greens.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the greens and cook for 3 minutes, then drain thoroughly in a colander. Chop the greens in the colander with a large metal spoon, which will help to expel all the water.
- Heat the olive oil and a knob of the butter in a frying pan, then add the cod and brown it on your chosen presentation side. Transfer the fish to the prepared tin, season and roast in the hot oven for about 6-8 minutes or until cooked. Reserve the buttery juices in the frying pan.
- Add half the remaining butter to the fish juices in the frying pan, add the greens and stir-fry until soft and glossy. Remove and keep warm on a plate.
- Add the remaining butter with the orange zest, juice and chopped orange to the frying pan, bring to the boil and then simmer until slightly reduced. Add the chopped parsley and season to taste.
- Serve the cod on a bed of the buttered greens with the orange sauce poured over and around the greens.
Make the best of the first forced rhubarb - and you can add some chopped crystallised ginger to the rhubarb if you wish: especially good for colds and sore throats.
- 3 tbsp pinhead oatmeal
- About 300ml double cream
- 3 tbsp set honey
- 350g cold cooked rhubarb
- 50g crystallised ginger, chopped (optional)
- Heat a non-stick frying pan until hot then add the oatmeal and ‘stir-fry’ until golden brown - it will be slow to colour at first but, like pine nuts, will change suddenly so keep a careful eye on it. Turn onto a plate to cool.
- Whisk the cream with 1 tbsp honey until thick but not stiff. Fold in 1 tbsp of the cooled oatmeal.
- Assemble the cranachan in individual glasses, layering the rhubarb with the oatmeal, honey and cream. Finish with a little rhubarb before serving.