Just because it’s turned cold and there is a chill in the air, it doesn’t mean that we don’t still have a wealth of tasty and nutritious ingredients to use in December. We now have a good excuse to enjoy foods usually associated with Christmas, such as roast parsnips. I for one enjoy these on any meal, and not just on a Christmas dinner. In fact if you buy them now, you can prepare them in one go and freeze them to use on your Christmas dinner.
Top and tail them and peel. As with all root vegetables, place into cold, salted water and then bring to the boil. I prefer to par-boil as they then take less time in the oven. Simmer for around 8 minutes and then drain and leave to cool. If freezing, open freeze on a tray and then bag them the following day. If using them for dinner the same day, place into a roasting tray with a generous glug of olive oil, (no need to use virgin, just any olive oil suitable for cooking.) Add some maple syrup or honey, whichever you prefer and roast, turning half-way through. For added crunch, I sometimes coat them in dry polenta before roasting. (Toss them in this after adding the oil, but before adding the syrup or honey.)
Chestnuts are an old favourite that often get overlooked apart from in your stuffing, but as they are plentiful at this time of year, why not use some to make a delicious dessert such as a chestnut torte, or for something a little different, try this recipe for roasted chestnut and herb pesto.
100g roasted chestnuts; a handful each of basil, parsley and mint, (but this is also good for using up any left-over herbs lingering in the bottom of the fridge;) 50g grated parmesan; 2 garlic cloves and 150ml rapeseed oil.
Place chestnuts in a food processor; pulse until roughly chopped. Throw in remaining ingredients, (except the oil,) pulse again until chopped. Pour in rapeseed oil, mix and season to taste.
Use on pasta or fresh, crusty bread.
Pears are still plentiful at this time of year and sadly are often over-looked. Try them simply poached in sugar syrup and serve with some home-made custard, or if your budget allows, make them into a delicious starter with some goat’s cheese and bitter salad leaves. Just peel, slice and fry in a little butter before scattering onto the salad.
This much-maligned ingredient is good enough to be at the heart of any main meal and is so filling, that you can cut down on more expensive ingredients, such as meat. Try making your vegetables as the main centrepiece, rather than an accompaniment.
Irish cabbage and bacon soup is one such dish which only requires half a pound of bacon to serve four people.
1/2 pound diced back bacon
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
Large (400g) tin chopped tomatoes
250ml (8 fl oz.) chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
5oz sliced dark green cabbage
Cook bacon in a large saucepan until browned.
Add potatoes, tomatoes and chicken stock to cover. Season. Boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Stir in cabbage and simmer for a few minutes longer.
Make a delicious accompaniment to roast pork using apples, red onions and seasonal walnuts.
Heat some oil and butter to a medium heat. Core and wedge apples and red onions. Cook for around 5 minutes. Add some walnuts and rosemary, cook for 2 minutes, add a splash of cider vinegar and bubble away. Season.