Hearty stews, casseroles and roasts...winter is the perfect time to create warming, slow-cooked dishes. Pack them with flavour using the best ingredients of the season. Wild mushroom, cabbages and greens complement the rich flavour of venison and game.
No British fruit is in season although some stored apples and pears are available. Slices of caramelised apple go wonderfully with meat, especially pork.
Forced Rhubarb (late winter)
is delicious – the stems are more tender, sweeter and don't need to be peeled. Poached gently with brown sugar, ginger and orange zest and juice it produces a sublime taste that can be used alone or in ice cream, cakes, trifles, pies or crumbles.
Purple Sprouting Broccoli
is delicious simply steamed with a little seasoning or combined with some fried garlic, lemon zest and toasted flaked almonds.
the Brussel sprout has polarised popularity. Try them shredded, either eaten raw in a salad or flash-fried with bacon and plenty of butter or a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche. Throw in some chestnuts for a particularly seasonal treat or blanch whole sprouts briefly in boiling water, douse in cream and bake in the oven for a luxurious gratin.
is tender and sweet enough to steam quickly and serve simply with a big knob of butter and generous seasoning. It is equally delicious stir fried with onions, cooked potatoes and crispy bacon.
are big with sweet earthy flavours by now. Boil them with a whole garlic clove, then blend with a little cream and cumin and serve as a delicious colourful purée.
is a fabulous vegetable for absorbing other flavours. Brilliant combined with potatoes in a vegetable curry. Or deep fry the battered florets and serve with a mustardy dressing.
Kale and Winter Cabbages
such as cavalo nero (black cabbage) complement partridge, pheasant, guinea fowl and duck. They're great in vegetable pasta, minestrone soup or simply fried in butter with garlic.
is delicious raw. Its crunch off-sets soft cheeses and salty nuts. It is very useful as a dipper into garlicky aioli. Alternatively make a creamy bake teaming it with ham or bacon and rich cheese sauce.
make very tasty soups; either chilled Vichyssoise, or a hearty leek and potato broth. A gratin of leeks and mushrooms is a perfect accompaniment to any Sunday roast joint.
are the perfect partners for curry spices or cream sauces. They blend down beautifully for smooth soups but the ultimate way to serve them is surely roasted with honey or maple syrup.
come in all shapes, sizes, flavours and textures. Be adventurous with a risotto, or for a swift mushroom hit, make an open tart using puff pastry, a variety of mushrooms and basil. Stuff Portobello mushrooms with a mixture of garlic, fresh herbs and feta or ricotta. For sensual simplicity, add fried mushrooms to a cream sauce and ladle over thick slices of buttered toast.
Turnips (early winter)
poor culinary reputation hasn't been helped by the fact that turnips are frequently overcooked. Fortunately, there is a growing demand for different varieties of small, young tender turnips. Try cooking them whole and roasted, pan-fried or baked.
leaves have a mustardy bite that makes them perfect with strongly flavoured meats such as game. The leaves are delicious added to scrambled eggs or a spicy chorizo frittata. Watercress makes a piquant peppery soup that is as good hot as it is chilled.
Meat & Game
is a healthy choice, very low in fat and high in protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins. Try adding cooked turkey to a cabbage and noodle stir fry, with some roasted cashews, dried cranberries, five spice powder, and a dressing of orange juice and olive oil.
is available throughout the year. British Pork is a great mainstay through the winter making hearty roasts and creamy casseroles. Try making crispy breadcrumbed pork escalopes served with creamed kale and a squeeze of lemon.
has a lean and gamey flavour. For perfect pairings, think of other fruit and vegetables that are in season now, such as chestnut mash, sticky honey-roast parsnips, spiky apple chutneys or celeriac purée
meat is high in protein and low in cholesterol. It is a good source of vitamin B6, selenium and niacin. Rather like a small chicken it is best pot-roasted or braised. Braise with loads of garlic, in a creamy sauce and serve with sweet roasted beetroots.
get tougher with age and are best braised slowly with vegetables, or used for stock. The richness of the flesh is complemented by other strong flavours, such as gin, brandy and port, and by dried fruit, such as prunes, and it's good served with braised red cabbage, lentils or cabbage and bacon.
Duck and Goose
both make a fabulous winter roast. Serve with roast parsnips, a rich red wine gravy and some dark green winter cabbage. The perfect alternative to the Christmas Turkey.
Venison – Deer, Stags and Bucks and the only season for Hinds and Does (Nov 1 – Feb 28th)
Cook venison as you would beef. It is best to compensate for the lower fat content by using moist-cooking methods, or by marinating before cooking. Good quality steaks and tenderloin can be pan-fried but avoid overcooking and serve with a sauce. Excellent partnering flavours for venison include juniper, gin, red wine, port, rosemary and redcurrant.
is often smoked and makes a perfect kedgeree with tonnes of parsley and soft poached eggs. Try making a cheesy soufflé with fresh haddock and snipped green chives.
are very high in long-chain Omega 3 fatty acids as well as being a rich source of vitamin D. They are a robust flavoured fish that are traditionally coated in oatmeal and fried. However herrings are eaten in a wide variety of ways; raw with chopped onion, pickled rollmops with sour cream on rye bread or try them baked with a tart rhubarb stuffing.
Mackerel (early Winter)
is a tasty oily fish that is often smoked and as such makes perfect pates and salads. Fresh mackerel is delicious baked with a lemon and olive stuffing and served with lemony couscous.
is gaining in popularity and is a sustainable choice of fish. Its flesh is white and tender and it can be substituted for cod or Haddock. It makes excellent Thai fish cakes when mixed with garlic, chilli, coriander, spring onions and a little fish sauce.
can be baked with a topping of garlicky breadcrumbs. This makes a change from moules marinere but try both whilst they are at their meatiest best.
considered an aphrodisiac; really the only way to eat fresh oysters is raw with lemon and a dash of Tabasco sauce.
has a delicate soft milky flesh with a superior flavour. It can be poached, steamed, baked or cooked over coals but, whichever method you choose, take care not to overcook the delicate flesh. Use flavours such as fennel, garlic, butter and olive oil and herbs such as mint, parsley and coriander to complement this fish.
is a firm meaty fish that must be skinned or it will go rubbery when cooked. It goes beautifully with strong flavours, parma ham and sage, curry spices even oriental flavours.
UK waters are a source of very fine scallops and some of the best are found off the coast of western Scotland. Scallops are delicious with salty bacon or creamy sauces, but best of all their flavour is complimented with an Oriental twist of chilli, lemon grass and ginger.
Lobster is the ultimate shell-fish. Added to a mixture of dressed salad leaves it makes a fabulous starter or simply served with a buttery mayonnaise an warm bread it would be hard to beat. Try adding chunks to a simple white wine risotto and serve with a glass of champagne.
Cancer pagurus, is a nocturnal species of crab found in the North Sea and North Atlantic. Wonderfully rich and indulgent, potted buttery crab is one of the best ways of serving fresh British crab.