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I’m a big fan of eating seasonally, not only is it better for you in that your food is fresher, tastier and more nutritious, it is also better for the planet in that it cuts down on transportation and environmental damage.
So far here in Northern Ireland, January has been full of crisp, cold but wonderfully sunny days and there are lots of lovely fruits and vegetables in season now to brighten up our plates.
If you’re interested in eating seasonally, I have a number of cooking and baking classes that celebrate all that’s good throughout the year. These are relaxed fun classes in which I will be showing you what’s in season and together we will prepare a delicious lunch.
Some of my favourite seasonal fruit and vegetables in January are fennel, pomegranates, brassicas such as broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, and cauliflower. And, of course, the winter staples like carrots and parsnips.
I’m making the most of lovely fennel from Italy, mostly I roast it in a hot oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper (it must be in a single layer) until golden and crisp on both sides and then I scatter it still warm over some green salad leaves to have on the side of practically any dish.
Fennel also makes a delicious soup and is particularly good raw; I’ve been using it to make a deliciously bright salad with pomegranate and orange segments. Both also in season now and usually coming from Spain and Italy.
Pomegranates are very high in antioxidants and make a lovely addition to many salads and I’m combining them with pink grapefruit segments and the juice to make a refreshing fruit salad. All citrus fruits are at the height of their season now, look out for blood oranges from Sicily and marmalade (or Seville)oranges from Seville in Spain. Seville oranges have a very short season and if you are a marmalade fan it’s a great time to make your own.
Closer to home all of the brassicas are good right now, broccoli, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, and sprouts are tasty, nutritious and delicious.
Then there are the Kales, curly and my favourite Cavolo Nero (as in the picture) which is widely available now and one I cook often in an attempt to eat lots of greens. Simply pull the leafy bit off the stalk (if it is not pre-chopped), wash well and slice finely. Then cook by plunging it into a large pan of boiling salted water and cook with the lid off on the highest heat until just tender. It usually takes 5 – 8 minutes. Drain well and really push all of the water out firmly and then put it in a warm bowl with a good pinch of salt and a generous glug of really good extra virgin olive oil.
Look out for the new season olive oil which is often a vibrant green when fresh with a peppery hit. I buy the Tuscan olive oil from small estates, it is expensive but well worth it.
And don’t forget the staples, carrots, parsnips and leeks are all great in winter. And on the fruit front, local pears and Bramley apples, I stew these together with a very little water and no sugar to have on my morning porridge.
At Wee Buns Cookery School we run a number of seasonal cooking and baking classes from Autumnal Baking classes to Easter Baking and Christmas Cooking Classes. Find out more on the classes section of the website.