Healthy eating ideas to kick start the new year.

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 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.

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 & Pomegranate Salad

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.

Pink grapefruit & Pomegranate

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.

Cavolo Nero 2

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.

This vibrant salad is great in January when fennel (from Italy), oranges (Italy or Spain), and pomegranates (Italy) are all in season and at their best, and with pomegranates absolutely packed with antioxidants, it’s great for immune boosting.

Version 2
4 - 6
Wee Buns Cookery School

Ingredients

  • 2 Fennel Bulbs
  • 1 Pomegranate
  • 1-2 Oranges
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Wash and trim the fennel bulbs, taking off the tough stalks at the top. Keep the green leafy fronds to scatter over the top.
  2. Cut the fennel in half and then into fine slices, always cutting through the root to keep the slices intact.
  3. Place in a shallow serving bowl or on a plate.
  4. Drizzle with really good extra virgin olive oil and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Cut the pomegranate in half and remove the seeds into a bowl. Try to not get any of the white pith or membrane which can be very bitter.
  6. Using a knife, cut the and then the skin off the oranges and segment, so you just have the flesh with no skin.
  7. Scatter the orange segments over the fennel and squeeze all of the juice from the core on top.
  8. Chop the green fennel fronds and scatter on top. You could add some chopped flat leaf parsley.
  9. Scatter over a generous amount of the pomegranate seeds.
  10. Serve, this will keep for a day in the fridge.

Notes

This will keep well for the following day.
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This is absolutely delicious as a side dish served with a crisp green salad or some seasonal greens like the Cavolo Nero. Do not be afraid to use lots of olive oil, it needs it.

FennelPotato And Fennel Gratin
4-6
up to 2 hours
Wee Buns Cookery School

What you'll need

Oven proof baking dish . 27 cm x 21cm x 6 cm deep or similar

Ingredients

  • 2 Medium Fennel
  • Approximately 1 kg Waxy Potatoes
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • Thyme
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C
  2. Peel and slice the potatoes about 1/2 cm thick and dry well with a tea towel.
  3. Trim and wash the fennel, cutting off the tough stalks, then cut in half and cut in slices from the stalk, to keep the slices intact.
  4. Keep the green fronds for sprinkling over.
  5. Finely slice the garlic.
  6. Chop the thyme.
  7. In a baking dish add a single layer of potatoes with a good drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper.
  8. Add a few slices of garlic and a sprinkle of the chopped thyme.
  9. Add a layer of fennel and again a good drizzle of oil, salt & pepper.
  10. Repeat with another layer of potatoes and a final layer of fennel, salt, pepper and the green fennel fronds chopped up. The dish should be full to the top.
  11. Cover with a single layer of baking paper and a layer of foil.
  12. Bake for 50 minutes, then remove the foil & paper and bake for another 50 minutes uncovered until caramelised and cooked through. If need be, turn the oven up to caramelise the potatoes. If the fennel is getting too brown and the potatoes are not, just remove the top layer of fennel and cook until the potatoes are golden and charred and then add the fennel back on top.

Notes

Heats well the next day.
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