January 2012, What’s in Season This Month


Well I’m back (I Think), sorry I have not been around for the last few months, illness once again but I am hoping for a better year this year and hope that more and more readers will be drawn to this attempt at a sort of food blog.

Yeah! Its 2012 the year of the London Olympics and I can say without doubt that here in London this year the food scene will be spectacular, just imagine all the visitors from around the world and all will be wanting to try all that foodies London has to offer and here in Pimlico we have some of the best there is.


Here at Hide Tower it is all go for we are having all our windows replaced and the building itself is being given a good wash, yes we are have our windows replaced and Maureen and myself have chosen to have sliding windows/doors leading on to the balcony, yes its going to be noisy for a couple of months but by the time June is here we will have new windows and a new outlook from all our rooms.


Once again I have changed things on this blog by including the sections; Vegetable/Fruit/Herb of the Week, Butchers Choice, and Catch of the Day, I wanted to let you know about different foods other than just a couple of recipes, I am going to try to keep to a seasonal format so please let me know what you think.


At the beginning of the year, we are starting to crave for fruit other than apples and pears, its time to look out for the first early forced rhubarb. It’s still really the season for root vegetables and cabbages of all types and whilst we are waiting for the new season lamb we can still enjoy the last of the game, and while fish is plentiful, some boats have hit really bad weather so expect some fish prices to be a little high.

The weather has been freezing or miserable, many of us are thinking they should be on a diet or a detox cure after the Christmas excesses, and no-one’s got any money so it must be time to make soup it’s easy, it’s quick, it’s nourishing and it’s cheap.

Why spend money on expensive supermarket ready-prepared products when you can make a large panful yourself in less than 20 minutes with fresh vegetables bought on the market? Make enough to feed the family and have some left over for the freezer. 

British winter fruit and veg is not just for Christmas; feast on it especially after a sharp frost and don’t forget spring is not long in coming!

Cheshire and Stilton cheeses are at their best this time of year, Kale, Spinach, Leeks, Swedes, Celeriac, Cabbage, Turnips are at their peak and just coming in are Winter cabbages, new carrots and the first of the early forced rhubarb.

Cauliflowers from Cornwall make a tasty cauliflower cheese and the leeks from Lancashire are simply great for those soups and casseroles.

Mussels, Crabs, Oysters and Lobsters are really delicious now and I find that British beef is very good value Maureen and I have just had Braised Beef and Onions made with a jolly good bit of shin.

I can’t emphasise enough that the winter months are the time to enjoy British root vegetables and stores of local fruit and being harvested this month are leeks, green cabbages, parsnips, turnips, sprouts, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, shallots, mushrooms and forced rhubarb.



Fruit at Its Best

Apples, Cranberries, Passion Fruit, Pears, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Clementine’s, Satsuma’s, and Tangerines, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Truffles (Black And White), and Walnuts.



Vegetables at Their Best

The humble carrot is best in January as are Bay Leaves, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Curly Kale, Fennel, Leeks, Parsnips, Potatoes, Red Cabbage, Swede, and Turnips.



Meat, Poultry and Game at Its Best

Beef, Duck, Goose, Grouse, Guinea Fowl, Ham, Hare, Lamb, Partridge, Pheasant, Pork, Rabbit, Turkey, Venison, And Wood Pigeon.



Fish and Seafood at Its Best

Brill, Clams, Cockles, Coley, Conger Eel, Haddock, Halibut, Hake, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters, Plaice, Sea Bream, Skate, Turbot And Winkles



The Latest Grocery News for January, Sourced From Love British Food

  • The Women’s Institute has launched its own food range! Hoping to create ‘the closest thing to homemade’ the range includes jams, chutneys, biscuits, and flour. See wifoods.co.uk
  • Speciality birds such as pheasant, partridge, and wild guinea fowl have become the fastest growing meats on sale in the UK as more Brits seek roast dinner alternatives. Tesco has seen demand soar by a staggering 100 per cent in the last six months. And Morrisons has joined the game and is stocking pheasant and partridge for the first time!
  • ASDA has announced that its fresh Chosen by You sliced bread reaches the shelves in five hours from when its team of bakers begin mixing the dough, which is said to be 19 hours faster than other UK supermarkets.
  • The British egg industry has launched an attack on the government for not doing enough to protect domestic producers against competition from illegal imported eggs. The uproar comes after the Food and Farming Minister said the UK would not impose a unilateral trade ban on shell eggs and liquid egg products from EU states that were not fully compliant with the EU-wide ban on ‘battery’ cages which comes into effect on 1 Jan 2012.
  • Meanwhile, British Lion Eggs will be launching a ‘Think outside the Box’ campaign next year to encourage consumers to make more of eggs in main meals and buy packs of 12. The”British Lion Eggs Recipes” website will launch in January and feature a collection of recipes which together use up 12 eggs.
  • After decades of being off the shelves, mutton is back in supermarkets! Waitrose is now selling Duchy Originals mutton chops, rib and shoulder joints.
  • The British Leafy Salads Association is launching a national grow your own salad scheme for primary schools in spring 2012. The project will complement the National Curriculum and is targeted at the young parent demographic, aiming to reinforce to schoolchildren and their parents where their food comes from
  • The Tesco online website now features dedicated ‘counters’ offering a selection of specialised products – from a cheese counter to a fishmonger to a butcher. See this link. Although other retailers already offer fresh food online, Tesco is the first supermarket to do so on this scale.
  • Whisky exports are booming! Scotch exports have increased to nearly £3bn in 9 months to September – a 23 percent rise since the same period last year!
  • The Happy Egg Co owner has launched a new brand of eggs – Posh Birds. The range is available from Tesco and comprises duck and quail eggs. Aside from flagging up the eggs’ free range and free to fly credentials, Posh Birds packs also carry information about the breed of bird behind the eggs.
  • Finally, it has been revealed that The Department of Work and Pensions only source 11 percent of their food from UK producers. And government standards as a whole regarding eggs, coffee, and milk in the public procurement sector are lower than those at McDonalds! So lots of work for Love British Food to do in 2012!



Local Shopping

imageTachbrook Street Market

Address: Tachbrook Street, SW1

Trading hours: Monday to Saturday: 8am to 6pm

Nearest tube: Victoria or Pimlico

Bus: 2, 24, 36, 185, 436

Open every day except Sunday, the number of stalls in this ancient street market increases as the week moves forwards, the market offers a wide array of goods from home furnishings and gardening equipment, to fruit and veg, fresh meat, fish, shellfish and bread and cakes, the market is home to an array of events counting late night shopping, gourmet lunchtime offers, ‘Fashion Thursdays’.

Managed by Westminster Artisans Ltd on behalf of Westminster Council it is set to be a community hub thanks to its lively diverse array of stalls with scrumptious international hot food the paella is superb, fresh food, chocolate, cheese, olive oil, bread, funky fashion, and lots more.

Discover different stalls on different days.



imageJohn Bussey’s Fruit & Veg Stall, Tachbrook Street Market

What a pleasure it is to see such fresh produce full of vibrant colours this week was no disappointment with what was on offer.

There was Apples, Gala, English Russets, Braeburns and Bramleys, Artichokes, Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Courgettes, English King Edward Potatoes, English Raspberries, Fennel, Field Mushrooms, Leeks, Mache (Lambs Lettuce), Parsnips, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radish, Watercress, and some fantastic pumpkins and squashes and you can plainly see that all of what was available was in first-rate condition.

image image image

Pick of The Stall

imageBrussels-Sprouts;

The Best British Season Is; November, December, January, February

Brussels sprouts are a somewhat discordant food, while most people who claim they hate them they have probably been scarred by encounters with nasty overcooked sprouts in their influential years.

When prepared with a little care, sprouts are a superbly pleasing vegetable with a delicious, fresh, green flavour and just the right amount of crunch. They can be served purely as a side vegetable maybe with some chopped chestnuts or a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds, added to casseroles or sliced and stir-fried take a crack at cooking them with beef, spring onions and oyster sauce.

Several sources trace sprouts back to ancient China whilst others claim they originated much later and were grown in the area around Brussels in the thirteenth century. It is known that they were not introduced to France and England until late in the eighteenth century.

Today they are eaten in North America and Australia but remain a much more common sight on dining tables in Northern Europe, and Britain in particular.

Brussels are a good source of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and fibre.

Buying

Look for firm, dense sprouts with green unwithered leaves the base end discolours quickly after harvesting and will often be slightly yellowish brown but should not be dark.

Fresh sprouts have no odour or a delicate smell those sold on the stalk are likely to stay in better condition for longer choose small, evenly-sized sprouts for ease of cooking.

Storing

Sprouts should be kept cool at all times and eaten before the leaves discolour or they develop a strong smell.

Preparing and Cooking

Soak in lukewarm water for 10 minutes to draw out any insects in the leaves, then rinse under running water. Trim the ends but not right up to the base or the leaves will fall off during cooking. Remove any tired looking outer leaves some cooks recommend cutting crosses in the bases but this seems pointless.

Simmer uncovered in an equal volume of salted water (alternatively steam or slice and stir-fry). Overcooked and undercooked sprouts are unpleasant so it’s important to check for doneness by inserting a knife tip into the stem end and removing the sprouts when they’re just tender (typically between 6 and 12 minutes when simmering; the repellent sulphurous cabbage smell is an indication of overcooking).

Drain, return to the hot pan, and shake for a few seconds to remove excess water serve immediately (the flavour suffers if sprouts are kept warm for long).

Try tossing hot cooked buttered sprouts with some finely chopped rosemary, crispy pancetta, and crumbled chestnuts. Season well with pepper.

Brussels sprouts must be served immediately as the flavour suffers if kept warm for too long this is probably another reason for their bad press.



imageOur Local Butchers, Freemans (Butchers) 117 Lupus Street

As well as the customary cuts of meat on offer at Freeman’s they also had some exceptional beef we had a fantastic piece of brisket for pot-roast, also on show was some truly fine oxtail and at £6 a kilo you just can’t go wrong.

We had some excellent pork loin chops at a much more attractive price and quality than is offered by the supermarkets.

Butchers Choice;

Guinea Fowl; Best Season Is; September, October, November, December, January, February,

imageThe domestic Guinea Fowl is still found in the wild where it forages in large flocks and is considered a fine game bird. It is mainly kept for food, as its eggs and meat are very good to eat. Sometimes called Pintade, Guinea Fowl is a family of birds originating from Africa, related to other game birds such as the pheasants, turkeys and partridges, and having a long history of domestication, mainly involving the Helmeted Guinea fowl?

Here in the UK, they were usually known as “Gleanies” the young (called “keets”) are very small at birth and are kept in a brooder box inside the house until about six weeks of age, before being moved into a proper coop or enclosure.

The cooked flesh of guinea fowl resembles chicken in texture, with a flavour somewhere between chicken and turkey.

Guinea fowl makes a great alternative to chicken for a warming dinner on an autumn night. It has a lovely flavour that is slightly gamey but very subtle much less gamier than pheasant or grouse, it can be magnificent when cooked simply.

Guinea fowl are an important food throughout much of Africa, south of the Sahara, and are found in every region of the world. France, Belgium, and Italy are amongst the largest producers in Europe.

Guinea fowl are hardy birds that forage for food and so are often farmed in free range or semi wild facilities where they also perform a valuable pest control function. They have an acute awareness of predators and so are valued for their role as a ‘watchdog’, alerting farmers to any henhouse intrusions. It is reported that they have the ability to distinguish between farmers’ family members and strangers.

Guinea fowl meat is high in protein and low in cholesterol. It is a good source of vitamin B6, selenium, and niacin.

Buying

Look for free-range guinea fowl, rather than intensively-reared birds. Many butchers sell free-range guinea fowl imported from France Guinea fowl eggs are excellent and worth buying if you see some.

Storing

With giblets removed, a whole guinea fowl will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Preparing and Cooking

Guinea fowl is prepared in much the same way as chicken as it is generally a smaller bird, cooking methods that help retain moistness are recommended, pot roasting or casseroling.

Barding or regular basting is advisable when roasting guinea fowl, legs, and wings are also excellent if marinated for a few hours before grilling.



Our Local Fishmonger Jon Norris on Tachbrook Street Market

imageAfter a short Christmas break Jon is back and I think the people queuing up for his produce are getting longer and its no wonder as this week he had on offer some outstanding plump succulent Cornish Pollock on his stall, you had your choice of steaks and fillets.

His display as usual was a perfect representation of all that our British waters can offer us with Brill, Clams including sweet plump Razor Clams, Cod fillets, Cod steaks, Crab, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Megrim Sole, Dover Sole, Gilthead Bream, Cornish Gurnard, Lobster, Scottish Mackerel, Mussels, Monkfish, Native Oysters, Cornish Octopus, Plaice so plump and sweet, Prawns, Rock Oysters, Scallops from the Isle of Man, wild Sea Bass, Skate, Sprats, Squid, Turbot, and Cornish Whiting,

Most all Jon’s fish is from around the Cornish, Devon and Scottish coasts;

More news about Jonathan Norris;

Developing from his Pimlico market stall, Jon set up his permanent fishmongers in Victoria Park Village in 2009.

Filling a fish-shaped gap in the area’s rapidly increasing gourmet food scene, Jonathan Norris now inspires visits from further a field than this East London enclave.

The low-hanging awning, chalkboard displays and ceramic tiles symbolize a stylish admiration of tradition. However, the produce at Jonathan Norris is far more forward-thinking than the simple cod and haddock you might find at the local fish and chip shop. Jon gets pleasure from urging us to try new produce and along with the sea bass and red mullet, their particularly fresh octopus, squid and sea urchins are all big news. Jon prides himself on the quality and sustainability of his fish, and deliveries come direct every day from the West Coast and Scotland.

The store also stocks smoked fish, artisan sauces and cookery books.

If it’s a fish supper you’re after then Jonathan Norris is the place to go, our supper on Saturday was mussels and the one we had from Jon were superbly fat and sweet with loads of flavour you just can’t go wrong with a big dish of fresh mussels.

image

Jon’s tips to buying fish and shellfish;

 Fresh Whole Fish

  1. The eyes should be clear and convex, not sunken
  2. The flesh should be firm and resilient to finger pressure
  3. The fish should smell freshly and lightly of the sea
  4. Don’t buy fish with a strong ‘fishy’ or sulphurous odour, or that smells of ammonia.
  5. Oily fish like herring, mackerel, and salmon should have a light, fresh oil smell, like linseed oil. If they smell of rancid oil, don’t buy.

Fresh Fillets

  1. The surface of the fillet should be moist, with no signs of discolouration.
  2. The texture should be firm, with no mushiness. Some separation of the muscle flakes (caused by the filleting process) is completely normal, but it shouldn’t be excessive.
  3. As with whole fish, the smell should be fresh and light, with no ‘off’ odours.
  4. Live bi-valves (including mussels, clams and oysters)
  5. The general rule of not buying bi-valves during any month spelled without an ‘r’ (i.e. May to August) still holds true, as this is the spawning season and quality will be poorer. When raw, the shells should be closed tight. Any slightly open shells that don’t close up in response to a few light taps should be discarded. When cooked, the shells should open – discard any that don’t.

Catch of the Day

Brill, Best Season Is; June, July, August, September, October, November, December, January,

However, February Is When Brill Is At Its Sweetest.

image image

Brill is a high-quality pleasant tasting flatfish firmly linked with turbot, it is a fish found in waters from Iceland through to the Mediterranean and Black Sea, from Southern Norway, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean, some of the most excellent are landed on British shores.

Brill has a smooth, dark brown skin with deep white speckling and as with other flatfish; its underside is a creamy-white.

Fishermen have been providing brill to coastal European countries for 300 years or more records show that Brill was being sold in London’s Billingsgate Market in the early 1700’s.

Comparable to Turbot in having succulent, slightly sweet flesh, it benefits from being easier to prepare and a little less costly than its more famous cousin.

They feed on crustaceans and small fish living near the sea bed.

Throughout late spring (spawning season), the fillets can be slight and moist so it is wise to stay away from them, the best time to buy brill is from June to February.

Buying
A 1½ kilo fish will yield four fairly sized fillets, avoid small, immature fish (less than 1kilo), and choose thicker fish with bright, un-sunken eyes.

Storing
Refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase and use within a day, or freeze for up to three months.

Preparing and Cooking

Brill is typically gutted upon landing so if you buy it whole you just need to cook it whole or fillet and cook it, your fishmonger will fillet it for you if you ask nicely.

Fillets of Brill are usually sold skinned; pin bones are usually removed during filleting.

Cook Brill as you would a Halibut, or Turbot:

To cook it whole, trim away the fins, head and blood-line, then grill, bake or roast. It is exceptionally good when cooked on the bone, by grilling, frying, or baking, like with any white fish, cook until the flesh is just opaque, firm to the touch, and easy to flake.

The firmness and sweet taste of Brill make it a first-rate fish for pan-frying or grilling, serving with butter plain or flavoured a squeeze of lemon, capers, and subtle herbs.

It can be poached and served cold with a mayonnaise or cook it similar to Turbot the flesh should be compact and slightly creamy, I find it superb steamed or poached served with a Beurre blanc, or steamed with clams, garlic, herbs and white wine.



Recipes for January 2012 all My recipes Are Available on MyDish.Co.UK

imageAlfredo’s Steamed Mussels, An Old Favourite From Alfredo’s Restaurant In Morecambe, Plump Fresh Mussels In A Tomato Broth, Flavoured With Garlic, Fennel And Wine. This was and still is one of our preferred ways to cook mussels, we first had it in this way in 1973 while on our honeymoon in Cala Millor, Mallorca When we went to live and work at The Willow Tree Restaurant in Bolton-le-Sands we found that Alfredo’s restaurant in Morecambe offered a similar dish and it is one of the most delicious ways to serve one of our much-loved shellfish, there are of course many more ways to cook this delectable offering of the seas bounty and we have included plenty of them in our collection of recipes.


imageCrab and Shrimp Tian, For an impressive seafood starter try this sumptuous, crab and shrimp tian, ideally made with fresh-picked crab and the freshest of small pink shrimps. This recipe became a firm favourite in Palm Springs although the tiny shrimp we used was called shrimp meat and the crab meat we used came from Stone Crab Claws.


imageBraised Steak and Onions, This is real comfort food and so tasty, based on an old family recipe we really enjoy making this one. Our version of braised steak was originally an old family recipe I remember my mother cooking it and I think she learnt from her father, my grandfather, during the second world war he served in Burma with the R.A.S.C. and was a driver and cook. However, at that time, the mode of transporting supplies was mainly done by mules and they had to use a lot of local ingredients. In any case, he got a taste for spicy foods over there and brought one or two ideas back with him. Like I said this is our version it’s not better than the original it is just that we are using some different ingredients which we think creates a deep aromatic flavour and is just about perfect served with mashed potatoes and vegetables


imageTurbot with Shellfish, Very simple way to cook the best fish in the sea, with a few of his mates! This recipe is one I have yet to try it comes from Martyn Lewis who is a fishmonger and ex-chef from Brighton on MyDish and sounds like it could become a firm favourite.

              


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