What’s in season: winter

Here’s a handful of ingredients we’re really looking forward to seeing in our kitchens and on our menus in the next few months. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to put them in your shopping basket or pick them off our menu.

Hake is slow-growing and lives in the deep sea. It’s best eaten at the heart of winter when it’s too cold to think of leaving the house. Luckily, this is a stand-alone sort of fish – don’t trouble yourself digging the frozen veg patch. Beer batter is all you need, fried to crispy perfection, leaving the plump flesh tender and flaky. That said, not every evening calls for a traditional fish dinner, so if you’re trying to behave yourself, you might take advantage of a seasonal root vegetable. Braised hake works a treat atop a bed of shredded beetroot with beetroot purée. Virtuous indeed.

But you can’t be good all the time. When the bitter wind blows, the odd treat can be
forgiven. Especially one that features golden beetroot and a thick cut of steak. The beetrooot’s
sweetness is perfect for roasting down until caramelised and glossy. A few cloves of garlic
and blobs of butter are the trick here. It’s not the healthiest accompaniment for a rare fillet but add
some red wine into the equation and no one’s counting calories anymore. If, however, you’re sticking to the straight and narrow, some thinly sliced candy beetroot turns a common garden salad
into a real showstopper. The flesh is made of red and white stripes, and it’s every bit as
sweet as candy.

In the grey months, it’s nice to keep things interesting in the kitchen. What they lack in colour, piccolo parsnips make up for in novelty and flavour. They’re not a new variety, though – just common garden parsnips harvested early, before they’ve developed the woodier parts. Sweet, tender and a little unusual, there’s something distinctly Christmassy about the piccolo parsnip. You don’t even need to peel them, just layer them whole in a baking dish with sage leaves and roasted hazelnuts. Pile on the cream, bake for an hour and you have a sumptuous dauphinoise to balance the other mighty Christmas flavours on the table.

A cheaper cut of meat but one of the best, ox cheeks are worthy of any winter spread. Connective tissues break down during the lengthy cooking process, leaving you with succulent, melt-in-the-mouth meat and rich flavours. Casseroles are the right idea here, with wine and bacon lardons. But for something with a little crunch, you might make a pie with buttery pastry. Throw in some mushrooms, thyme and shallots, and make sure the filling is cooked for a solid three hours. Serve with a scoop of creamy Dijon mash and sautéed kale. If you do that, all that’s left is to fill the glasses and stoke the fire.