Every month, we take three seasonal ingredients and sing their praises. Hopefully you’ll be inspired to put them in your shopping basket or pick it off our menu.
Irregular like the length of February, celeriacs have lumps and bumps that nod to ages spent in the frozen earth. They look entirely inedible but don’t be put off – beneath that wizened skin, you’ll find snow-white flesh that tastes of celery and walnut. This vegetable is a friend to all: throw it in stews to bring out the flavour of beef, roast it with pork glazed in oranges, or cook it in milk alongside a fresh fillet of haddock. If the celeriac could speak, it would no doubt tell us that true beauty is found in versatility.
That said, February’s most elegant star is a vision in purple. At this time of year, florets of sprouting broccoli add a welcome dash of colour to the vegetable patch. Its tender stems look too fragile to survive the cold but like the celeriac, looks can be deceiving – sprouting broccoli will happily endure a blanket of snow. A princely lunch can be had by boiling the stems and serving them under perfectly poached eggs. Allow the yolks to cascade in ribbons of gold and add a scrunch of black pepper. For a memorable side, coat them in breadcrumbs and parmesan, and eat them with full-flavoured meat.
You could do worse than look towards hare. It’s awfully good in February but you’ll need to hurry because it peaks at the end of the month. For the time being, hare is succulent, with a gutsy taste of the wild and as free-range as they come. If you’re unsure where to begin, roast saddle is good – cover the meat in smoked bacon, add a hearty glug of Bordeaux and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. For something more delicate, hare can be cubed and braised in a ragu of herbs, garlic and passata. Toss it with pappardelle and shavings of pecorino. When the eating is done, sip cognac for dessert and think of warmer months to come.