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The Caterer

What's in season – January

06 December 2013
What's in season – January

Looking forward to the year ahead? Fresh produce supplier James Wellock picks out the ingredient highlights for January, while the British Larder's Madalene Bonvini-Hamel creates some seasonal recipes to get your creative juices going

Once the frenetic business of Christmas is out the way, we are faced with the long, dark month of January. But don't be downhearted; there will be some amazing
gems to set your menus alight and entice the punters away from their cosy fireplaces.

Blood oranges are very fashionable and will be fantastic at this time of year, jam-packed with juice and sweetness and bursting with bright red colour. It is the anthocyanins and flavonoids that pigments the blood oranges with their crimson colour. They also provide 150-200mg of vitamin C where normal oranges only produce 75-125mg per cup of juice, so you will be offering your customers a healthy option by serving these.

Lemons are equally good. Standard waxed Spanish lemons are full of juice, but the unwaxed Italian ones take it to another level, plus the leaf you get with these is just bursting with oil. With a fragrance of lemon sherbet, just rubbing the leaves on my hands takes me back to my childhood.

The Passe-Crassanne pear will be at its best in January and the only thing I can say here is serve it with a bib!

If you are looking for a grape to add something different the French Muscat - although with a seed in - gives a massive perfume hit.

We aren't short of options on the apple front either but two real gems come from France.

Goldrush is the most amazing eating apple I have tasted. It has been at the top of the tree, taking on lots of sunshine, hence its yellow and bright orange blush skin. When you bite it you get a taste sensation of crisp acid followed by super sweetness and lots of juice.

For cooking, the French will use the Patte de Loupe, which has a brown, russet-looking skin. It can be eaten raw (unlike a Bramley), but you certainly won't have to add sugar when cooking it, and, more importantly, the flavour follows through into the dish.

Winter vegetables are again in abundance. A GP buster is the Jerusalem artichoke, with Lincolnshire product taking precedence over the French not only in flavour but at around £1-£1.20 per kilo a real winner. Purple sprouting broccoli is now becoming a staple, but how about the January King cabbage? This is my favourite cabbage, with its red colour flowing through the inside leaves, but again it's the flavour that sets this apart from all other cabbages.

I was astounded when I took a phone call from a revered Michelin chef to tell me how good it was, so try for yourself!

Chervil root is becoming more popular. While nutty, it has a flavour reminiscent of sweet carrot with subtle hints of celeriac. It has a creamy white interior and is delicious boiled then finished in a hot pan with butter or made into a purée. Parsley roots look very similar to parsnips but have a more delicate flavour. The taste is sweet but also sharp and bitter, somewhere between a celeriac and carrot with hints of parsley leaf and turnip. It is also extremely versatile and is used simply roasted or again boiled and puréed. Both these roots are becoming more popular so give them a try.

Last January I focused solely on rhubarb and it would be remiss of me to miss the start of the Yorkshire season. After two years of bad crops I can thankfully report we are set for a bumper harvest. This is all to do with the weather and with all crops needing real seasonal temperatures to thrive and get good harvest this one really takes it to the extreme. There are now only 10 growers left in therhubarb triangle where there used to be 200.

Of these only four are signed up to the protected designation of origin, which has to be awarded each year to the growers who go through an audit to ensure they are using the traditional methods that haven't changed from the late 1800s, from measuring the soil temperature to checking when the roots are ready to break dormancy to picking by candlelight.

The upsurge in demand for the rhubarb has spurred on our particular grower who is the fourth generation of the Tomlinson family to invest in two new sheds, and this year he estimates that he will have 8,000 boxes compared with 2,500 last year. It's fantastic to hear this news and I would encourage you to give all the support you can as we must all strive to ensure the future of this heritage product.

Home-cured bresola, pickled celeriac and remoulade

(Serves 10-12)

For the bresaola 1.5kg topside of beef
Zest of one orange
½ tsp cloves
100g Maldon sea salt
100g dark brown sugar
2tsp black peppercorns
1tsp Prague powder number 2 (containing nitrate and nitrite)
1tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves
1tbs juniper berries

For the pickled celeriac 1 head of celeriac, 1mm thick sliced
200g caster sugar
200g white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1tsp coriander seeds
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the celeriac remoulade 200g celeriac, shredded
50g homemade mayonnaise
25g grain mustard
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Juice of one lemon

To prepare the bresaola, pat the meat dry and place on a tray. Place the rest of the ingredients in a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Rub the marinade into the meat, place in a vacuum pouch and seal on hard vacuum. Place in the fridge for one week, turning the meat every day. Remove the meat from the bag, pat dry and wrap in muslin cloth. Hang the bresaola in the fridge by the fan for three weeks.

To prepare the celeriac pickle, place the sugar, vinegar, garlic, coriander and seasoning into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes.

eave to cool for 30 minutes, pass the liquid through a fine sieve and leave to cool completely. Pour the liquid into a vacuum bag with the sliced celeriac and seal on hard vacuum. Leave for 30 minutes before using; it will keep up to two weeks unopened.

For the remoulade, mix the shredded celeriac, mayonnaise, mustard and seasoning. Chill until needed.

To serve, finely slice the bresola and place on a chilled plate. Spoon a few dollops of the remoulade on top and arrange a few slices of the drained pickled celeriac. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese, olive oil and microcress.

Goose breast, choucroute and pancetta

(Serves 4)
For the pancetta
1kg pork belly, skin removed,
keep the fat on
10g curing salt (pink salt)
25g table salt
30g dark brown sugar
6g vitamin C powder
2 garlic cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
2tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp chilly flakes
1tsp black pepper
2tsp coriander seeds
2tsp juniper seeds
50ml brandy

For the choucroute
1kg white cabbage, finely sliced
20g table salt
200ml white wine vinegar
100g unsalted butter
250g diced pancetta
1tsp coriander seeds
100g celery finely diced
100g onion finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200ml dry white wine
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the goose
1 goose breast (approximately 750g)
1tsp coriander seeds
1 sprig of thyme
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

First prepare the pancetta: pat the pork belly dry and place in a deep tray. Place the rest of the ingredients apart from the brandy in a pestle and mortar and pound until fine.

Rub this cure into the meat, place in a vacuum bag and seal on hard vacuum. Refrigerate and leave to marinade for five days, turning the meat every day.

Remove the meat from the bag and pat dry. Place the meat on a clean tray and sprinkle over the brandy. Refrigerate for 3 hours before wrapping the meat in muslin cloth and hang in a walk-in fridge by the fan for 3 weeks. Once the pancetta is ready, remove the muslin and dust off any excess bits of spices. Cut into smaller pieces
and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

For the choucroute, mix the sliced cabbage, table salt and vinegar, place in a vacuum pouch and seal on hard vacuum. Refrigerate and store for one week before using.

Once ready, rinse the cabbage under cold running water and drain. In a saucepan over a medium heat melt the butter and sauté the pancetta, crushed coriander seeds, celery, onion and garlic for about 8 minutes until golden brown. Add the drained cabbage and season lightly, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 5 minutes. Stir and add the wine, cook over a low heat with the lid on for about 10-15 minutes until the liquid is evaporated and the cabbage, pancetta and vegetables are soft and glossy. Keep warm until serving.

For the goose, trim the excess fat from the goose breast, score the fat and place the breast with the coriander seeds and thyme in a vacuum pouch. Seal on hard
vacuum and cook in a preheated water bath at 54°C for 6 hours. Drain the goose from the bag and render the fat in a hot pan over a high heat until the fat is crisp and golden brown. Rest the goose breast for 10 minutes, keeping it warm.

To serve, spoon the choucroute onto a warm serving platter, carve the goose breast and place on top.

Serve with Brussels sprouts or steamed purple sprouting broccoli and a rich red wine sauce.

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