Eating seasonally is important inÂ many ways; you get the freshest, best quality produce, support local growers & are more sustainable, save money, access a better variety of foods – and much more. That’s why we’re launching a monthly guide to some of the produce that’s best to buy right now, and how to cook it. This is our first one for January 2016.
But it’s often hard to get excited about long lists of what to buy, so we’ve teamed up with Miss Magpie Spy to bring these to life in a more beautiful, engaging way. We’ve followed Niki Groom on Instagram for ages and are thrilled to be working with her on this project. She’s a UK-based illustrator with over 15 years experience in the fashion industry, having worked withÂ Clinique, Accessorize, Links of London, River Island and BBC Radio 1 – Â but this is the first time she’s drawn food!
We’re also very lucky to have sourced our veg from Rushton’sÂ Greengrocer (thanks to Russell Norman for the introduction), which provides fresh daily fruit & veg to London’s restaurants and bars, and all of the illustrations feature gorgeous plates that are currently on sale in various retailers.
1. Sprout tops
What are they? The clusters of leaves that grow at the crown of the sprouts’ stalk
How much? Â£2/kg
How do they taste? Sweet and cabbage-like, with a hint ofÂ brussels sprouts but none of the sulphur
How do you cook them? Quickly, for about 3-4 minutes in boiling salted water. We love Delicious’Â ideaÂ to serve them with browned butter, lemon and hazelnuts.
2. Russet apples
What are they? ‘Russeting’ on applesÂ is actually the name for a particular type of skin; slightly rough, usually with a greenish-brown to yellowish-brown colour.Â Many applesÂ have some natural russeting, but others are almost entirely covered in it – most notably the Egremont Russet, but there are about 20 varieties, from Blenheim Orange to Winston
How much? 40p each
How do they taste? Characteristically sweet, with a dry “nutty” flavour
How do you cook them? Eat fresh, great with cheese as it’s more dense & moist than crisper varieties. Also great for baking due to the same reason; try a classic apple pie
3. Jerusalem artichokes
What are they? These ugly little things are masters of disguise; they look like ginger roots, aren’t actually artichokes (though the two are distantly related as members of the daisy family) and don’t come from Jerusalem! In fact, they’re a variety of sunflower that have lumpy & brown-skinned tubers, and areÂ namedÂ from the Italian word for sunflower, girasole.
How much? Roughly Â£3.50/kg
How do they taste? Slightly nutty, like a cross between an artichoke heart and the best potato you’ve ever had.
How do you cook them?Â Most Jerusalem artichokes are knobbly, which is in no way indicative of their flavour, although slightly smoother ones are easier to prepare. Simply peel and treat like a potato; I love Jamie’s recipe for sautÃ©ing them with garlic and bay leaves
Plate from Emma Bridgewater at John Lewis
4. Conference pears
What are they?Â This variety of pear was developed in Britain by Thomas Rivers and owes its name to the fact that it won first prize at the National British Pear Conference in London in 1885.
How much? 50p each
How do they taste?Â Conference pears are long and thin with a bright green skin that is mostly covered in russet from the bottom up (same as the apples). Taste really does depends on how ripe they are when you eat them, you need to let them ripen for up to 4 weeks on the counter or 2 months in the fridge. If you do that,Â they’ll be sweet and juicy with a smooth-textured flesh (which sometimes has a slight pink tint to it)
How do you cook them? Eat fresh as is, or add to a salad (amazing with blue cheese & walnut). If you’re cooking them, don’t mess with them too much. Â Poach pears in simple syrup with a cinnamon stick or bake them in a tart.
Head back here on Feb 1st for next month 🙂