Tuesday, 7 December 2010

December, What’s in Season This Month

December it’s time to think about Christmas is it not? Scores of food writers concentrate on Christmas food in December as do we but we also reflect on all those rich warming stews, hotpots, and casseroles, the advantage of stews is that they take a few run of the mill ingredients and as if by magic transform them into incredible heart warming dishes that are always more than welcoming on a cold winter’s day, and they are so easy to prepare.

Try our recipes for Lancashire Hotpot, Irish stew, and Beef, Ale and mushroom casserole.

Like I said, it’s difficult not to talk about turkeys at this time of year and of course, there are some good free range turkeys in the shops around this time. The conventional white turkey is ok and we often have it during the year starting from about Easter, but at Christmas time, we prefer the Bronze because its meat has a darker colour with a much gamier flavour.

Having said that though this year we are considering a free range goose.

we are still at the height of the game season so we might at sometime during the holidays have a brace of pheasant which is at its best in December, if they are quite large we pot roast them for the most succulence.

There are more than enough of vegetables to be had now to put together delicious, warming winter dishes, for a change from sprouts why not look for something more out of the ordinary, such as salsify or scorzonera (the Oyster Plant) these have a tough skin that require peeling before cooking in boiling water but after that, you can transform them into a gratin, with a silky-smooth texture and yummy, delicate taste.

It’s an excellent time for leafy green vegetables and those earthy, tasty roots I think there is nothing sweeter than a nice tasty bowlful of Harvard Beets and a plate of greens may not be the most exciting dish nevertheless with the addition of a little cream and bacon it is magically transformed into a magnificent side dish, the same goes for red cabbage braised in a red wine vinegar with red onions and juniper berries it will go so well with your Christmas goose.

We also like to serve creamed leeks as a mouth-watering addition to our roasts and grilled meat as well as fish particularly good with Pollack.

All you have to do with them is to trim, slice, and rinse thoroughly under cold running water then put them in a saucepan with a knob of butter, cover with a lid, and cook them gently until tender. Now fork to a purée with a little more butter, cream, and a little freshly grated nutmeg.

And don’t forget the oysters and smoked salmon and caviar for those who can afford it are holiday classics what makes them so perfect for entertaining is that they need nothing doing to them.

A good substitute for caviar is Onuga or Avruga available at most good supermarkets.

You can find all our recipes on MyDish and on this blog of course

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

Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Horseradish, Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale, Leeks, Parsnips, Potatoes (Main Crop), Pumpkin, Salsify, 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, Coley, Conger Eel, Eel, Haddock, Halibut, Hake, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters, Plaice, Scallops, Sea Bass, Sea Bream, Skate, Turbot And Winkles.

Look for smoked wild Scottish salmon, or at Tesco’s they have a wonderful smoked wild Alaskan salmon or smoked organic salmon for a real treat.

Fish to enjoy at this time of year are, carp a traditional much-loved favourite in Germany on Christmas Eve, bake it stuffed with breadcrumbs, herbs, onions and garlic.

Baked Sea Bass or Turbot would make a good alternative.

What’s Happening in the Supermarkets

This is a new section by popular demand, and while we have nothing against the big supermarkets most of the time we in truth make use of two of them Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s and they can sell very good seasonal and organic foods while we hardly ever use them for fruit, vegetables and butchers meats we do buy game from them when the have it.

We under no circumstances use them for fish and shellfish our local fishmongers have the finest and freshest available.

Sometimes we think that they are just too large and their buying power can be detrimental to the British food industry and with all those strip lights many of which don’t work, freezer cabinets that need a good defrost and clean, never-ending queues of strangers and endless shelves of packets, tins, and bottles, sham smiles from uninterested checkout assistants we just keep asking ourselves “Isn't there a better way to get our food”?

SUPERMARKET NEWS;

  • English vineyards are producing record harvests of English bubbly this year as sparking wine is set to account for more than half the country's total production for the first time. The rapid increase in planting of champagne-variety grapes has pushed up the production of sparkling wine from 300, 000 bottles of a total 1.8 million in 2000 to half of the total 3 million bottle production last year.
  • Consider the red sprout! A new variety of the Brussels sprout has been launched in Asda, which is a milder and sweeter version of the bitter-tasting Brussels sprout. Grown in Cambridgeshire and harvested between October and February, they can be served raw in salads or simply steamed like their green cousins.
  • Morrisons has won gold in the retailer pre-packed category for its pork, oak-smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese sausage at the annual British Sausage week awards.
  • M&S is to sell mince pies year-round due to shopper demand.
  • Supermarket Morrisons have been stocking the festive treats through the summer for the last ten years.
  • Now Marks & Spencer are planning to put the pies on shelves throughout the year after sales rocketed.
  • A number of other chains are also thought to be considering the move. Normally the savoury goodies are reserved for the weeks before Christmas. But this year Brits have been asking retailers to stock them from the end of August. Last year M&S sold 12million pies before December, over a third of its stock.
  • And shoppers snapped up 2.4million in September alone. The pies have a shelf life of just three weeks so customers are buying them to eat, not saving them for the festive season.
  • Nicola Brown, M&S Mince Pie Buyer, said: "Our customers don't wait just for Christmas Day. They have become such a popular treat we are actually thinking about selling them all year round." The store said it will sell more than 40 million mince pies in the run up to this Christmas.
  • Hungry Brits are eating 119 mince pies every minute before December begins.
  • Traditional mince pies contain mincemeat made from vine fruits and vegetable suet.
  • New variations include puff pastry, all-butter, and chocolate mince pies.
  • A Morrison’s spokeswoman said: "Due to customer demand, we have been selling mince pies all year round for the last ten years. “ During our peak festive period we sell an average of 30 million mince pies. They are a quintessential British treat."
  • Supermarket chain Lidl offers Lobster at £4.99  "As they say in the retail trade, "when it's gone, it's gone", but you can expect our rivals to wage a lobster price war with us once they realise we have caught them on the hop." The pre-cooked, frozen product is targeted at shoppers in the run up to Christmas, a Lidl spokesman said.
  • Tesco now has its own promotion on frozen lobsters, priced £6. A spokesman said: "We have promotions on a range of items, which change every week. In these difficult times we try to make our produce as affordable as possible."
  • Lidl's offer comes amid a trend of "credit crunch cuisine", with supermarkets enticing customers on a budget.
  • The Feed Your Family for a Fiver campaign by Sainsbury's has sparked huge sales boosts with each different recipe.
  • Not to be outdone, Tesco has also worked out a weekly planner where a family of four can be fed healthily for £5 per day.

Look Out For In the Supermarkets This Month:

FRUIT;

Apples (Bramley’s, Russets, Spartan and Worcester), Chestnuts, Walnuts, Pears (Comice and Conference), Forced Rhubarb

VEGETABLES;

Artichoke, Aubergine, Beetroot, Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Chillies, Courgettes, Fennel, Garlic, Horseradish, Kale, Leeks, Marrow, Onions,  Peppers, Potatoes (Maincrop), Pumpkins, Radishes, Rocket, Sweet Corn, Turnips And Watercress.

HERBS AND STUFF;

Chestnuts, Chives, Mint, Parsley (Curly), Sage and Wild Mushrooms

MEAT;

Beef, Chicken, Grouse, Guinea Fowl, Lamb, Partridge, Pork, Rabbit, Venison, and Wood Pigeon

FISH;

Brill, Clams, Coley, Crab, Grey Mullet, Haddock, Halibut, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackerel, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters, Pilchard, Plaice, Pollack, Prawns, Scallops, Sea Bass, Sea Bream, Squid, Turbot And Winkles.

Local Shopping

TACHBROOK 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

Tachbrook Street Market (8)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’ and it will be hosting a brilliant Christmas market. 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.

Dates for your diary:

All December - CHRISTMAS MARKET

Spring 2011 - Pimlico Food Festival

On Sonny’s Stall on Tachbrook Street Market

Sonny's Fruit and Veg Stall (13)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, While Peaches, some fantastic pumpkins and squashes and you can plainly see that all of what was available was in first-rate condition. Also on sale were some very nice looking Christmas trees.

 

Our Local Butchers have been getting in

Beef Steaks, Angus (Small)As well as the customary meat on offer at Freeman’s they also had some nice game birds and truly fine oxtail and we had some excellent pork loin chops at a much more attractive price than is offered by the supermarkets.

Alhayat had some exceptional Heather Fed Scottish lamb, British rosé veal and chicken and at a fantastic price, you can’t go wrong giving this shop a go.

 

 

 

Our Local Fishmonger on Tachbrook Street Market Has Been Getting In

Fishmonger, Jon Norris  (2)Most all Jon’s fish is from around the Cornish, Devon and Scottish coasts, and this week he had on offer some outstanding plump succulent plaice on his stall, ask him to fillet them then once home just lightly flour the fillets and fry them for a short time on each side in a little oil and serve with a pat of garlic butter, prepared by mixing butter with a little crushed garlic and chopped parsley it’s so tasty, so easy and very quick.

This week we had some superb haddock and one of the best dressed crabs of the season the meat both brown and white was so sweet and tasty.

His display as usual was a picture with Brill, Clams including sweet plump Razor Clams, Cod fillets, Cod steaks, Crab, Haddock, Hake including a whole whopper, Halibut, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Megrim Sole, Dover Sole, Gilthead Bream, Gurnard, Lobster, Mackerel, Mussels, Monkfish, Native Oysters, Plaice so plump and sweet, Pollock this is a must to try, Prawns, Rock Oysters, Scallops, line caught Sea Bass from the Isle of Wight, Skate, Sprats, Squid, Turbot, and Whiting. He even had some really plump sea urchins and as they are at the end of their season you must be quick to snap these up.

 Tachbrook St. Market, Jon's Fish Stall 

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.

Recipes for December

Just follow this link for our favourite December recipes and don’t forget to order your goose or turkey early

Thinking About Christmas

Have a Good Christmas

and a

Very Happy New Year

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