February the shortest month and the only month with fewer than 30 days, so we have to pack a lot in, within a short space of time, at the start of every month we plan and see what’s available, where it comes from and then we somewhat plan our menus around the information we have, not that we stick firmly to them, cooking is too much fun for that and when shopping in the markets and smaller stores you always seem to find something that the mainstream shops and supermarkets don’t have.
I have to say though that February is not one the finest of months for the cook although this year we have been blessed and had a good sharp frost that means that the Brussels sprouts are very sweet and the cabbages, kale, carrots, and parsnips are good.
All the winter root crops are still going strong and this is the month for early winter cauliflower, leeks are really flourishing now, so turn them into creamy soups or blanch them and serve in salads, turnips, protected spinach, swede, celeriac, chard, forced rhubarb, and carrots potatoes, apples, and pears are still available and mushrooms are available most of the year, so that all important date this month the 14th St. Valentine’s day you will be able to cook up a very romantic meal with some superb ingredients.
I think that this is the time of year for all those delightful roasts, slow cooked, rich warming casseroles with lots of perfect floury potatoes like Maris Piper and King Edwards, along with rich earthy root vegetables and sweet onions
Also don’t forget to look out for savoy and green cabbages, which should be coming in now these come in all shapes and sizes at this time of year, the pointed spring cabbages are particularly sweet, while dimpled savoy cabbage leaves are ideal for stuffing.
This weekend we had the first of the British greens from Tesco’s and they are superb jam packed full of flavour and very sweet.
The fishing has been quite good this last couple of weeks and although somewhat scarce cod is at its best this time of year as is Hake, Pollack, Whiting, and Pouting.
You know we must start using these four fish a lot more they are all cousins to the cod and haddock plus they are full of flavour and much more affordable so come on be bold and give them a try.
Mussels are affordable, delicious, and provide a superb meal for all the family, and although not as inexpensive as mussels, the halibut is a majestic fish and outstanding pan fried, poached or baked; the same can be said for brill and turbot.
Beef, lamb and pork is good this month and our local butcher has some ox-tail and beef brisket in that is just so tasty we have already cooked a beef pot-roast and slow braised ox-tail, just have a look at my recipe for beef pot-roast
Fresh wild game is just about finished for the season now but hare is still in season and wild venison is still good as are rabbit. What is more guinea fowl is widely available, this petite bird is related to the chicken, and its slightly gamey but tantalizing flavour makes it an exciting alternative it's smaller so all through cooking, keep it moist, in addition why not try a delicious goose this month they really are a flavoursome bird.
Fruit at Its Best
Apples, Forced Rhubarb, Pears
Vegetables at Their Best
Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Horseradish, Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Onions, Parsnips, Potatoes (Maincrop), Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radishes, Rhubarb, Rocket, Salsify, Shallots, Spinach, Swede and Turnips
Herbs, nuts etc. this month;
Chestnuts, Chives, Coriander, Mushrooms (Cultivated), and Wild Mushrooms, Parsley (Curly) Truffles (Black)
Meat, Poultry and Game at Its Best
Beef, Chicken, Duck, Goose, Grouse, Guinea Fowl, Hare, Mallard, Partridge, Pork, Rabbit, Turkey, Venison And Wood Pigeon,
Fish and Seafood at Its Best
Brill, Clams, Cockles, Cod, Conger Eel, Crab, Dab, Dover Sole, Eel, Haddock, Halibut, Hake, John Dory, Langoustine, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackerel, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters, Plaice, Scallops, Sea Bream, Skate, Squid, Turbot And Winkles.
Look out for our very own native oysters they are in season and at their very best now, delicately flavoured with a taste that compares to the sea itself they are just about the most sought after oyster in the world, I also suggest that you look for farmed Pacific (rock) oysters which have an altogether subtler taste at this time of year again they are in their prime and a lot easier on the pocket.
Oysters are regarded as a special treat but restaurateur Ben Wright, who runs the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm, argues: “Oysters are for us all to enjoy and we should dispel the mystery that surrounds them”.
Is it true you should only eat them if there is a letter “r” in the month, between September and April?
“It’s true of native oysters which can’t be harvested in the summer spawning period, Pacific’s are all year round,” says Ben. How should you eat them? “Add lemon juice and let the oyster speak for itself. Pacific’s stand up better to cooking and are great deep-fried in breadcrumbs.”
Try them grilled with Parmesan, in beef and oyster pie or fried in cornflour and served in a buttered baguette (The Original Po'boy Sandwich). They are high in protein, low in fat and contain testosterone-boosting zinc, hence their aphrodisiac reputation.
Pick those with undamaged shells and a pleasant smell. They should be tightly closed or should snap shut when tapped. If not the oyster is dead and should not be eaten. Store live oysters in the fridge wrapped in a damp tea towel and eat as soon as possible.
To open (or shuck) an oyster, use a knife with a short, thick blade and wear protective gloves. Insert at the hinge and twist, sliding the blade up to cut the muscle that keeps the shell shut.
Sales of sustainable seafood soar in UK supermarkets;
Consumers are favouring Coley, Dab, Mussels, Squid, and Sardines over the staple Salmon, Cod, and Tuna following the programmes on television, which highlighted the wasteful use of "discard" in fishing practices while encouraging shoppers to take the pressure off popular fish stocks by being more adventurous in what they eat.
The cook and Guardian writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, credited with boosting demand for higher-welfare chicken three years ago, has taken the lead in the new campaign. Programmes from fellow chef Jamie Oliver have shown consumers new ways of cooking less popular species such as Mussels, Squid, and Trout.
Sainsbury's said sales of "by catch" from its fresh fish counter had been "promising" overall, while sales of Pollack had leapt by 167% week on week. It said customers had responded well to the fish featured in Jamie Oliver's programmes with sales of British and MSC-certified mackerel up 60% and mussels up 16%.
Sales of its sustainable "line and pole caught" canned tuna increased by 17% over the last week, while sales of organic salmon grew by 16% and normal salmon sales remained unchanged.
Tesco, the UK's biggest fish retailer, said it had seen an increase in sales of between 25 and 45% for fresh sardines, coley, brown crab, sprats, and whiting in the week since the first programmes. It said in a statement: "We sell around 40 species of fish on our fresh counters and our staff are trained to advise customers on trying new varieties. Sales of fresh cod, herring, mussels, mackerel, and canned tuna also increased compared to last week."
But the supermarket was singled out by Fearnley-Whittingstall for misleading labelling on its canned tuna, leading the company to pledge to catch 100% of its own-brand canned tuna using the "pole and line" method. Tesco last week came fifth out of the major supermarkets in a 2011 league table of sustainable tuna, compiled by Greenpeace.
Waitrose said sales of seafood overall were up by 15% – with most of this increase being attributed to species that have traditionally been less popular. Sales of frozen coley were up by 36%, frozen mackerel up 31% and Dover sole up 163%. A spokeswoman for Waitrose said: "There has also been strong demand for dabs, which we sell frozen. This week we are launching sprats (a fish that has almost been forgotten by UK consumers) and are looking at introducing dabs and coley on our service counters over the coming weeks. We are also introducing Welsh flounder - a species commonly discarded."
Ally Dingwall, aquaculture and fisheries manager at Sainsbury’s said: "Fish Fight has had a direct impact on consumer behaviour. It's encouraging to see a positive shift towards less popular and by catch fish, and if we can establish continued demand, fishermen will land and sell more of these species, and it may potentially become targeted species. In the last week, our fish sales have risen across the board: from fresh to counter to frozen fish.”
Asda reported "really strong sales across the whole of the fish category in the last week, up 10% on the previous week" with particular growth in the sales of products included in Jamie Oliver's recipes. Sales of trout fillets, for example, rose by 56%, whole sardines 66% and whole mackerel up by 115%.
Marks & Spencer said it had ordered in over a third more stock than it did for its peak Christmas week. Richard Luney, M&S fish expert, commented: "We had our biggest ever week in the history of M&S on fish sales last week, sales were up 25% versus this time last year. One of the key highlights was on our line–caught tuna that had a record week – so the importance of avoiding purse seined [a large net that catches entire schools of fish] fishing methods obviously really hit home."
As part of the Fish Fight campaign, consumers have been urged to add their signatures to a letter to the European fisheries minister, Maria Damanaki, calling for the elimination of discards to be elevated to a top priority in the forthcoming review of the European common fisheries policy. Even before the programmes were aired, the letter attracted over 35,000 signatories but this has now risen to well over 500,000. Today, Fearnley-Whittingstall urged consumers: "Please keep spreading the word. Half a million supporters today – less than a week after our shows went out! I wonder if a million sign-ups is a crazy dream.
School children cook in Clarence House kitchens for the first time,
For the first time, lunch in Clarence House was cooked by school children today. Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall invited the winning schools from last year’s British Food Fortnight School Challenge to Clarence House to cook their chosen dishes for lunch. And with a special twist, Her Royal Highness invited the BBC’s Hairy Biker chefs, Dave Myers & Simon King, to work with the children to help them prepare their meal.
The competition was held last year as part of the national food promotion, British Food Fortnight. Inspired by the Hairy Bikers’ ‘Mums Know Best’ television programme, secondary schools were challenged to design and cook a meal based on recipes that would have been used in their school’s part of the country by previous generations.
The winners, Northfield Academy near Aberdeen and Greencroft Business & Enterprise Community School in Durham, travelled to London to cook their winning dishes: Cock-A-Leekie Soup, Rabbit Pie, and Cranachan with Petticoat Tails.
The lunch, which was attended by leading supporters of the national food promotion, commemorated the 10th anniversary of British Food Fortnight and the event’s plans for 2012 when it will run at the same time as the London Olympics making sure that British food is number one when the eyes of the world are upon us.
Jake Mossom, from Greencroft Business & Enterprise School said: “How many people can say they have cooked for royalty? To come to Clarence House to cook a meal is a dream come true – I will never forget it. It has been such fun learning about recipes that used to be cooked by previous generations and has really made me appreciate all the wonderful local ingredients there are. And Her Royal Highness said it was delicious!”
Retailers urged to follow Asda on pork;
THE National Pig Association (NPA) has praised Asda for ‘leading the way’ in helping pig farmers during the current crisis period.
The Leeds-based retailer has agreed to pay an additional 8p/kg for its Asda Pork Link members.
The NPA welcomed the move as ‘good start’ but is urging he retailer to extend the price increase to all its pig meat suppliers and has urged other retailers to follow suit.
“The NPA is pleased to see Asda leading the way in addressing the current pig farmer profitability crisis. This is a good start and NPA will be working with Asda to ensure that the full 8p goes directly to ALL producers supplying Asda,” NPA chairman Stewart Houston said.
“We trust that Asda’s initiative will encourage others to follow suit quickly so that very soon the price paid to producers will increase significantly to reflect the true production cost of high welfare, British pigs for Red Tractor pork, bacon, ham, and sausages.”
He said the NPA was also pleased with Asda’s commitment to review their sourcing policy with a view to including more high welfare, assured British pork, and pork products on their key lines. Mr Houston said he hoped the moved would take Asda ‘to the levels of their competitors’ in its sourcing policy.
Asda stores chief executive and President Andy Clarke said: “We understand it’s a difficult time for pig farmers and we hope the feed price supplement being offered to our Pork Link members will help ease some of the pressure.”
High feed costs and competition from cheap imports, compounded by the recent German dioxin crisis, mean UK producers are currently losing more than £21 per pig, while the industry as a whole lost £27 million in 2010, according to levy body BPEX.
Earlier this week NFU Scotland named and shamed Asda and Tesco as the worst offenders among the major retailers for ‘shunning home produced pork and chicken in favour of cheap imports’. An NFUS investigation of supermarket shelves found that ‘virtually all’ Asda’s bacon was imported, as were gammon and bacon joints, while its value range of pork chops were a mix of French and German.
Tesco’s ‘3 for £10’ offer was on Dutch chicken and pork and ‘no British bacon appeared available’, while fresh pork shelves, despite carrying a ‘Specially Selected Scotch’ banner, were stocked with Dutch, French and Northern Irish product, NFUS said.
“At the very time when we need UK supermarkets to stand by UK producers, this quick look at the shelves has found Tesco and Asda appearing to shun producers here while making the most of the opportunities presented by the collapse in prices seen in Europe,” NFUS president Jim McLaren said.
In contrast, Morrisons ‘continued to demonstrate a considerable commitment to Scottish and British produce’, NFUS said.
Asda Told To Change Price Guarantee Advertising;
Asda has been ordered to change its "misleading" price guarantee adverts following complaints from rival supermarkets.
The retailer’s original price guarantee advertising promised to refund customers the difference during their next shop if they found groceries cheaper at the other major supermarket chains.
However, Tesco and Morrisons complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ads were misleading as they suggested that Asda was generally cheaper than its main competitors, despite the including groceries and non-food items which they claim were excluded from the price comparison.
Asda responded to the complaints by insisting that their methodology for comparing prices between the retailers was robust, accurate and supported by Clearcast, which approves ads before they go on TV.
But the ASA upheld, or partly upheld, four of the nine complaints against the Walmart-owned retailer, after ruling that it failed to make it clear that the price guarantee did not apply to non-grocery products that appeared prominently in the ads.
A statement from the advertising watchdog said: "We told Asda to ensure their ads did not suggest their price guarantee applied to all items, including non-grocery items and items that were specifically excluded, or that their savings claims referred to shopping generally rather than specific items, if that was not the case."
The ASA ruled that the five adverts involving the Asda Price Guarantee tagline must not appear again in their current form.
Asda said it was satisfied with the outcome and remains committed to the Asda Price Guarantee and its recently launched 10 per cent cheaper price promise.
Address: Tachbrook Street, SW1
Trading hours: Monday to Saturday: 8am to 6pm
Nearest tube: Victoria or Pimlico
Bus: 2, 24, 36, 185, 436
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:
Spring 2011 - Pimlico Food Festival
On Sonny’s Stall on Tachbrook Street Market
Sonny’s stall this week was a picture it is great to see such fresh produce full of lively colours, what was on offer? Well there were Apples Cox’s from Kent to be exact, English Braeburns and Bramleys, Artichokes, Beets, English Broccoli, Butternut Squash, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Courgettes, English King Edward Potatoes, Fennel, Field Mushrooms, Leeks, Mache (Lambs Lettuce), Parsnips, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Radish, Watercress, you can plainly see that all of what was available was in first-rate condition.
Our Local Butchers have been getting in
Beef, lamb, and pork is good this month and our local butcher Freemans has some ox-tails and beef brisket in that is just so tasty his fore-rib of beef looked just about perfectly hung and at under £14 per kilo is probably the cheapest in London you really must give the classically trained butcher a go and just to see a real traditional butcher shop is a treat.
At Alhayat we bought some British veal chops at under £9 a kilo and they were very tasty and their Scottish lamb is fantastic.
Jon Norris on Tachbrook Street Market;
Every time we go to his stall we see more and more people queuing up for his wares and its no wonder as this week he had on offer some outstanding plump succulent Cornish Pollock (see below for my recipe).
You had your choice of steaks and fillets and we had 2 large thick fillet pieces for under £6.00 so along with the sweet rough brown shrimps we also bought our Saturday night special, dinner was less than £10.00
His display as usual was a picture with Cornish Brill, Clams including sweet plump Razor Clams, Cod fillets, Cod steaks, and a whole Cod one of the biggest I had seen for a while, Crab, Haddock, Cornish Hake, Halibut, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Megrim Sole, Dover Sole, Gilthead Bream, Cornish Gurnard, grey Mullet, Lobster, Scottish Mackerel, Mussels, Monkfish, Cornish Octopus, there was Plaice from Scotland so plump and sweet, Prawns in the shell we bought a pint of them and they were so sweet and succulent we both wished we had purchased more, there were Native Oysters, Rock Oysters, Scallops from the Isle of Man, wild Sea Bass, Skate, Sprats, Squid, Turbot, and Cornish Whiting, and some of the biggest Whelks (Buckies) that I have seen in many a year
Almost all Jon’s fish is sourced from around the Cornish, Devon and Scottish coasts and his prices are so reasonable you have got to give this gifted and extraordinary fishmonger a try, you won’t be sorry, I promise.
Recipes for February
When we were at the Great Tree Hotel our fishmonger used to ring early every morning letting me know what the local catch was and the prices and during February, March and April Pollack was always plentiful and this was one of the ways we cooked it. It was especially popular with our French guests, we still cook it today but now just for the 2 of us, and sometimes I use cod, haddock or whiting if the Pollack isn’t available.
Serves / Makes: 2 servings
Prep-Time: 60 minutes
Cook-Time: 8 minutes
You Will Need
For the Pollack
2 x 200 gram fillets, Pollack, use the thickest part
1 teaspoon, sea salt
2 tablespoons, olive oil for frying/roasting
15 grams, plain flour for dusting
2 teaspoons, fresh thyme leaves
Zest of ½ a lemon, finely shredded
For The Shrimps
200 grams, brown shrimps, cooked and peeled
100 grams unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon, ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon, ground mace
¼ teaspoon, ground cayenne pepper
1 small bay leaf
½ tablespoon, lemon juice
1 tablespoon each of finely chopped fresh chives and curly parsley
Place the Pollack fillets on a plate and sprinkle with the salt, chill uncovered for at least 1 hour, this will draw out the excess moisture and make the fish a little firmer, brush off the excess salt and pat dry with kitchen paper and chill.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/400°F/Gasmark 7. Put the flour and thyme into a shallow dish or plate, season with salt and pepper and stir to mix, add the fish, and coat well shaking off the excess flour. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat, add the fish skin side down and cook for 1 to 2 minutes to crisp the skin, transfer to a roasting tin, skin side down, scatter with the lemon zest and roast for 5 to 8 minutes or until just cooked through.
While the Pollack is roasting prepare the shrimps by melting the butter in a frying pan then add the ground white pepper, mace, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf allow the butter to cool until it is just warm, remove the bay leaf. Bring back to a medium heat until foaming and add the shrimps mix well to coat the shrimp and cook for 1 to 2 minutes now add the lemon juice and herbs.
By this time the Pollack should be cooked place the pollock onto 2 plates and pour the shrimps and foaming butter over the Pollack fillets, serve, and Enjoy!
Pollock or Pollack is one more of those fish which is frequently disregarded by consumers in this country, who instead plump for Cod or Haddock.
Our Celtic cousins across the Channel take another view stop at any fish restaurant in Brittany and ‘Lieu Jaune’ (Pollock) will habitually be the daily special or main attraction on the menu.
The worth that the French place on Pollack is reflected by the price they are will charge, conventionally Pollock have been caught either by inshore fishermen using hand lines around the rocks or as a extra catch by fishermen fishing for cod and other round fish type. Nevertheless, improved access to the French market has resulted in increasingly rising prices paid at first auction for Pollock. As a consequence, local fishermen are fishing for Pollock with hand lines and gill nets, fishing in their preferred locale;
In reaction to mounting prices and the ever-increasing price placed on line caught fish, talks are presently being held about the labelling of Pollock in the same way that line caught Bass are labelled (see www.linecaught.org.uk ) providing “line-to-plate” traceability.
Another good reason to try Pollack is that around 90% of the Pollock landed in the UK is caught off the south west coast and landed into Cornish Ports landings are steady at just over 1000 tonnes per annum and the stock levels are said to be ‘stable’ by ICES Fisheries Scientists.
Pollack is available most of the year but more plentiful in the first and second quarters of the year, with 60% of the annual catch being taken in February, March and April.
Beef Pot Roast with Vegetables
An inexpensive, satisfying, and oh-so-rich feast roasted in the pot and once assembled it needs little attention this dish makes its own gravy while it cooks. Furthermore it is so delicious the next day when used for leftovers, seeing that the flavours mature with time.
Lord and Lady Hanson enjoyed a good beef pot roast especially when made with the wine they were going to have with the meal and we still enjoy this beef pot roast above all in the winter months when you can just put it in the oven and leave it for 2 or 3 hours while you just chill out and wait for a very unique dish.
Serves / Makes: 6 servings
Prep-Time: 30 minutes
Cook-Time: 3 hours
You Will Need
1 ½ to 2 kilos rolled brisket
2 tablespoons, olive, or vegetable oil
6 shallots, peeled and left whole, or 1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrot cut into 5cm/2inch chunks
4 celery stalks, cut into 5cm/2inch chunks
300 grams, swede, cut into 5cm/2inch chunks
300 grams, potatoes, cut into 5cm/2inch chunks
6 regular or 1 large Portobello mushroom, cut into 1 inch chunks
200mls vegetable stock, we sometimes use the Knorr gel stocks
100mls, good red wine
1 tablespoon, Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons, tomato purée
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Beurre Manié made with 1 tablespoon flour and 25 grams softened butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 150°C / 300F° / gas mark 2.
Heat the oil over a high heat in a large oven-proof casserole and brown the meat on all sides. Place on a plate. Add the shallots or onion, carrot and celery to the casserole and fry until beginning to go brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Place the meat on top of the vegetables and add the swede, potatoes, and mushrooms.
Make up the stock, add the Worcestershire sauce and tomato purée and pour over the roast add the bay leaf and thyme, salt and pepper and bring to the boil, Secure with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven for 2½ to 3 hours.
After the cooking time, drain off the liquid, arrange the meat and vegetables on a serving platter, and keep warm. Make the Beurre Manié by mixing the butter and flour to a paste. Bring the liquid to the boil and whisk in the Beurre Manié to thicken the sauce taste for seasoning and serve with the pot roast.
Serve and Enjoy!
- Moist heat is a must
- Instead of wine and stock, you can use just wine, beer, ale, stout or all stock it all depends on you.
- The cuts of meat used for pot roast have less fat than steaks and long, slow cooking with liquid (also called braising) tenderizes the meat fibres.
- Whether the pot roast is cooked on the stove, in the oven or in the crock-pot, you may brown the meat first on all sides. This improves the flavour and appearance of the meat.
- The high heat used during browning caramelizes the sugars and proteins in the meat, which results in a rich flavour.
- If the recipe doesn't call for browning, you don't have to worry about it.
- Season the meat before browning for best flavour.
- Common cuts used for pot roast include: chuck, brisket, top round and bottom round
- Did you know that Sauerbraten is a famous German variety of pot roast and that our own Lancashire Hotpot is a type of pot roast?
Beurre Manié (French "kneaded butter"), is a dough, made up of equal parts of soft butter and flour, it is used to thicken soups and sauces. By kneading the flour and butter together, the resulting paste/dough is a good thickener. When the Beurre Manié is whisked into a hot or warm liquid, the butter melts, releasing the flour particles without creating lumps.
Beurre Manié should not be confused with roux, which is also a thickener made of equal parts of butter and flour, but which is cooked before use. Unused Beurre Manié can be stored in a covered dish or jar for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Start with 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon of softened butter, Work the butter and flour together by hand, once the flour is incorporated into the butter your Beurre Manié is finished and prepared to add to your stews, soups, and sauces, remember though to just add it a little at a time, making sure that it is stirred well in.
- Recipe: Celeriac and apple soup with turbot and shellfish (telegraph.co.uk)
- You: Red cabbage recipes (guardian.co.uk)
- Seasonal Eating for Health: What Foods to Eat in Winter (brighthub.com)