So, it’s here, we’re into the second week of December and bodies up and down the country are bracing themselves for the onslaught of ‘naughty’ canapés and too much booze; but, it really doesn’t have to be like that with some planning…and not a cardboard rice cake in sight (unless you’re into that kind of thing). Outside, there are many plants that can still be put into gardens now to give you something pretty and cheerful to look out on (winter pansies, cyclamen being just two that spring to mind), visit your local garden centre and ask for advice. Colder weather is actually the gardeners’ friend: it kills off pesky fungi and pests that may have damaged your plants earlier in the year, and cold snaps are what create tender textures and sweetness in what can otherwise be sometimes stringy, chewy, bitter veggies (think spouts and other brassicas). If you embrace winter as season of stews, slow cooked meals, thick soups and roasts, great, if you yearn for something lighter, more salady, it’s still relatively easy with a bit of clever thinking.
Winter leaves can be a bit on the bitter side (think chicory, radicchio) but if you pair these with some crispy bacon (or field mushrooms), blue cheese and a creamy, garlicky dressing or thick balsamic one, you have a lovely balanced flavour. How about roast squash and lentils with some crumbled feta and a spiced lemon dressing (big fan of pre prepared pulses), thinly sliced radish with smoked salmon and pickles is another delicious example: let your imagination wander – or search recipes online for inspiration – you don’t have to stick rigidly to a recipe, just take what you like from it (unless it’s baking, that’s a bit more science-y!). Good Food, Delicious, Olive and Good Housekeeping are great resources for recipes either online or in magazine format.
Prolific (read budget friendly) foods available this month include: cabbages, kale, sprouts, swede, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, beetroot, winter radish, Jerusalem artichokes, spuds, leeks, celery, cavolo nero, chicory and blood oranges. Root veg often gets a poor reputation as being ‘dull’ or ‘old fashioned’, but with a bit of forethought, you can create some really delicious dishes (more on that in a later post this week).
As for the alcohol side of this month, there’s no need to take booze (or food for that matter) to the extreme: take it steady, find a softie that you like – there is only so much diet cola a girl can take before her teeth itch (lemongrass and ginger cordial is a big hit with Mrs N, Mrs W is an elderflower cordial fan) – you don’t need to pickle yourself, drink plenty of water alongside your tipple of choice (you’ll be thankful in the morning!) and remember to enjoy yourself and the company you are with…for it is Christmas but once a year.