what's in season: february

the fish market
I heard . . . oh voiceless trees
Under the wind, I knew
The eager terrible spring
Hidden in you

Sarah Teasdale

While February may seem a little dismal, as the poem says there is that fabulous feeling of anticipation that spring is just around the corner as well of lots of excuses for celebratory feasts, with Candlemas, St Valentine's Day, Pancake Day (also known as Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras) as well as Chinese New Year.

chicken tagine with peach and mango salad

A dish designed for a warmer climate was guaranteed to prolong my sunny mood today, despite north London's drizzly, grey backdrop. Although this is not seasonal, I felt in need of something light and fragrant; a temporary banishment of stodge in my winter diet.  

While this tagine tastes rather sumptuous, it is actually ideal as either a simple supper (any leftovers are for lunch tomorrow), and a perfect dinner party recipe as it is simple to prepare ahead; served with a bejewelled vegetable couscous, spicy chickpeas (see tip below) and a variety of refreshing salads, you can get everything ready in advance, ready to serve when your guests arrive, without having to spend too much time in the kitchen. 

cheesy potato loveliness. . . oh my still beating heart!

This indulgent gratin of creamy potatoes layered with mushrooms, Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses is the perfect antidote to a grey winter's day. This is adapted from Nigel Slater's Real Food, of which he says that it is better described as "garlic mushrooms and melting cheese in a Parmesan mashed potato crust" . . . and who am I to disagree?

This is a perfect vegetarian main course, served with a green salad or Nigel's suggestion of buttered spinach. It also makes a very satisfying accompaniment to a Sunday roast. 

should I issue an apology or just an S.O.S?

BBC Test Card c.1967
It seems that my life has been invaded by marauding Internet imps; the Luddite little blighters. Not only is my formatting all akimbo, but I cannot reply to any comments here at Marmaduke Scarlet nor can I comment on other blogs. Arrrgh (she says inarticulately, in frustration). So apologies and hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly.  

clementine and cranberry honeyed duck

my darling clementines!
I may have been complaining about being sick of Christmassy food, but this dish is redolent with Christmas fruits and spices. I put it together to use up a bowl of fragrant Christmas fruits. 

Loathe to throw them away (I had actually just bought them for decoration) and pairing the juice with leftover fresh cranberries lurking around in the bottom of the fridge. Adding lime juice and ginger helped to cut through the sweetness of the clementines and honey and adds extra zing.

what's in season: january

As I said to the man who stood at the
          gate of the year:
"Give me a light, that I might tread safely
          into the unknown!" 

M. Louise Haskins

I am by now thoroughly fed-up with Christmassy food (in particular loathsome turkey) but fortunately despite January's bleak midwinter demeanor, there are still a few things around that are good to eat.