|a riot of clematis in my garden|
Nigel Slater says that March is a terrible month for cooks, for the greedy and for those who take good care of their tummies; it is not often that I am forced to disagree with the Sainted Nigel, but things are really not all that dire, although perhaps a bit monotonous. I am beginning to hate the sight of cabbage and rhubarb!
Spring has almost sprung this year and winter is running out of steam, but in food (and gardening terms) this is considered the “hungry gap”. Between last year’s store crops and the advent of early vegetables (grown in poly tunnels.). We have the absolute joy of purple sprouting broccoli to look forward to this month too. Hurrah.
Leeks are something of March’ saviour, in soups, stews, purees and my favourite cheesy, vegetarian Glamorgan Sausages. Watercress and spring greens are about and you could forage for young nettles if you’re feeling brave, they make a wonderful soup or a stuffing for pasta. Talking of foraging, look out for “ramps” or wild garlic which adds a delicious mild garlic flavour to both soups and salads. Now is the time that I get to forage in my back garden for wild leeks ("three-cornered leeks" or allium triquetrum)- a pesky non-native invader for some people, a culinary bonus for me; from wild leek pesto to a chilli and wild leek sauce.
My favourite wild salmon from Scotland is coming into season and it is a good season for shellfish (since it’s a cold month), so celebrate St Paddy’s Day on 17th March with a large bowl of mussels cooked in Guinness.
If you have been reading this blog for some time, then you will know that I am rather fond of soup. I can also recommend a celeriac and blue cheese soup or a leek and butterbean one. Beautiful colours and lovely flavour. Of course, while there is still a chill in the air then a nice spicy parsnip soup will do nicely I think or perhaps the charm of a celeriac, pear and bacon soup.
Fish are most definitely still going strong in the cold months, delicious poached in a splash of white wine, or a hearty version with chorizo and chickpea stew, served with buttery mashed potato and some leafy greens. Very comforting. And don't forget that mussels are relatively cheap at the moment,as well as being very quick and easy to cook.
And talking of leafy greens, it is the season for kale and various cabbages, as well as leeks and Brussels, which can be easily turned into a satisfying soup or added to mash for a cheerful bubble and squeak, perfect with a leftover roast. Winter root crops are still in season and there are stores of potatoes, apples and pears.
And finally let us not forget the potato; where would we be without it? (Probably a lot less flabby!) One of my favourite comforting potato dishes is a cheesy potato bake, which will do nothing for your waistline but is great for your soul.
vegetables, herbs and wild greens:
artichokes (Jerusalem), beetroot, broccoli (purple sprouting), Brussels sprouts, Brussels tops, cabbages (various green varieties), carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, chard, chicory, chives, endive, fat hen, greens (spring and winter), leeks, mint, mooli, nettles, parsley, potatoes, radishes, sea kale, sorrel, watercress, wild chervil (aka cow parsley)
fruit and nuts:
apples (pippin and russets), pears, rhubarb (forced and early)
meat and game:
beef, chicken, hare, mutton, pork, turkey
fish and shellfish:
cockles, crab (brown, cock and hen), lobster, herring, mackerel, mussels, pilchards, pollack, oysters (rock), salmon (wild), sardines, sea trout, shrimps