Darina Allen: What's in season this time of year?

“It’s almost winter now — what’s in season at this time of the year?”

This question came from a busy young mum who was panicking and at a loss to know what to cook for her family now that the summer produce is finished — she was amazed when I rattled off all the root vegetables that are at their best at present, says Darina Allen.

“Celeriac, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, swedes...”

They’ll all be even better in a few weeks’ time when they have a few more nights of frost to sweeten them even further. Citrus fruit are also at their most diverse from now on — everything from kumquats to pomelo and all the tangerines, mandarins, clementines, ugli fruit, and bergamot. They are all packed with vitamin C, nature’s way to boost our resistance to winter colds and flu. We’ve still got lots of squash and pumpkins too. They last throughout the winter, as do the beautiful fluffy Bramley apples.

Then there are all the kales, Raggedy Jack, Red Russian, and Ethiopian kale, cavalo nero, and the humble curly kale, not to mention crunchy Savoy cabbage, floury Golden Wonders, and Kerr’s Pink potatoes, and tonnes of game.

By now her eyes were big as saucers so I started to tantalise her with some good things to cook with all that tempting produce…

Charred Cabbage with Katuobushi

Serves 6

Charred cabbage is a revelation… who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift a humble inexpensive vegetable into a whole new cheffy world. Lots of sauces and dressings work well with charred cabbage but I love this combination. Katuobushi are shaved bonita flakes. Bonita is a type of tuna. Buy some — you’ll soon be addicted and find lots of ways to use them.

1 medium cabbage

1 tablespoon light olive oil or a neutral oil

50-110g (2–4ozs) butter

15-30g (½ - 1ozs) Katuobushi flakes

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons for coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Trim the cabbage. Cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size.

Preheat the oven to 230C /450F/Gas Mark 4. Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on a medium heat until well seared on both cut surfaces. Add butter to the pan, when the butter melts and turns golden, spoon the ‘noisette’ butter over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, cover, transfer to the oven and continue to cook, basting regularly for about 10 minutes.

Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure its tender all the way through.

Add some Katuobushi flakes to the butter, baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle some more Katuobushi flakes and a little coarsely chopped parsley over the top and serve immediately.

Kale Crisps

Makes lots

Kale is still the coolest thing. It’s all over the place, on restaurant menus, in Farmers’ Markets, even on supermarket shelves — kale crisps are the snack of the moment. I’m not complaining, I love kale and it’s super nutritious; we grow four varieties here at the school — Red Russian, Asparagus Kale, Curly Kale and Raggedy Jack. I find curly kale best for this recipe.

250g (9oz) curly kale

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt, a little sugar

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2.

Strip the leaves off the kale, tear in large bite-sized bits, approximately 5 x 5cm (2 x 2 inch) and put in a bowl. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and sugar, toss and spread out in a single layer on two baking trays.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or so until crisp. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and crisp further. Enjoy.

Caramelized Carrot, Beetroot and Apple Salad with Toasted Sesame Seeds

Serves 6

Serve as a salad not as an accompaniment. A couple of bocconcini make this salad into a more substantial lunch.

600g young carrots, with a little green top

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

Extra Virgin olive oil

Honey

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

450g beetroot, cooked and peeled

1-2 dessert apples, unpeeled and coarsely grated or julienned

25g pumpkin or sesame seeds

Watercress, purslane and chickweed or a mixture of interesting leaves and ‘weeds’

Dressing

2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 230C/mark 8

Scrub the carrots, dry, split in half lengthwise, if too big. Put into a large bowl, add the thyme leaves, drizzle with the olive oil and honey, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss gently to coat.

Spread out in a roasting tin. As soon as you put the trays into the oven reduce the heat to 200C/mark 6.

Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the carrots are almost tender and caramelized at the ends and edges.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Just before serving, toast the pumpkin or sesame seeds on a dry pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, you’ll need to keep tossing them or they’ll burn on one side and become acrid and bitter.

Cut the cooked beetroot into wedges or chunks depending on size.

Make the dressing

Whisk the lemon juice, oils and honey together, add the thyme leaves, keep half the dressing aside.

Grate the apple on the coarse side of a box grater, directly into the rest of the dressing. Toss, taste and correct seasoning.

To serve:

Arrange a few sprigs of watercress, chickweed, and purslane on each plate. Whisk the dressing.

Sprinkle over the carrot and beets. Taste, it should be nice and perky. Divide them between the plates. Spoon some grated apple here and there, sprinkle with toasted seeds and serve with crusty bread.

Black Bean, Pumpkin, and Chickpea Stew

Serves 8

One of the very best one pot dishes, what’s not to like about black beans, chickpeas, and pumpkin with lots of spices?

225g dried black beans

225g dried chick peas

225g fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick

150g onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

450g-700g pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 2cm cubes

400g fresh or tinned tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

pinch of sugar

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 good teaspoon salt (it needs it, so don’t cut down)

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander (fresh parsley may be substituted though the flavour is not at all the same)

Mint Yoghurt

300ml natural yoghurt

2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves

Equipment

25cm round casserole dish

Soak the beans and chickpeas, separately, in plenty of cold water overnight. Next day cover each with fresh water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes approx or until just cooked. Reserve 150ml of the cooking liquid for later in the recipe.

Cut the mushrooms into 3mm-thick slices.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high flame. When hot, put in the whole cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle for 5-6 seconds.

Now put in the onions and garlic. Stir and fry until the onion is just beginning to colour at the edge.

Put in the mushrooms. Stir and fry until the mushrooms wilt. Now put in the pumpkin or squash, tomatoes, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, pinch of sugar, and cayenne. Stir and cook for a minute. Cover, and let this mixture cook on a gentle heat in its own juices for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat under the sauté pan.

Drain the beans and chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Add to the mushroom base mixture, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, two tablespoons of the fresh coriander and 150ml of bean cooking liquid

OR

150ml chickpea liquid.

Bring the beans and chickpeas back to the boil again. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes or until the beans and chick peas and pumpkin or squash are tender. Stir occasionally.

Remove the cinnamon stick before serving. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of fresh coriander and mint.

Serve with mint yoghurt, steamed rice, and a good green salad.

Hot Tips

Festive gifts: Darina will sign and personalise copies of her new cookbook, Simply Delicious, The Classic Collection at Midleton Farmers Market today from 11am.

Gift tokens for Ballymaloe Cookery School are also available, call 021 4646785 or online at www.cookingisfun.ie

Drummond House Garlic:  I just love when an Irish Farmer decides to grow a crop that we might otherwise have to import. We’ve long been fans of Bryn Perrin’s West Cork Garlic grown near Enniskeane but recently I’ve come across Drummond House Garlic, produced on a small family farm in Baltray, Co Louth. It’s pretty widely available so seek it out and have the satisfaction of supporting Irish artisan producers. www.drummondhouse.ie


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