With other fruits often taking the limelight, we should not forget the delights of the versatile and delicious plum. There are wonderful varieties with colours varying from yellows and greens through to deep rich purples. Victoria plums are a real North Yorkshire favourite, with lots of trees in personal orchards around the County. It’s hard to resist a fully laden plum tree in your own garden – get to them before the wasps do though!
Nutrition – A tasty source of vitamin C and dietary fibre.
Tips – Whatever the shape or size of the plum, always choose firm, plump, unwrinkled fruits with a luscious bloom on them.
Preparation – Plums will keep at room temperature for up a couple of days if you buy them when they are firm. They will continue to ripen, so don’t leave them too long! Plums are delicious to eat raw, or cooked and are best unpeeled.
Wild rabbit meat, which is leaner and tastier than the farmed variety, has a fabulous subtle, gamey flavour. It is available throughout the year but you're more likely to find the best sized rabbits from July to December.
Today rabbit meat is not very popular in Britain, perhaps in part because of its association with food shortages during WWII. It is appreciated much more elsewhere in Europe and appears regularly on the dinner table in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, and Cyprus. Malta and Crete compete for highest rabbit consumption per head of population.
Nutrition - Rabbit meat is relatively low in fat and high in protein. It is a good source of niacin, iron, phosphorus, and vitamin B12.
Tips - Unlike much of Europe, rabbit is rarely seen in UK supermarkets, but is available from many butchers and farmers markets.
Select rabbits by size; they should be large enough to yield a decent amount of meat, but not too large. Wild rabbits much larger than 1kg are prone to be tough. Younger, smaller animals will be more tender and better suited to quick cook methods such as roasting or barbecuing. Larger, older rabbits will have more flavour but may be less tender and so better suited to slower cooking.
Storing - Fresh rabbit will keep in the fridge for several days (or longer if vacuum packed). Freezing is not recommended as this can make the meat too dry.
Wild boar is lean meat that should, as a rule, be cooked at lower temperatures than other meats. Avoid overcooking. Wild boar, raised like beef, is range fed and therefore can be served on the rare side. A rule of thumb for cooking wild boar is "low and slow". The temperature for cooking roasts for example, is 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit. The amount of time depends on your personal preference as to how well done you would like to cook your meat. For chops, bake with a sauce for best results or if you prefer, pan-fry at a medium heat. Always check frequently so as not to overcook.
Wild boar is excellent barbecued. When prepared properly it is flavorful and very tender. Wild boar also makes tasty sausage, jerky and ground meat products.
Tips - When preparing wild boar for cooking remember, never thaw or cook this meat in a microwave, as it will become very tough and dry. Slowly thaw meat the day before and marinate overnight for best results. Pineapple juice or wine is a particularly good choice for marinade because it contains an enzyme that actively breaks down muscle fibre. Therefore it is highly effective as a meat tenderiser.
The wild boar’s light fat layer can be easily trimmed. But many cooks believe the fat layer provides a "self-basting" element and helps retain succulence.
Trout is a relative of the freshwater salmon and is native to Britain. Although its appearance varies, it's typically brownish with rusty red and black spots. It lives in brooks, rivers and lakes, and the saltwater variety, the sea trout, is found in coastal waters throughout northern Europe.
Good brown trout needs little flavouring and is ideal poached, grilled or barbecued.
Nutrition - Trout is an oil-rich fish and is a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help prevent heart disease. It's also a good source of protein.
Preparation - Look for trout that are glistening and clean smelling - they should not smell of fish at all. If you're after whole trout, look for bright red gills and shiny skin. Ask your fishmonger to bone the fish; trout don't need scaling.
Tips - Don't overcook trout - it tastes far better if slightly underdone. If you leave the head on, then when its eyes turn white you know it's done to perfection.
Tomatoes are a delicious and a sure sign that summer is here! And they crop right through until the first frosts of autumn!!
Anyone who has tried home-grown/veg box tomatoes will know their flavour and texture is vastly superior to standard supermarket tomatoes, and this is because the home-grown/veg box variety are left to ripen on the plant, rather than being picked too early, ripened artificially and then transported for days or even weeks, in cold storage.
Nutrition - A fresh tomato is a great source of vitamin C and vitamin A and tomatoes are also one of the best sources of lycopene, which has cancer-fighting properties. Lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body in a lightly cooked form, so fresh tomato sauces are a great way to eat this. If you prefer raw tomatoes, include a little olive oil in the recipe, which will also help with absoption.
Tips - Choose firm (gives slightly under light pressure), bright red tomatoes to eat first, as these are the most ripe. A soft "squidgy" tomato won't keep well, so if you've got some of these in your box, use them first.
If your tomatoes seem a bit hard and under-ripe, it only takes a couple of days and a banana to ripen them!
There are two types of broccoli: calabrese and purple sprouting broccoli. Calabrese has large densely packed, blue green heads and not many outer leaves, whereas the sprouting variety is more leafy and has smaller, looser purple or white heads. They have different seasons, with calabrese available from June to November and sprouting from February to May, so fresh broccoli is available nearly all year round in local farm shops and Farmers Markets.
Nutrition – Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C – even more than oranges! It is also rich in iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Tips – Always choose firm, healthy looking broccoli – we don’t want any wrinkly stalks!
Preparation – Steaming or stir frying is the best way to cook broccoli – if it is overcooked you will lose much of the nutritional value. Always use it straightaway, and even in cool dark conditions, broccoli does not store well.
There are several varieties of cucumber from smooh to knobbly, but the most common is a long, slim, straight vegetable with a smooth, dark green slightly glossy skin. They tend to be homegrown mainly under glass. Cucumbers have often been associated with being cool and refreshing, which probably accounts for the fact that they are 96% water.
Nutrition – If possible do not remove the skin, as it is thought that this aids digestion, however, a lot of people find that cucumbers ‘repeat’ on them! Nutritionally, they contain a good portion of fibre, vitamin C and mineral salts. Cucumbers are a good source of Vitamins A, C & K, and are also very high in potassium.
Tips – Choose firm, stiff cucumbers – if it wobbles, walk away! It will be bitter and rubbery. A good cucumber will be moist, juicy and have a good proportion of flesh to seed.
Preparation – Obviously, the cucumber is best known sliced and diced in a lovely, fresh salad, but they can also be a delicious accompaniment to fish when sliced thinly and fried quickly in butter. Another popular recipe for all you Indian food lovers, is to combine the cucumber with natural yoghurt, garlic and freshly chopped mint to create a ‘raita’.
There are many types of cabbage in North Yorkshire and winter brings the Savoy, white and green varieties. Cabbage is excellent shredded and eaten raw in salads.
Nutrition- Cabbage is packed with vitamins, is high in iron and potassium, and very low in calories.
Tips – If your cabbage has a heart, remove the outer leaves and cut it into quarters and then slice it into thin shreds. Pop these in a colander and rinse thoroughly. After washing, there will be enough water clinging to the leaves to allow it to cook in its own juices in a covered pan with some butter, goose fat or oil – whatever takes your fancy.
Preparation – The briefest cooking methods, such as steaming or stir-frying, are best. Overcooked cabbage releases sulphur, which is not easy on the nose and doesn’t inspire the palate!
The sight of blackberries unfortunately marks the end of the summer season for us, and the onset of Autumn. However, they can serve two purposes – they can be enjoyed in summer served cold with cream, or dropped into a cool, refreshing martini. In Autumn, they are delicious baked in a warming pie. Why not combine a walk in the lovely North Yorkshire countryside with a blackberry picking trip.
Nutrition - A juicy source of vitamin C
Tips - Look for firm, glossy berries that are black all over. (Avoid any that have green or red patches or any sign of mould). Blackberries are excellent in jam and are perfect with apple in pies or crumbles but they also match perfectly with rich or gamey meat such as venison, lamb or pheasant.
Preparation - Wild blackberries are generally smaller and firmer than their cultivated cousins and have a sweet but tart flavour. The cultivated berries taste almost as good but are more fleshy and juicy. Never keep blackberries for more than a day, and always hull them (pull out any remaining stalk and the pithy hull will come out with it).
The peppery flavour gives away the fact that watercress is a member of the mustard family. It is a wonderfully traditional salad ingredient and is a nice change from Mustard and Cress in an egg sandwich. If you pick you own wild watercress make sure it is growing in clean fast flowing water – if there is a chance the water might contain sheep droppings, leave the cress where it is!
Nutrition – Watercress is rich in vitamins A, C and K and also in calcium. It also contains iron, but you would have to eat loads of it to get your daily iron ration.
Tips – Eat within 24 hours to enjoy watercress at its best. Steer clear of wilting, yellowing cress – it’s past its best.
Preparation – Try chopping the watercress finely and mix it with butter to serve with grilled fish of your favourite meat. You can even puree it and use it as a sauce. Hot or cold watercress soup is a winner all year round.
The glorious game bird. The red grouse feeds on the young heather shoots on the North Yorkshire Moors, from which it gets its deliciously distinctive flavour. The grouse season runs from the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ (August) to the tenth of December, but young birds shot at the first half of the season are generally the better tasting. The meat is dark red, rich and gamey, yet at the same time delicate in flavour. Grouse is available from farmers markets, good independent butchers and game dealers, if shooting them yourself is not your bag.
Nutrition – Grouse is a rich source of iron, niacin, vitamin B1 and B2 and it a very low fat protein provider.
Tips – It is best to roast young birds. These are birds that are shot in their first year. They can be eaten within 24 hours, but if you prefer they can be hung for a short time – typically between 2 and 4 days, depending on the age of the bird and the weather. A plump bird (undressed weight of 700g) will feed one person – unless they are very hungry!
Preparation – Grouse has such a lovely flavour it is best not to hide it with strong flavoured sauces. It should be roasted quickly and allowed to rest briefly before serving. Traditionally Grouse is served on the rare side, but can be roasted for a little longer if that’s how you like it. Liberal basting is required to keep the meat moist or you can cover the bird with bacon. Older birds are tougher and not so good for roasting but make delicious casseroles, game stews or a fabulous ingredient in a mixed game pie.
The globe artichoke is related to the thistle. Its leaves are eaten, along with the bottom part of the flower, called the heart. It makes a delicious starter simply boiled whole and served with melted butter, mayonnaise, hollandaise or vinaigrette for dipping the leaves into. Break off each leaf and draw the soft fleshy base through your teeth.
Once you've removed all the leaves you can pull or slice off the hairy 'choke' and eat the heart and the meaty bottom with the remaining sauce.
Preparation - First remove about four of the toughest outer leaves, then place the artichoke at the edge of a table so that the stalk overlaps the edge. Grasp the stalk and snap away the stem, removing also some of the tough fibres running up into the base. Now remove the inedible choke: carefully spread the leaves apart until you come to the central cone of thinner, lightly coloured leaves. Then pull this cone out in one piece and underneath it you’ll find the hairy ‘choke’ –scrape this all out of the heart with a teaspoon, and add a little lemon juice to stop the inside discolouring. Now rinse out the artichokes and leave them upside down in some cold water to which some more lemon juice has been added (about 1 tablespoon to 2 pints /1.2 litres of water) until you are ready to cook them.
Don’t boil artichokes in iron or aluminium pans, as this can discolour them. Have your chosen pan ready filled with salted boiling water with a tablespoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar added. Gently boil the artichokes, uncovered, for about 30-40 minutes or until one of the outer leaves pulls away easily and the bases feel tender when tested with a skewer. Then drain the artichokes upside down in a colander, shaking them to get rid of the excess water.
The food of kings is now available to us all! Venison is farmed in North Yorkshire and is a most delicious, nutritious and healthy meat. The farmed meat is often more tender than venison from wild deer. The meat is unmistakable – fine textured, dark red and with very little fat on it . But remember, if you cover it with rich creamy sauces or baste it with lashings of butter you will undo all that good work. There is a wonderful choice of cuts available, so ask your local butcher or the farmers at the farmers markets, for advice on which would be the best cuts for you. With so much variety you can prepare so many different meals, from roasts to casseroles to burgers and sausages, and you might be pleasantly surprised when you compare prices with other meats such as beef.
Nutrition – High in protein, low in fat and rich in those Omega 3’s – a very healthy choice and as an added bonus, venison is also a source of vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12 too. Venison also has traces of iron, copper and zinc. Wow, a real wonder meat.
Tips – If you are roasting venison, cover the joint with thick strips of back bacon to avoid the meat become too dry, and do not overcook it. Roast venison should served pink. There are lots of delicious marinades you can use to flavour venison before cooking.
Preparation – Venison is so versatile there is an almost endless number of ways in which it can be prepared. Ingredients such as port, red wine, red currants and juniper berries all go well with venison and can be used to make excellent marinades or sauces.
The British, or grey partridge, has delicate and tender flesh which, when young, is pale and full of flavour. It's a small bird, so a whole one will feed one person. Don’t spoil the flavour by allowing it to become too gamey.
Nutrition – Low in fat, high in protein.
Tips - Partridges are at their best in October, near the beginning of the season.
Preparation – Young birds are best roasted and served with its traditional accompaniments of game chips (homemade potato crisps, really thinly sliced), clear gravy and watercress, but it's the plump breast of young birds that provide the best meat. The legs can be used in game pies or puddings. Older birds are terrific in pates, pies, casseroles and soups.
Summer squashes are generally small, quick growing and have soft seeds, pale flesh and thin skins. Winter squashes are darker, and have tough skins and hard seeds.
Nutrition - Marrow is 90% water but does deliver a little dietary fibre. The squashes with yellow or orange skin contain beta carotene which the body can convert to vitamin A.
Tips – There’s more to a marrow than just stuffing it. Choose a young tender specimen as a light, delicate accompaniment to a meal. Spiced squash soups look fantastic too, if served up in their own skins.
Preparation – Young, tender summer squashes don’t need peeling and should be cooked quickly. They go well with light summery ingredients such as tomatoes and basil. Winter squashes usually require peeling and cutting into chunks before cooking
Spring onions are simply white onions harvested at a young age. They belong to the same family as garlic, leeks, shallots and chives, but are less likely to make you cry!
Nutrition - Good source of vitamins B and C, folate and fibre. Onions are relatively high in flavonoids, an antioxidant that is thought to protect against cancer and heart disease.
Tips – Choose clean steams with firm white bases, any sliminess indicates they are not fresh. The thinner the spring onion, the milder it will be. Young spring onion tops are an excellent alternative to chives.
Preparation – Chop off the roots and remove the topmost part of the green, then use whole or sliced in salads. They can also be used in stir-fried dishes and are the perfect partner to ginger in many oriental style sauces.
Spinach does not always get a great press but if you go for young leaves they are better, as older leaves can be tough. Spinach has a distinctly earthy flavour; the leaves can be enjoyed on their own as a vegetable or a salad, or they can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes. Spinach is ideal to grow at home, but can always be found in good farm shops or Farmers Markets.
Nutrition – A wonderful way to get vitamin A, C and K along with iron and calcium. Spinach doesn’t stop there, and provides potassium, magnesium and manganese too.
Tips – Go for lovely deep green leaves without blemishes, insect damage, or heaven forbid, slime. Keep it in a cool place and use within a day or so of buying or picking it.
Preparation - Always use more leaves than you think – spinach cooks down to a shadow of its former self. Wash the leaves very carefully using several changes of water to be sure you remove all the soil, and shake it dry. Cut out any tough ribs and only cook it very lightly. Spinach is delicious with butter, cream and spices.
Slow down and enjoy this one! Sloes are the purple skinned fruit of the blackthorn tree. They can be found growing wild in the hedgerows of North Yorkshire if you know where to look. The fruit is too sour to eat, but sloes make delicious jams and jellies, and perfect of course for your own Sloe Gin. If you can’t pick your own, then check out the local farm shops or farmers’ markets.
Nutrition – Sloes contain a number of minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium.
Tips – Perhaps the best use of sloes is to make a drink to warm any winter’s evening - sloe gin! Cheers…
Preparation – Wash the sloes and prick them all over (another way is to freeze them for a week or so and when you defrost them they will be much softer and won’t need pricking). Add your prepared sloes to sugared gin (there are lots of lovely recipes you can follow) and leave for several months to allow the lovely flavours to mingle together. Then strain through a jelly bag into sterilised bottles and leave again for at least 6 months – that’s the hard bit. But when it is ready, the wait will have been worth it.
Recent years have brought a remarkable surge in the popularity of peppers. With literally hundreds of varieties to select from, there is a pepper to suit everyone's taste.
Sweet green bell shaped peppers are the most popular garden variety and left to ripen they turn red, purple, orange, yellow and gain various levels of sweetness depending on the variety. They are crisp and refreshing raw and pleasantly assertive when cooked to tenderness.
Chilli peppers are famous throughout the world from the fiery cuisines of Mexico, India, Thailand and Africa to the subtle flavor enhancement of the most delicate dishes. The hot varieties can be picked at any color stage but are hottest if allowed to fully ripen.
Radishes are in season from April to September, but are often available outside of this period.
In the UK, radishes are usually red and smaller than a golf ball but in Japan they can also be black or white and up to 18 inches long.
Radishes are well known for their peppery taste and are traditionally considered as a salad ingredient or garnish.
Nutrition - Radishes are rich in vitamin C and folic acid, whilst being very low in calories.
If you've got radishes complete with leaves, then handle them carefully as some people's skin is sensitive to radish leaves and it can cause a slight irritation.
Tips - Choose radishes that are firm, not wrinkled. If possible, choose them before the leaves go limp. Keep them in the fridge for 3-5 days. If growing them at home, it's better not to pick them until you need them and unless you're going to use them the same day, don't store them with the leaves on. The leaves take moisture from the radish roots and will dry them out, as well as going limp themselves.
Quince is related to the pear and resembles a lumpy pear without the neck. The fruit is yellow when ripe with flesh of various shades of yellow. When raw, the flesh is acidic, hard and not good for eating, but when cooked, it becomes sweet and delicate, providing a pear and apple flavour. The raw flesh will discolour rapidly when cut, so to preserve the raw fruit, immerse with lemon juice and refrigerate. Quince is great for making marmalades, jams, and jellies. Quince jelly, with its fruity flavour, is good to eat with cheese. Quinces will store well, up to 3 months when refrigerated.
Preparation - Almost anything that can be done with apples can be done with quinces. They need a similar length of cooking time and are delicious stewed, baked, and made into fruit butter. When baking with quinces, add sugar only after they become soft and the flesh starts to change in color from white to pink.
Tips - Peel quince before using it in jams, preserves, desserts, and savory dishes. Since quince is such a hard fruit, be sure to use a large, firm chef’s knife to cut it into halves, quarters, or slices. Peeling works well with a vegetable peeler or a small paring knife. Remove the core with a small, firm paring knife.
Quince “sauce” - Quince makes an excellent fruit sauce similar to applesauce. To prepare, peel a few quinces, slice them, and remove the seeds. Cook them in a small amount of water with plenty of sweetener of choice until they reach a pulpy consistency like applesauce. Mash or puree in a food processor and serve.
Buying and storing tips - Choose quinces that are firm with a pale yellow skin. Sometimes quinces are mottled with brown spots, but such markings do not affect their flavor or quality. Quinces that are shriveled, soft, or brown all over are no longer fresh. Since they bruise easily, quinces must be handled carefully.
If quinces are not completely ripened, store them at room temperature until they are yellow all over and give off a pleasant scent.
If you do not plan on using ripe quinces immediately, they can be wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator for up to two months. Be sure to store quinces apart from apples and pears because their powerful aroma may permeate these other fruits.
Pumpkin is probably the best known of the squash family and can be found growing in gardens and allotments all over the County, with many gardeners striving to grow the biggest one. The orange flesh should be firm but not fibrous. Pumpkins make a very colourful addition to a market stall and cheer up any displays of local produce. Around the end of October you might well see road side stalls selling off pumpkins of all sizes and often at very good prices!
Nutrition – Pumpkins are fat free and offer some dietary fibre. The beta-carotene is converted in the body into vitamin A and so is a good source of this vitamin for vegetarians.
Tips – Don’t throw away the lovely pumpkin flesh when you make your Jack ‘o’ Lanterns. Use it to make a tasty soup or a pumpkin pie.
Preparation – Pumpkins contain lots of water so don’t be surprised when it cooks down to about half its original mass – you don’t want to stint on portions, so make sure you prepare enough! Pumpkin can be roasted, added to stews or made into pies. Why not use the original shell as a stylish soup bowl.
Pears are another delicious autumn fruit. Comice and conference pears, the most popular varieties in Britain, are in season from late autumn to mid winter.
Nutrition - Pears contain minerals such as zinc, plus vitamins C and E, and some B vitamins. They make a great snack on their own, or with some cheese. The Italians like to eat pears with pecorino, and in the UK they are traditionally teamed with Stilton.
Tips - When cooking pears, try adding some almonds or vanilla to enhance their flavour. Or try mixing pureed apple or pear into mashed vegetables such as carrot or butternut squash, to accompany a meal.
Parsnips are a much-loved root vegetable and grow well in Britain. They actually improve with a frost.
Nutrition – A rich source of vitamins C and K and also the mineral manganese.
Tips – For a healthy treat deep-fry thin slices in a light vegetable or sunflower oil to make parsnip crisps, which can be used as a contemporary garnish or a moreish snack.
Parsnips should be scrubbed, not peeled, as most of the flavour lies directly below the skin.
Preparation - Parsnips are very versatile and can be cooked in much the same way as potatoes. They are delicious par-boiled then roasted until they caramelise golden brown, or mashed with cream, braised or steamed They also make wonderful, creamy soups and partner well with apples, spices, ginger and cheese. They often have a tough core which you may prefer to discard.
One of the most versatile (and cheapest) vegetables around. They have a fabulous crunchy texture and are available most of the year. There are several varieties of carrots including Parisienne which is a short, stumpy carrot that has a lovely, sweet flavour and Chantenay which is more conical in shape but has a very concentrated flavour.
Nutrition - Raw carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A and potassium; they contain vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamine, folic acid, and magnesium. Cooked carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, a good source of potassium, and contain vitamin B6, copper, folic acid, and magnesium.
Tips – Carrot soups can be flavoured with orange or mint. They are also very well complimented by herbs – in salads use mint, chives, parsley, coriander or basil, or add an oil and lemon vinaigrette dressing to grated carrot for a delicious side salad. Sweet main-crop carrots make a lovely moist carrot cake, and can also be used in pies with lots of spices (similar to pumpkin). They can be stored in a cool, dark, dry place for up to a week.
Preparation – New carrots just need scrubbing before cooking, but main crop carrots will need peeling properly. Both new and maincrop carrots are delicious raw, with maincrop being especially sweet. They can be boiled, steamed or braised in stock or butter and served as an accompaniment to any main meal. They are also perfect for adding to stews, casseroles, soups etc.
North Yorkshire has lots of pig farms and many are producing free range, rare breed pork. What better sight is there than a plump porker rooting around the fields! The Great Yorkshire Show is a wonderful place to see the county’s finest pigs.
Nutrition – A great source of protein and vitamins B6 and B12.
Tips – Avoid any meat that looks damp, clammy or with oily, waxy looking fat.
Preparation – You can eat everything apart from the squeak, so pork is amazingly versatile. Chose a method of cooking to suit the cut. Pork is traditionally eaten with apple sauce, but other fruits are wonderful too. Try it with plumped up dried apricots or pears.
North Yorkshire can boast some wonderful beef herds and you only need to visit The Great Yorkshire Show to see the fine specimens we breed here. Dexter Beef is a particular speciality. Its dark red / brown meat has the traditional taste of ‘how beef used to taste in the good old days’. The fine grained meat is well marbled with creamy yellow fat, that disappears in cooking, leaving a tender moist joint. Farm reared Dexter beef can be found at Farmers Markets and farm gate sales. Look out for it, it is well worth searching out.
Nutrition – Beef is high in protein and also delivers vitamins B6 and B12.
Tips – Beef is better if it has been given time to mature, so don’t buy the bright red stuff!
Preparation – There are as many ways to cook beef as there are different cuts. But as long as you have chosen good quality meat, you can’t go wrong. Recipes vary from the traditional Sunday roast through to many exotic dishes, so go on, be brave and try something new today.
North Yorkshire can boast some wonderful beef herds and you only need to visit The Great Yorkshire Show to see the fine specimens we breed here.
And if you're looking for something different then why not try some of this countries traditional native breeds, such as the Dexter, Galloway, Hereford, Highland, Shorthorn ....
Nutrition – Beef is high in protein and also delivers vitamins B6 and B12.
Tips – Beef is better if it has been given time to mature, so don’t buy the bright red stuff!
Preparation – There are as many ways to cook beef as there are different cuts. But as long as you have chosen good quality meat, you can’t go wrong. Recipes vary from the traditional Sunday roast through to many exotic dishes, so go on, be brave and try something new today.
Mushrooms, the plant of immortality? That’s what ancient Egyptians believed according to the hieroglyphics of 4600 years ago. The delicious flavour of mushrooms intrigued the pharaohs of Egypt so much that they decreed mushrooms were food for royalty and that no commoner could ever touch them. This assured themselves the entire supply of mushrooms!
Fresh mushrooms are truly a cook's best friend. Whether you need just a little something to dress things up or add a whole new dimension of flavor, your answer is mushrooms.
Nutrition - Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide several nutrients, including riboflavin, niacin and selenium.
Tips - Mushrooms are very similar to meats and other vegetables. Virtually any and all seasonings go well with mushrooms. If serving as a side dish, use seasonings compatible with the main dish.
Preparation - Brush off any dirt with a damp paper towel or fingers. Rinse fresh mushrooms only briefly under running water and pat dry with a paper towel. Never soak them, as they absorb moisture. Trim the end of the stem before using.
Locally reared pheasant is a real treat. Pheasant needs to be hung if it is to be plainly roasted otherwise it can be a bit bland. Some think that hen pheasant has a finer flavour than the a cock bird, but as always, it is a matter of taste. Your game dealer or butcher will advise you on what is best.
Nutrition – Pheasant is very low in fat and high in protein. It contains vitamins C, B6 and B12 as well as niacin, phosphorous and selenium.
Tips – The leg meat is very different from the breast meat and ideally requires a different method of cooking.
Preparation – If you don’t want to roast the bird, you can remove the breasts and shallow fry them in a little butter. Serve them with a fruit jelly and a puree of celeriac and potatoes.
Like onions, leeks and chives, garlic is a member of the lily (or allium) family. The head is comprised of 12-15 cloves, each encased in papery skin.
It's practical health benefits include lowering blood cholesterol and antiseptic properties.
There are several recipes in which garlic takes centre stage rather than a supporting flavouring role - perhaps most famously French chicken roast with 40 cloves of garlic. Garlic soup has a surprisingly soft sweet-savoury flavour yet uses around half a head per person.
Varieties - What most people think of as fresh garlic is actually a dried bulb. There are hundreds of varieties varying in degree of pungency, skin colour (pink, white, purple), and clove size. Fresh, 'spring' or 'wet' garlic is lifted from ground before the bulb matures and looks like a curvaceous leek. The green portion rising above the ground is also edible. Look for it in speciality greengrocers and farm shops in June. Elephant garlic is very large but milder than regular garlic.
Preparation - Remember that the more garlic is crushed or chopped, the stronger it will taste.
Many people find garlic presses or crushers convenient, however some claim they alter the flavour of garlic; they are also difficult to clean.
For recipes that require whole garlic cloves, you can either cut away the dry nub of the clove and peel off the skin, or (if you need many cloves) blanch the garlic in hot water, after which the skin comes off easily.
If you are serving the garlic raw, cut the clove in half and remove any central green germ as they have a powerful taste and can cause digestive problems. If green shoots are sprouting from the whole head, throw it out.
Kale has more nutritional value per calorie than almost any other food. It is also one of the hardiest members of the cabbage family and can withstand frosts, so is ideal for growing in your vegetable patch or on allotments throughout North Yorkshire. It is a sprouting plant (i.e it has no heart) and curly leaf kale is the most commonly available.
Nutrition – Kale is really high in vitamin A and vitamins C and K and it also delivers potassium and manganese. But the real beauty is it has no fat or cholesterol. A real winner.
Tips – The leaves are quite tender so steam rather than boil.
Preparation – The distinctive flavour of kale is best teamed up with other strong flavours such as garlic, bacon and cheese.
In North Yorkshire lots of people call swedes turnips and they are largely interchangeable in recipes, but there is an easy way to remember the difference – Swedes have pale orange flesh (think of red headed Vikings from Sweden!) and the good old turnip has creamy white flesh.
Nutrition – A good source of Vitamin A, C and fibre.
Tips – With swedes big is not always the best! Go for the smaller ones, which are less likely to be woody inside.
Preparation – Swedes can be peeled and roasted alongside a joint of meat or used in soups or casseroles. Mashed swede with lashings of butter or cream and with nutmeg and a little ginger is a delicious accompaniment to Winter dishes.
Hare is not widely available but you should be able to find it ready to cook from game butchers or on menus at more adventurous restaurants. It's similar to rabbit in texture, but not in flavour: hare has dark brown, strong gamey flesh, which is very different from the pale, mild flesh of rabbit. Best cooked when young for tender meat, it's hung for a few days and skinned; the legs and saddle make the choicest cuts. Hare is popular throughout Europe and is often domestically bred. Traditional British recipes include jugged hare and roast leg or saddle of hare. If you don't fancy cooking it at home, let a professional chef cook it for you
Grown in North Yorkshire, There are five main types of wholehead salad grown in the UK. Varieties include, Iceberg, Romaine (otherwise known as Cos), Gem, Batavia, Speciality lettuce (e.g. lollo rosso, oak leaf). In addition there are loose leaves such as rocket, spinach and red chard. Leafy salads are a delicious way to boost your 5 a day intake – and being so adaptable and wide ranging are suitable for main meals, side dishes, perfect for entertaining and great for everyday family meals.
Nutrition – Lettuce is extremely low in Saturated Fat and Sodium, and very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Folate, Iron, Potassium and Manganese.
Tips – Whatever variety you buy, always look for firm, crisp leaves with no signs of browning. Most lettuces need eating within a couple of days but some varieties eg. iceberg, little gem will keep up to a week.
Preparation – Always discard any wilted outer leaves, and wash the remaining leaves thoroughly, drying them on kitchen paper or in a salad spinner. As there is such a huge variety available, they can be mixed in a salad to give a more attractive range of colours and flavours.
Free range chickens can be found at Farmers Markets throughout North Yorkshire and are truly delicious.
Nutrition – A good source of protein. Chicken also has some vitamin A, B6 and B12.
Tips – Don’t get stuck in a roasting rut! There is no shortage of ideas and types of chicken so let your imagination go wild.
Preparation – Chicken can be roasted whole or cooked in portions, or cut up and used in stews or casseroles. Let’s not forget the heart warming and nutritious chicken soup! Because of the mild flavour of chicken almost any ingredients complement it, so choose your favourite flavours.
For many years the humble turnip was grown primarily by farmers for cattle fodder, which is why it hasn't enjoyed much reverence. The turnip's poor culinary reputation hasn't been helped by its being frequently overcooked and pulped or puréed. But help is at hand, and the vegetable is now becoming as popular as other root vegetables. When young, turnips have a delicate nutty sweetness, but if they are allowed to grow much bigger than a tennis ball, they lose some of their sweetness and become much more coarse.
Nutrition – A good source of vitamin A and K with plenty of fibre too.
Tips –The turnip tops when young and tender have a lovely peppery taste and can be cooked just like any other greens. Always choose good looking turnips with smooth undamaged skins of delicate pale purple or white shading into green. Never go for one that is spongy or has worm holes.
Preparation - Try cooking them whole and roasted, pan-fried or baked. Another delicious way to cook them is to slice them very thinly, and pan fry in some butter and a little fruit juice – an ideal accompaniment for any winter dish.
Even though goose is farmed, part of its charm is that it is still very much a seasonal bird. The season starts in late September, when the birds are small but just perfect to serve for the traditional Michaelmas Day feast on 29 September. By November, and in the run-up to Christmas, the goose is mature and getting fat. Fresh goose is bought as a whole bird, which has a thick layer of fat, most of which melts away during roasting, leaving tender, slightly gamey meat. Goose can be bought from local butchers or direct from some North Yorkshire farms.
Nutrition – Goose is a fatty meat but if you cook it carefully, much of the fat can be removed whilst it is roasting.
Tips – You can store the goose fat that comes off during roasting in the fridge and use it to make the best and crunchiest roast potatoes.
Preparation – Goose is best roasted on a trivet but you have to remember to keep pouring the fat off during cooking, and remember to save it. Once your goose is cooked, you can freeze and store any left over meat for a month.
Elegant and tasty. North Yorkshire rural shows are a great place to look for competitions to find the longest leeks in the county. However, normal sized leeks are best for cooking. Leeks can be used in soups, salads and stir fries. Home-grown or organically farmed leeks have a beautiful flavour, but will need cleaning more carefully as soil can get lodged between the leaves.
Nutrition - A flavoursome source of vitamins A, C and iron.
Tips – Watch out for the woody cores that can sometimes develop in older leeks!
Preparation – Leeks go so well with any meat but especially poultry and fish. They are delicious in cream, cheese or butter sauces.
Easy to grow and widely available throughout North Yorkshire, onions have a great history and give flavour to so many dishes. Onion juice is reputed to be a good cold cure, it will certainly make people keep their distance!
Nutrition – High in vitamin C.
Tips – When you are frying onions, don’t chop them in a food processor – this releases too much moisture and the onions steam rather than fry. Also when adding onions to the stock pot, drop in a piece of the inner brown skin because this will give a lovely warm golden colour, (but beware, if you overdo it you could get a bitter taste).
Preparation – Try cooking onions slowly with red wine, raisins and herbs such as thyme or marjoram, they are delicious with a slow pot roast.
Know your onions, as the cliché goes — and it’s valuable advice. Did you know, for instance, not to add salt to onions if you want them crisp and brown, as it draws out their water and prevents them from browning? For soft, white translucent onions, add salt when you begin cooking.
To know your onions is to know that these members of the lily family also vary greatly in strength of flavour and purpose.
Red onions have a discernibly milder flavour than the papery-skinned white or brown globe onion, and so can be used for salads or antipasti and for dishes in which onions are briefly cooked. There are also sweet yellow onions with a slightly flattened bulb and a more delicate flavour, and small, white pickling onions, picked early in the season.
The russet-coloured shallot has a lovely onion-garlic flavour with more sweetness and less sting, so is ideal for vinaigrettes, salads and fast-cooked dishes.
Drivers can be forgiven for being distracted - herds of buffalo are not what motorists expect to see in rural North Yorkshire. And yet more and more farmers are diversifying into unusual and rare breeds.
Buffalo meat is similar in taste to high quality beef, having a fuller flavour than conventional modern beef.
Nutrition - It is between 40-60% lower in cholesterol and has half the calories and a third less saturated fat than beef. It contains higher levels of protein and minerals and is a rich source of B vitamins and iron.
Preparation - Generally speaking Buffalo meat can be treated like beef but especially when cooking steaks it needs to be treated gently. Cook the steaks slowly on half to two thirds full heat, or the meat will toughen up. This is due to the meat's natural leanness and lack of intramuscular fat. Joints should be cooked until done, which generally means around 170 degrees centigrade for around 30 minutes per half kilo and another half hour for the joint.
Did you know there are 600 home grown varieties, with over 50 readily available? Bramleys, Discoveries, Granny Smiths and Cox’s Orange Pippins to name but a few. Although apples are widely available in shops, there is nothing quite like that feeling of biting into the first home-grown apple of the season. Searching out local growers and visiting North Yorkshire orchards will give you a wonderful choice, and the apples should be at their freshest.
Nutrition – Apples are a good source of vitamin C and of water-soluble dietary fibre in the form of pectin.
Tips - Use Bramleys in pies and crumbles, or bake them whole with some brown sugar, butter and spices. Slices of caramelised apple also go wonderfully with meat, especially pork. Explore lots of different varieties – there is a whole taste experience just waiting for you.
Preparation – Apples can be stored in a polythene bag in the refrigerator if you like them chilled. Apples will lose their crispness if the room is too hot or dry. If you pick your own apples and want to store them for long periods, you must take great care. Make sure you have perfect fruit with no blemishes and handle them as little as possible. Store them in trays or baskets, in a cool dry place, making sure none of the apples are touching.
Damsons are a small oval-shaped variety of plum with dark blue or purple skin and yellow flesh. The taste is usually quite sour, so they are best when cooked, which brings out their deep tangy flavour. You will find them in shops from the end of August to the end of October.
The fruits' high pectin content makes them extremely good for jellies, jams and fruit cheese; they are also used to make chutneys and a variation of sloe gin. However, damsons are not just for preserving. They can be stewed to make compotes, or pie and crumble fillings. (If you find the taste of damsons is too strong, combine them with apples or blackberries.)
Damsons produce wonderful ice cream when puréed and churned with an equal volume of crème fraiche or mascarpone. Alternatively, make a sweet-sour damson sauce with sherry, sugar, and fresh spices such as root ginger to serve with fatty meats such as duck, lamb or pork.
Cultivated damsons are sweeter and more versatile than the smaller wild damsons you may find growing in some hedgerows. Varieties are rarely specified in greengrocers, however there are ten listed in the National Fruit Collection, including Farleigh and Bradley's King, Blue Violet and Merryweather.
Preparation - Avoid fruit with bruised or damaged skins. Like other stone fruits, damsons can be slit in half around the middle and twisted sharply to make the stone accessible. Ease the stone out with your fingers or a knife. The stones can be discarded, or cracked with a hammer and added to the pot as an almond-like flavouring.
However, it's not essential to stone damsons before turning them into jam or purée. Once the sugar is added and the mixture is brought to a full boil, the stones will rise to the surface, seemingly by magic, to be skimmed off with a slotted spoon.
Courgettes are members of the squash family and range in size from approx 6-15 cm. As well as the familiar green type which are readily available, you may also find bright yellow courgettes.
Nutrition - Courgettes have a high water content and are low in calories. They are a source of folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Do not peel them as this removes some of the vitamin content.
Tips - When buying either type, look for small firm courgettes with smooth unblemished skins and a bright colour. Keep refrigerated and eat within 3-4 days. Very small, finger-like courgettes are available and these can be eaten uncooked.
Preparation – A favourite way to prepare courgettes is to top and tail them, thinly slice and pan fry them in olive oil and butter and then add a little sea salt and put 2-3 tbsp tomato puree. However, they are also delicious dipped in batter and deep-fried. As they get bigger, they lose their flavour, so if you are preparing larger courgettes, they may be best in a ratatouille or hollowed out, stuffed and baked.
Celeriac might not be the most attractive of vegetables but it is truly delicious with a sweet, nutty flavour. They are tough little beasts with a hard knobbly skin, which requires the attention of a very sharp knife. But when teamed up with game, especially when mashed with potatoes all the effort is worthwhile.
Nutrition - When raw, celeriac is full of vitamin C and minerals, but much is lost in the cooking process.
Tips – Avoid particularly large ones as they tend to be a bit woody or even hollow and woolly. Always toss prepared celeriac in lemon juice, otherwise it will go brown.
Preparation - First of all cut the celeriac into even slices and then peel each slice to obtain a smooth edge. You can then cut the slices into thin strips and then dice these strips, Celeriac can be boiled in water or stock and then steamed or fried.
Beetroot is a very distinctive looking vegetable with its ruby-red colour and is often overlooked, as many people have only ever experienced the crinkle-cut variety which is steeped in overpowering vinegar. However, beetroot can be served raw or cooked and is very versatile.
Nutrition - Beetroot has a higher sugar content than most vegetables. It is rich in vitamin C, fibre, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and folic acid and the leafy tops are an excellent source of beta-carotene, iron and calcium.
Tips – Young beetroot tops can be cooked and eaten as a green leaf vegetable. Beetroot is often sold ready boiled, but you can also buy them raw and cook them yourself. Cooked beetroot should last 3-4 days in a fridge, and uncooked beetroot should be stored in a cool, dark place. Raw beetroot can be peeled and grated and mixed with salad dressing and leaves to create a colourful winter salad.
Preparation – Ensure the beetroot roots are not damaged and the skin is intact. Cut off the leaves about 2in from the root – this will ensure the beetroot doesn’t ‘bleed’ whilst cooking and will help retain its colour. Boil them in salted water for 30-40 mins, then allow to cool before rubbing off the skins.
Beautiful rainbow trout is farmed in fisheries across North Yorkshire, and for the sporting fishermen and women amongst you, it can also be caught in some of the County’s meandering rivers and reservoirs. For brown trout you may have to take up fly-fishing, but what a wonderful way to enjoy the countryside -and catch your supper too. The tender pink flesh has a mild and slightly nutty flavour.
Nutrition – Trout is a really healthy choice. It is rich in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as full of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and B12. It also is supplies a healthy amount of iron, calcium and selenium.
Tips - Trout is best cooked simply in a little water and wine, with a few herbs, so as not to mask its lovely flavour. If you are cooking brown trout then the simplest cooking methods are best.
Preparation – Trout can be baked whole or filleted or smoked. Smoked trout pate is especially tasty.
As the nights draw in what could be more tempting than to tuck in to mutton, arguably one of Britain's most forgotten and overlooked culinary gems.
Mutton fell out of favour slowly over the years, partly due to the decline in the wool trade but also due to changes in tastes, time and meal habits — in 1930 the average meal took one and a half hours to prepare, its now twelve minutes and is set to continue to fall.
But with the resurgence of interest in slow food and provenance, mutton is making a comeback with food lovers and chefs alike. And it richly deserves it too - highly prized in ancient times, mutton has a fuller, meatier flavour than lamb, with a firmer, but by no means tougher texture.
So forget trying to dress it up as lamb and enjoy it for what it is. Totally different, totally delicious!
Although duck has a bit of a reputation for being fatty, the meat is actually tender and flavoursome and most of the fat melts away during cooking, leaving a crisp brown skin. You can buy wild or farmed duck and your butcher will advise you.
Nutrition – A fatty bird but a good source of iron.
Tips – A duckling becomes a duck at 2 months old.
Preparation - Whole roast duck is delicious served with a fruity sauce; traditionally these are based on orange or plum, but try a sauce made with blueberries or cherries instead. Duck breast portions make an elegant dinner party main course, seared skin-side down and served with seasonal stir-fried vegetables. Try duck confit made with the leg portions, where the fat melts away leaving succulent flesh that falls off the bone.
Also known as eggplant and brinjal, aubergines are at their best from mid-July to September. Choose from oval, round or sausage-shaped aubergines. They also come in a range of colours - dark purple, through to violet, stripy purple, white, and yellow.
Look for smooth, unblemished, and glossy skins. The flesh should also feel firm and the aubergine weighty to the touch. They'll keep for around 4-6 days in the fridge.
Although it has taken a while for them to catch on in British cooking aubergines have long been key ingredients in Asian and Mediterranean cooking.
Aubergines pair well with rich, full-bodied ingredients such as ripe tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and peppers. Toasted fennel seeds add an intriguing flourish to casseroles. They also work well with cheese, pulses and meats.
Aubergine flesh becomes pretty squishy and watery when boiled. For a soft whole-cooked aubergine, rub with oil and pop in a pre-heated oven, 200C/gas 6 for about 25 minutes - until soft when pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven, and cut in half along its length, and scoop out the flesh out.
A sprout is not just for Christmas! Sprouts must not be overcooked or they lose all their texture and taste. Easy to grow, you can find sprouts in farm shops and at farmers markets too.
Nutrition – A good source of vitamin C and K, sprouts are also rich in minerals.
Tips – Shredded sprouts, stir fried in a wok with ginger and garlic and then mixed with mashed potatoes makes a wonderful bubble and squeak.
Preparation – Trim the outer leaves and the base of the stalk but don’t bother cutting crosses in the base – it does no good and drives you mad! Simply choose sprouts that are as near as possible all the same size and have nice tight little buds. Just cover them with lightly salted water and cook in a covered pan for no more that 10 minutes, steam them or cook them in the microwave. This will preserve the nutrients and avoid the dreaded mush.
A popular member of the Brassica (cabbage) family which is increasing in popularity. The cauliflower is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean regions. In addition to the white cauliflower, green and purple types are now also available. Cauliflower is normally boiled. However, it can also be served raw or lightly cooked in salads. It is low in fat and calories. There is also Romanesco, which has a yellow-green pyramid-shaped curd with a milder, sweeter flavour than the white. They are eaten when the heads are small.
Picking the best: buy heads that are firm -not quite fully developed - with clean white stalks. Avoid 'blown' woolly heads, speckled patches on the curd or limp leaves. Yellow curds are caused by to much sun, rain or frost - but the flavour should still be fine - disguise the colour with a sauce. Green or purple cauliflowers should always be bright in colour.
Nutrition - High in fibre, more nutritious raw, especially high in Vitamin C, also rich in potassium and a source of protein, phosphorus and calcium.
Preparation - Trim outer leaves and stalk, wash well. If cooking whole, cut a cross in the base of the stalk. Or separate into even size-florets. All colours can be served raw. The spiky turrets of Romanesco and the purple heads look stunning with dips, in a salad or as a garnish.
A family with a wide range of varieties, including courgettes, pumpkins and many of the other varieties. Squashes in general are not at all frost resistant and so are harvested before the seasons get too cold, but once harvested they need to be stored well in the right conditions.
Squash can be roasted, boiled to make nocci and they make a wonderful risotto or soup. They always go well with rosemary and the flavour is brought out by roasting. Never put a whole squash in the oven. As the air trapped inside the skin expands, it will go off like a bomb and leave you with a lot of cleaning to do. If you have the patience to separate the seeds from the pith, they can be roasted / toasted on a baking tray with a little salt or soy sauce and used as a snack or an addition to salad.
The main problem can be getting into them and then getting the skin off. Butternut can normally be peeled with a good sharp vegetable peeler, especially if fresh from the field. For the harder skinned varieties, there is the option of roasting them in large boat-shaped sections then scooping out the flesh when it is soft. If roasting you can always opt out and roast in similar, smaller sections, leaving your family the task of dealing with the skin on the plate, in which case they may decide to eat it skin and all.
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping on your nose" .......
Nothing sums up the approach of Christmas better than this sweet, crumbly nut.
And in contrast to other nuts, chestnuts have a low oil and a high water content (hence their unique, soft texture) and they should never be eaten raw.
Availibility - Fresh chestnuts are around from the end of September to the end of January. And to choose the best pick raw chestnuts with a shiny, tight, dark brown skin and those that feel firm and are heavy for their size.
Preparation - To peel fresh chestnuts, rinse, then make a nick in the skin on the flat side of each and simmer in a pan of water for 15 minutes or roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Then peel, taking care to remove both the outer shell (quite easy) as well as the inner brown membrane (trickier). It's much more simple to do the latter when they're still hot, so work in small batches.
Tips - Fresh chestnuts dry out very quickly so keep in a sealed container in the fridge.
Peel, chop and add to stuffing. Peel, then purée for soups and sauces (peel, simmer for 25 minutes and purée in the food processor); sweeten the purée and use to fill meringues or to add to cake mixes. To fully roast chestnuts, keep in the oven for 15-25 minutes (as opposed to the 15 needed just to peel them), then peel, toss in butter and serve with Brussels sprouts. Delicious!!