January In Season

Eat produce when it's at its best.

This months seasonal produce

Scallops, kale, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory and pomegranates

Mackerel

Mackerel

After years under threat, these eye-catching and versatile fish are firmly back on the menu, says Clarissa Hyman

Readers of a sensitive disposition should move straight over the next paragraph or they might never eat mackerel again, which would be a great loss. For the diner, if not the fish. The reason these splendid silvery fish were once called the ‘scavengers of the seas’ was because they were said to have fed on drowned sailors. This theory, I am glad to report, is now thoroughly debunked but as the writer Alice Thomas Ellis once pronounced: ‘It is never a good idea to speculate too thoroughly on the eating habits of what you’re eating.’ It is a truism that all fish should be fresh but some have to be fresher than others. Or, rather, they spoil more quickly. In the 17th century there was a special law allowing fishmongers in Billingsgate to sell mackerel on Sundays, when all other trade was forbidden because their high oil content means they need to be eaten as soon as possible...read more

Other seasonal produce

Oysters

The most storied shellfish of all is worthy of its place in our imaginations – and on our tables, says Clarissa Hyman.

Competitive oyster eating down the centuries makes for an eye-opening, stomach-gurgling list. Casanova ate 50 a day; Henry IV and Louis XIV as many as 300 in a sitting. The champion oyster-swallower, however, still has to be the Roman Emperor Vitellius, who is said to have regularly eaten 100 dozen...read more

Oysters

Beetroot

Sliced for salads, boiled for borscht or laid atop juicy burgers, this bright and beautiful vegetable packs a purple punch, says Clarissa Hyman with recipes by Linda Tubby

The major drawback to preparing beetroot is that it makes you look like the lovechild of Lady Macbeth and Sweeney Todd: magenta hands, tea towels carrying those livid red spots and suspect splatterings on your clothes. Not to mention the tendency to stain all other ingredients a bubble-gum pink. But...read more

Beetroot

Chicory

A relatively undiscovered vegetable for decades, these crunchy white leaves are bursting with fresh, zingy flavour. Helen Hokin urges us to see the light with recipes by Linda Tubby

The Great English Chicory Challenge is open to any cook, amateur or pro, who fancies their chances at devising a recipe using the zestiest, crunchiest leaves winter has to offer. Chicory tarts with goats’ cheese and thyme clinched Hampshire-based amateur cook Susie Carter the top prize of £5,000...read more

Chicory

Parsnips

Sweet and starchy, these roots are great winter warmers – whether roasted, fried or simmered in steaming soups, says Clarissa Hyman with recipes by Linda Tubby

‘Fine words butter no parsnips’ has to be one of the oddest idioms in the English language. I know it’s meant to express the notion that action counts for more than flattery or promises, but even if you say it in a deep West Country growl, it sounds pretty daft. Especially, perhaps, if you...read more

Parsnips

Kale

Gracing winter plates with its crisp colours and tantalising textures, this sturdy brassica steals the show as a superfood superstar, says Clarissa Hyman with recipes by Linda Tubby

Kale is rich and earthy, with a hint of nutty sweetness, and a confirmed superfood packed with health-giving nutrients. There is, however, much variation: as agronomist Michael Michaud describes, they can be ‘smooth or blistered, deeply toothed or flamboyantly frilled’. Curly kale is...read more

Kale

Pomegranates

Ancient civilisations revered the pomegranate. Clarissa Hyman believes that, for the rich flavour and vibrant colour the fruit adds to dishes, today’s gourmets should too with recipes by Linda Tubby

If fruits were in fact famous beauties, pomegranates would be Sophia Loren or, perhaps, Cleopatra: dazzling good looks, and an alluring taste and fragrance, but in need of very careful handling. Few fruits are so rich in cultural resonance and history, yet until relatively recently pomegranates...read more

Pomegranates

Scallops

Whether it’s a queen or a king, the scallop is shellfish royalty in restaurants and on dining tables across the country... with recipes by Linda Tubby

For a shellfish that was once considered a poor-man’s seafood, eaten only by fisherman who couldn’t find a market for them, the scallop has done pretty well for itself. In the UK each year 15-20,000 tonnes are caught, and with each tonne averaging between 5,500 and 6,000 scallops, that’s a...read more

Scallops

Jerusalem artichokes

Clarissa Hyman unearths the charms of this often misunderstood vegetable with the poetic moniker, and finds that a tuber by any other name would taste as sweet with recipes by Linda Tubby

It may be small, lumpy and ugly, yet this plant bears one of the most beautiful names in the vegetable kingdom. If ever there was a disconnect, it is the Jerusalem artichoke. Would we feel differently about it if it was a handsome-looking root with a foul name, perhaps the ‘infernal’ artichoke?...read more

Jerusalem artichokes

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