Festive season

Beetroot – don’t buy them pickled in jars; fresh beetroot tastes like a completely different vegetable.

Brussells sprouts – mix with butter and italian pancetta ham or chesnuts to add flavour and interest to this traditional Christmas vegetable.

Celeriac – adds a distinctive flavour to mashed potato when boiled and mashed together (not to everyone’s taste, but definitely to mine).

Celery – the white variety is the only kind naturally available at this time of year, definitely better than the non-seasonal green variety to accompany stilton.

Chesnuts – obvious really, roast on an open fire!

Cranberries – tradional with turkey, but also good with pork – for example, try our healthy pork and cranberry recipe.

Duck – available to order from your local butcher, pan-fried duck breasts provide a quack, … sorry, quick … impressive dinner party meal.  Simply fry skin side down until it browns evenly (draining the fat from the pan 2-3 times during the process) seal the base then oven cook for 8-10 minutes until the duck is cooked but still pink.  Slice or serve whole.

Goose – available to order from your local butcher and although regarded as a fatty bird, most of the fat drains out while cooking, leaving the perfect oil for roasting potatoes.  However, do buy a big bird (or two) as there is far less meat on them than turkey or duck, so it never goes as far as you might think.

Parsnips – a surprisingly versatile vegatable as it is great roasted, mashed, sauted, pureed or used in soups, casseroles and gratins.

Pears – an often forgotten fruit, probably due to its tendency to remain hard, then oven-rippen quickly.  Simply buy them hard and rippen them at home – but keep checking them every day.  Great for weening babies and toddlers as it can be mashed instead of pureed, or cubed for an instant (albeit sticky) finger food.  Also see our recipe for poached pear dessert (not one for the babies as it contains wine – although … ).

Pumpkin – great in risotto; simply cut into small cubes and add at the same time as the stock.

Red Cabbage – delicious with raisins and as great as a stuffing for turkey, duck, goose and game birds.

Sea Bass – regularly available at Catch of the Day in Chorleywood and on the menu at Indigo, The Old Orchard and Palm Suite restaurants (to name just a few).

Swede – great mashed with a little butter, nutmeg and cinnamon, or with carrots, parsnip, squash, pumpkin or any combination of these.

Turkey – in case you hadn’t realised!  Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall are right – in just the same way as chickens, if it’s taste you’re after you really should visit your local butcher instead of opting for the cheap intensively farmed varieties.