Cooking with the seasons is rarely a chore. There’s always something new just coming in to season, some additional flavour to get excited about, a new harvest to inspire you.
Nature is always waving her arms and mouthing, “This! Over here. It’ll go brilliantly with this. And they harvest at the same time of year – it’s like I planned it!” before wandering off chanting, “what grows together, goes together”.
Except for now, of course. Now, Nature is taking a nap. She gave you all the cabbage before she went to bed and the radishes won’t arrive until she wakes up in April. If you are lucky, she left you some kale and turnips to keep you (and the sheep) going, but if you have just moved allotments like me then I’m sorry honey, but you’re on your own.
That said, if you listen very hard, even in these most frugal times, Nature is still giving you the odd clue – a little hint, like a mumbled word in her dream-filled sleep.
For example, left to fend for ourselves we have managed to eek out a rhubarb harvest by forcing the plants in Yorkshire (see my earlier blog on forced rhubarb for more). Meanwhile, over in Seville, where Nature is a bit more spritely in February, there are sour, savoury oranges in abundance. Sweet, pink rhubarb meets sharp Seville orange? I think this could be a natural combination. The hints are there you see, you just have to work a bit harder is all.
So, orange and rhubarb – sound like a dessert, right? Wrong. Seville oranges are not the sort of girls you want in a pudding – far too acidic, not even a hint of sweetness. But that acidity is perfect for the task of curing fish ceviche style. I love ceviche, as I do all raw or nearly fish really, but it’s not usually a great vehicle for seasonal veg. Traditionally it features chillis which I can grow (just), but I’m lousy at the coriander and avocados are cloud cuckoo land. Still, the main definition of a good ceviche is, I think, the fish ‘cooked’ in acid and the combination of flavours and textures – sweet, soft fish meets citrus zing meets sweet and sour crunch. And that, that I can do with more seasonal forced rhubarb and Seville oranges…