Whether you’ve picked it from your own vegetable patch, had it delivered in a veg box, or enjoyed whatever knobbly wintery specimens the greengrocer has to offer at the moment, this month’s menu looks to orchards, allotments and even your own garden for inspiration.
Parsnips are good to go as the recent frost should have brought about a boost in flavour and sweetness. Baby parsnips look particularly cute, halved and nestled into the starter tart, or you could use larger ones cut into spears.
For mains, the pork chop is accompanied by winter herbs and greens and cooked in a flavoursome sauce made with two apple-based West Country tipples - especially for those of us eschewing Dry January!
Dessert is a speedy affair, a microwave pear and chocolate cake made in either a mug or espresso cup. This works best with slightly firm pears as they will hold their shape better.
There’s something just so intrinsically wintery and comforting about anything served in a mug, but in this case, these little cakes served in an espresso cup give a dainty chocolate pick-me-up. The sugar content is pretty low in these cakes, but you could up it with an extra sprinkle of caster sugar at the end.
Parsnip, British honey, Cheddar and hazelnut Tarte Tatin
Honey enhances the natural sweetness of the parsnips in this classy tart made with a layer of Cheddar cheese and topped with roasted hazelnuts.
- small handful hazelnuts
- 4 parsnips (or 8 baby parsnips)
- 4 echalion shallots
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- large knob of unsalted butter
- a small handful of thyme (leaves only), plus extra to serve
- 2 tbsp British honey
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 40g finely grated mature Cheddar, plus extra to serve
- 320g ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 (fan).
Roughly chop the hazelnuts, then tip them onto a baking tray and roast for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Trim and cut the parsnips into spears. Peel and cut the shallots into halves.
Heat the oil and butter in two frying pans (one of them needs to be a 22cm overproof frying pan). Add the parsnips and shallots to the two pans - you are best putting both the shallots and the parsnips in cut-side down to get a lovely caramelised brown colour.
Cook on the stovetop for about 5-10 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Tip the veg all into the same pan.
Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and add the honey, vinegar and a tablespoon of water. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes. If the sauce looks syrup-like, leave it as is, otherwise, remove the vegetables from the pan and cook the sauce a little more until it has reduced to a syrupy consistency.
Increase the oven temperature to 200C/Gas 6 (fan).
Unroll the pastry and cut it in a circle to make it just bigger than the pan. Return the vegetables to the 22cm overproof frying pan, arranging them in a nice pattern, cut side down.
Sprinkle over most of the grated Cheddar, leaving a little to serve. Arrange the pastry on top of the pan, tucking it into the filling at the edges.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown and puffed - keep checking the pastry to be sure it doesn’t go brown too quickly.
Take care (as the handle will be hot!), and remove the pan from the oven. Tip the tarte onto a serving board or plate, and sprinkle with a little more thyme, the reserved grated Cheddar and the reserved roasted hazelnuts. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in slices.
Pork chops with wilted kale, apples and Somerset cider brandy
Cider, Somerset cider brandy and roasted apples combine to bring the ultimate in apple flavours to this pork dish. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice
- 4 x 180g thick pork chops
- 30g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil, for cooking
- 4 eating apples
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp Somerset cider brandy
- 200ml cider
- 350ml stock
- small handful of fresh sage leaves
- 150g whole kale leaf, stems removed
- chopped parsley, to serve (optional)
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 (fan). Season the pork with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the butter and half of the oil in a large ovenproof frying pan. Unless you have a humungous pan that fits in your oven, to serve four people you will need to do this in two pans. Brown the chops on both sides and then transfer to roast in the oven for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut each apple in half across, and add the apples to the pan(s) in the oven for another 10 minutes of cooking time.
Carefully remove the chops and apples to a plate (remember the pan handles will be hot!) and cover and keep warm while you prepare the sauce. Combine the juices from the two pans into one, taking care as the handles will still be very hot.
Add the onion to the pan and cook over a low heat until softened, but not coloured (about five minutes). Add the sugar and cider brandy to the pan and cook until thickened and syrup-like.
Add the cider and simmer, stirring to combine with any meat sediment in the pan. Simmer for a few minutes to thicken, then add the stock and cook until reduced in volume by about half - this will take about 15 minutes.
Set aside four pretty sage leaves for garnish and roughly chop the rest and add to the sauce and cook for a few more minutes. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Keep warm.
Break the kale leaves up a little and make sure that all the hard stems are removed.
Heat the remaining oil in another pan, add the kale and cook until lightly wilted. Serve the pork chops and apple with the sauce, with a sage leave for garnish for each person, and the wilted kale on the side. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley if liked. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice.
Pear and chocolate microwave cake
You could serve these easy cakes in either a mug or an espresso cup. If serving in mugs, you will need an extra 20 secs or so in the microwave (just keep an eye on when the batter has stopped rising).
Serves 4 in espresso cups (Serves 2 in mugs)
- 40g self-raising flour
- 20g ground almonds
- 40g cocoa powder
- 20g caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
- 1 Conference pear
- 50ml milk
- 25ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing
- 2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
- 4 cubes chocolate, roughly chopped
- dollop crème fraîche, to serve
Grease the cups with vegetable oil.
Combine the flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder and caster sugar and stir together.
Core the pear, leaving the skin on, and cut four thin slices to top the cakes. Chop the rest into dice.
Whisk together the milk, oil and eggs. Add it to the flour mixture and stir in the diced pear and chopped chocolate.
Spoon the mixture into four espresso cups and press the pear slices vertically on top of the batter. Sprinkle a little caster sugar on top of each pear.
Microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until it is firm to the touch and has stopped rising.
Serve straightaway, with a dollop of crème fraîche.
Ramona Andrews is a highly experienced food writer and digital content producer. She worked for the BBC Food website for many years, during which time the site won a BAFTA nomination, World Food Media Award and Guild of Food Writers Award. After studying to be a chef, she went to work for the UKTV Food website (now Good Food Channel) and has also worked as a restaurant reviewer for Time Out and Square Meal. She now lives in Bristol and dedicates much of her time to working on food policy change campaigns, as well as keeping her hand in recipe testing and shooting for bigger food clients and publications in her kitchen studio. The Lazy Susan team are looking forward to giving the delicious recipes she’s creating for our blog a try.