Winter may bring in the colder weather, but it certainly adds zest to our kitchens! Some of the best seasonal ingredients, fruits and veggies are appearing on your local grocer’s shelves as the days get shorter.
We’ve put together a guide to some of our favourite winter ingredients and how to use them. You’ll soon be creating wholesome winter dishes that will warm you from the inside out.
What are the best fruits available in winter?
Using seasonal fruits is a great way to experiment and add a twist to typical winter dishes. Fruits are always ideal for warm desserts like tarts, crumbles and are also great additions to hot drinks such as mulled wine and fruit teas. But, seasonal winter fruits are also great as the central ingredients in some winter classics.
Although not as sweet as oranges or satsumas, grapefruit’s rich flavour and juicy texture make it the perfect ingredient for a winter dessert. You can add sugar to make it as sweet as you like. A rum glaze or a boozy ice cream also makes the perfect complementary side dish with grapefruit.
One of our favourite grapefruit recipes is Rum-Broiled Grapefruit. Broiling is a great way to bring out the flavour of the grapefruit. It is different from baking, as the heat is concentrated to the surface of the fruit. This adds a charred flavour as it caramelises the sugar, spices and rum that sit on top.
You can serve this simple dish as a dessert. We recommend presenting the dish with a rich vanilla or caramel ice cream for extra winter goodness.
If you’re not too keen on an intense grapefruit flavour, you can also add this ingredient to a pork or duck roast. The ingredient keeps roasts succulent and adds an element of spicy sweetness to the meat. It's also a slightly unusual ingredient, so you’ll be able to show off your culinary skills with this winter gem.
Pears are another ingredient you can serve on its own if prepared in the right way, or as a great addition to a crumble or tart. As a seasonal winter fruit, it's a great alternative to apple and apple-based recipes. It's not as tangy as apple; however, pears offer a pleasant variation in flavour to classic dishes.
A roast joint of pork will come to life when you add pears to the mix. Pears will bring out the sweetness a piece of pork should have, and the flavours marry well with spices such as thyme, sage and rosemary. You’ll usually add the pears last to a pork roast, so the meat will not be so over-sweetened that it loses its natural flavour. Pears will enhance this dish to add to the perfect Sunday dinner!
Poached pears in red wine is one of the simplest, but more impressive desserts out there. Served with ice cream or whipped cream, this decadent dessert is the perfect end to a big festive lunch or supper. Poached in a cinnamon red-wine mix, the pears will take on a heart-warming homely flavour.
Getting the best out of seasonal veg
It’s true when we think of winter we often think of roasted or stewed meat. How can we not when it's freezing outside? But the seasonal veg you can get around this time will satisfy your soul-food cravings just as well as any meat dish. When you shop in the veggie department, you’ll also come across some unusual ingredients that you’ll love once you’ve tried them.
These interesting ingredients are very different from your standard artichoke. This veg looks more like a potato and makes a for a great roast or fried vegetable.
You can also use Jerusalem artichokes in a soup. They have a creamy texture that makes a great thickener. Their flavours are earthy and nutty, which makes them the ideal autumnal or winter veg. With their potato-like nature, Jerusalem artichokes are also a great alternative roast or fried potatoes. You can slice them up thinly and fry them in oil or butter to add some crunch to a pasta dish.
Celeriac is by no means an attractive vegetable. Jamie Oliver even has a recipe called “zombie brain” with this as the main ingredient. It does, however, burst with flavour and makes for an excellent veg substitute to a classic winter roast. It's a great way to have all the other bells and whistles that come with a roast. You can still serve this beast of a vegetable with gravy, roast potato and greens.
Even the way you prepare celeriac is similar to how you would a joint of meat. Sprigs of sage, rosemary and thyme are used to flavour the roast before it goes into the oven, along with garlic, olive oil and onions or shallots.
Celeriac also makes for a beautiful soup, thanks to its creamy texture.
Other must-try winter ingredients
Aside from seasonal fruit and veg, here are several other winter ingredients that any aspiring chef has to try!
Winter in the UK may be less than ideal for trips to the sea, but it's certainly the season for seafood. Ingredients such as mussels are easy to come by, and they are the perfect ingredient for a warming winter dish.
Mussels are also known as the poor man's shellfish, because of how cheap they are. Simply steaming them with the right seasoning is a great starter. For a more substantial meal, you have to try a mussel in white wine cream sauce recipe!
Known as moules marinière in France, this moreish dish enhances the natural seafood flavours of the mussels and makes a great mid-week easy meal. Remember - only eat a mussel if its shell has opened during the cooking process! Closed mussels mean they are not good to eat and could make you ill.
What better smell is there to show that Christmas is around the corner than the scent of roasted Chestnuts? Chestnuts are seasonal and are a great festive snack to serve at dinner parties or simply on a cosy night in. Simply pop them in the oven and peel away the tough outer skin to enjoy on their own.
Chestnuts are also great in chocolate tarts and cakes as they add a mild nutty flavour to these dessert dishes. Once cooked, you can also chop them up roughly to sprinkle over roast vegetables which gives them sweet, nutty flavour.
Hearty winter goodness
Shopping for seasonal ingredients is an excellent way to vary the dishes you make. Using seasonal ingredients is also more sustainable, especially when those ingredients are locally sourced. With so many goods available in the UK, and so many recipes, it's easy to get into seasonal cooking! These delicious ingredients will give you all the inspiration you need to fix a hearty winter meal and expand your repertoire in the kitchen.