Winter cheer!

Brighten the mood this winter with one of these cheerful ingredients. With their vivid colours and zingy flavours, they’ll help you beat off even the darkest of winter blues…


Purple sprouting broccoli

Always a favourite at this time of year, purple sprouting broccoli makes a refreshing change to a winter of root vegetables! Choose stalks that snap nicely (a bit like fresh asparagus) and flowers that are a good colour and not yellowing. This vibrantly coloured broccoli is delicious as a simple side dish, with a touch of butter or oil, but can be used in place of your usual broccoli in pretty much anything else.

Try this: for a really quick and easy pasta supper, bring a pan if pasta to the boil. Five minutes before the end, add trimmed purple sprouting broccoli florets to the water and continue to boil. In a saucepan gently fry one deseeded and chopped chilli, two cloves of garlic and a handful of capers or anchovy fillets in a generous glug of oil. Toss the cooked, drained pasta and broccoli in the oil and serve.


Forced rhubarb

These startlingly pink stems are such a delightful sight in the midst of winter, and they really do taste as good as they look. The exquisite flavour comes from the forcing of the rhubarb, growing it in darkness and forcing it to find the light; so important is this that the vegetable is harvested by candlelight in Yorkshire’s ‘rhubarb triangle’, a celebrated area with a tradition of growing forced rhubarb and which has been given a PDO.

Try this: create a wintery Eton Mess by roasting stems of rhubarb, with a squeeze of lemon and lime juice and a sprinkling of caster sugar. Pour off any juices into a pan, add water and sugar and boil to make a syrup. Whip some double cream until it forms soft peaks, and stir into the rhubarb and syrup. Crumble over some crushed meringue and enjoy.

Ruby red grapefruit

Ripe and full to bursting with zingy, wake-you-up, grapefruit juice, these bright balls of sunshine make a great start to the day. And they are even better at this time of the year, just when you need them the most. Not only are they rich in antioxidants, but they are full of vitamin C, ideal for boosting the immune system in the depths of winter.

Try this: segments of red grapefruit can add a pleasing tartness to a bitter salad. Try combining a salad bag of chicory and other leaves with red grapefruit segments. Cover with a dressing of red wine vinegar olive oil, salt and pepper and serve with added blue cheese if liked.


Candy cane beetroot

What can be more uplifting than the sight of the beautiful candy stripes of the candy cane beetroot? Sliced thinly into salads, they look absolutely stunning, and they taste just as good as they look too! Instead of the usual earthiness associated with beets, these are sweet and almost citrussy. Best used raw to preserve the perfect stripes – cooking turns the beet a uniform yellow colour!

Try this: take a look at this month’s Cook At Home page for a lovely, light quinoa and beetroot recipe from local chef, Maria-Carin Gala. Her recipe appears in a new book of recipes, ‘Inspired’, which features recipes kindly donated by numerous local and national chefs in aid of Stroud Women’s Refuge.