Deep Flavoured Dishes for Dark Days

The short days of November and December are brightened by festivals, and also the abundance of wonderful seasonal produce that we have at our disposal – fruit, vegetables and foraged foods, also game to add to our usual range of meats.

Colder weather and longer hours of darkness call for comforting, deeply flavoured dishes, so we should count ourselves lucky and enjoy these good things while they’re at their best.

MasterChef Kitchen BibleLoin Of Venison With Celeriac Purée

If advice is needed on any aspect of cookery – including game – the MasterChef Kitchen Bible (Dorling Kindersley, hardback, £26/€30) is a good port of call, and would make a fine gift for any of the reputed 9 million viewers of the BBC show.

The book gives advice on all aspects of running a kitchen, from choosing the best ingredients to buying the best ingredients, and includes 150 MasterChef skills classes covering essential techniques and cooking methods – and 100 modern classic recipes, all of them achievably impressive. This example comes from 2010 finalist, Alex Rushmer.

preparation time: 20 minutes
cooking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves 4

Click for recipe

The Good Table by Valentine Warner (Mitchell Beazley, hardback, stg ?20)Mallard & Cabbage

Fans of the hearty, down-to-earth British TV foodie Valentine Warner will be pleased to see his latest book, The Good Table (Mitchell Beazley, hardback, stg £20).

As usual with this likeable chef, you get much more than a book of recipes; he describes this particular collection as ‘my heart on plate’ and it’s an interestingly personal book, also very practical and with plenty of background information along with the typically gutsy recipes - many of them, like the example here, with a strong local country flavour, plus a sprinkling inspired by sunnier destinations.

“This is one of my favourite dishes... I'm happy to see that mallards are appearing more commonly in good butchers and some more adventurous supermarket branches. During the shooting season, I like to stockpile them in the freezer, as every one I sit down to reinforces my fear of running out. I recommend that you serve half a bird per person because they do not have as much meat as might at first appear (although I must admit that I can eat a whole one with ease). After you've tried a mallard, you'll never look upon the village pond in the same way...”

Click for recipe

The Slow Cook Book by Heather Whinney (Dorling Kindersley, hardback, ?16.99/?20)Pumpkin and Parsnip Cassoulet

Recession may be painful but it also brings many benefits, including a return to more cost-conscious cooking – both in terms of the ingredients used, and the cooking methods.

It’s good to see slow cooking backing style and The Slow Cook Book by Heather Whinney (Dorling Kindersley, hardback, £16.99/€20) is a timely and comprehensive guide. The range of 200 recipes is excellent – the kind of dishes that make you want to dive into the kitchen and get going - and instructions are given both for electric slow cookers (of which sales are currently soaring) and ordinary ovens/ranges.

This seasonal example is a lighter vegetarian version of the traditional meaty cassoulet, featuring creamy haricot beans and a crispy, herby breadcrumb and parmesan cheese topping.

Serves 4-6 (Freeze Up To 3 Months; Healthy)

Click for recipe

Catherine?s Family Kitchen (Gill & Macmillan, hardback, ?22.99)Apricot, Date and Guinness Slices with Guinness Cream Sauce

This is the season when we all love to bake, and the delightful Catherine Fulvio’s take on the traditional sticky toffee pudding recipe should be very popular, adding ‘a truly Irish dimension with the addition of the Guinness’. Catherine says that “We make this in our cookery school to great applause, though we find that the measurements of Guinness can be a bit heavy handed!”

It’s from her lovely new book, Catherine’s Family Kitchen (Gill & Macmillan, hardback, €22.99), based on the RTE series which, although filmed at home in Wicklow, seems to have been blessed with some Italian sunshine.

Makes 9 squares

Click for recipe

There are currently no comments

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment
Not a member? Register for your free membership now!
Or leave a comment by logging in with: