Good Food Blog
Fabulous FebruaryPosted at 2:30PM, 04 February 2011 by Dulcima Mansell - Food writer
One of February's greatest gifts is forced rhubarb. It is more slender and pink than its outdoor cousin of later in the year and it is my current addiction. I'm in the habit each Sunday of cooking up a batch in the oven, with orange zest, a splash of juice and some vanilla sugar, then using it as a basis for recipes throughout the week. Breakfasts at the moment are rhubarb with yoghurt and granola and nearly every dessert I am making at the moment contains rhubarb in some way.
I made a lovely Eton mess/trifle style dessert of alternating layers of rhubarb, custard and smashed meringue stirred into whipped cream
Of course rhubarb and custard are a match made in heaven (highly recommend Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's tart or try it in bread and butter pudding ). I have found myself making a ridiculous amount of custard, which, as it uses only the egg yolks and not the whites, means I keep finding myself with a glut of egg whites. I could be virtuous and have egg white omelettes but instead have been making lots of meringues . I made a lovely Eton mess/trifle style dessert of alternating layers of rhubarb, custard and smashed meringue stirred into whipped cream. Ooh it was good, like childhood in a bowl (or rather sundae glass). For a more mature taste, add stem ginger and juice from the jar to the rhubarb while cooking.
And don't forget that the tartness of rhubarb is fantastic with oily fish. (In the summer try your oily fish with gooseberries for a similar effect). Mackerel is also in season at the moment and would make for a great seasonal dinner.
The second of February's stars is mussels. I told the lovely fiancé that we would be eating a lot of mussels in the run up to writing this blog, expecting him to be thrilled; instead he said he was a little bored of them. So the challenge was on to get him to love them again.
I steered clear of moules marinière and its many variations (try it with chorizo), instead looking for something a little different. Baked mussels provencal was the first dish: cooked mussels in half their shell, slathered with garlicky butter and then topped with breadcrumbs and cheese before being popped in the oven to brown. We ate them with a very crisp white wine and grins on our faces (and garlicky butter all over our hands).
The second (and following the rather decadent theme) dish was mouclade of mussels . This was so rich I couldn't finish mine (think it probably reduced my life expectancy what with all the butter and cream). I would recommend small portions with lots of salad and crusty bread rather than the heap I dished up.
You can really taste the quality of good mussels, so it's worth spending a little more and seeking out the best. I'm lucky enough to have a fantastic fishmonger locally who sold me some beautiful wild ones. Or if you live by the coast why not go for a forage and gather them yourself? But please, please, please check they're in clean water , and when cooking mussels always remember the rule: if open before cooking or closed after, discard.
What are you cooking this month?