Make the most of your seasonal and festive produce this month, plus some foodie things to see and do.
December is a season of feasting and frivolity but fresh produce is limited at this time of year. Instead we party hard on all things dried, preserved, pickled and cured. All is not completely lost on the fresh produce front, however: cress, the original microgreen, is an all-year-rounder and works brilliantly scattered over pretty much everything, providing some much-needed peppery greenness for winter dishes.
We must also doff our party hats to the ingenious solution to the empty season that is forced rhubarb, a magical process whereby rhubarb is grown in the colder months in special pots and harvested by candlelight – you don’t get much more festive than that, surely?
Produce in season in December
We’re just at the end of the romanesco season now, also called romanesco broccoli or romanesque. This bright green brassica is a bit of a show-off with its intricate florets, but cooks like standard cauliflower. It’s just a bit sweeter and nuttier in flavour. This marinated lamb leg, romanesco & pickled walnuts dish is from a recipe we picked up from The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire.
Try romanesco in your cauliflower cheese recipe or blanch the florets for 5-7 mins, refresh in iced water, drain and use in a salad.
Not just for egg sarnies. It’s so easy to grow yourself or buy a punnet, which will usually set you back less than 50p. Why not try this four-ingredient canapé idea – our salmon & herb blinis are perfect for a last-minute get-together.
Tip: To grow cress, find a container (reusing a disposable plastic fruit or veg tray works well) and layer with cotton wool or kitchen roll, wet it, then sprinkle seeds densely on top. Gently press the seeds down and place by a window. Keep damp, and within 10 days your cress should be ready to eat. Miranda Janatka, BBC Gardeners’ World magazine.
A great way to cook leeks is to blanch them, then char them on the outside. You end up with a great mix of textures and the sweetness of the inner leaves is balanced by the blackened edges. This burnt leeks on toast with romesco recipe makes a great starter.
Try using leeks in place of onions in your recipes – especially useful when cooking for one as you can lop off a small piece and leave the rest in the fridge for another day.
Find more leek recipes
Rhubarb is tricked into growing early by being planted inside in warm, dark sheds. Most famous for this practice are the farms in the ‘Yorkshire Triangle’, an area of nine square miles in West Yorkshire. The resulting rhubarb is a brighter pink and a little sweeter than the maincrop variety. As with all rhubarb, do not eat the leaves as these are poisonous. This recipe for rhubarb cordial is great with sparkling water as a refreshing non-alcoholic party fizz.
Look for firm stems of rhubarb, free of breaks and blemishes. To store, keep it loosely wrapped in the fridge to stop it drying out. Don’t seal it up too tightly as it will overripen and deteriorate.
See our recipes and information for other ingredients in season:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Red cabbage
- Salsify & scorzonera
Seasonal food events in December
Food Glorious Food: Dinner with Dickens: 28 November-22 April 2019. We get many of our Christmas traditions from the works of Charles Dickens. A new exhibition in London, guest curated by Pen Vogler, a writer specialising in food history, explores the role of food in Dickens’s life and work – and the childhood memories he kept hidden until he died. See the Charles Dickens Museum website for more details.
Hampton Court Palace Festive Fayre: 7-9 December. Find more information about our Historic Royal Palaces food festivals.
Christmas markets: Find the best festive events happening near you.
See our seasonal calendar for more inspiration.
Check out more seasonal recipes...
What are your favourite ingredients to cook with in December? Leave a comment below...