December welcomes copious amounts of winter root vegetables, perfect for hearty soups, stews and seasonal veg sides ideal for Christmas feasts. From Brussels sprouts and celery, to leeks, parsnips and potatoes, learn how to make the most of these seasonal staples on your festive menus.
It's sprout season
Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are reputable for their distinct bitterness. However, when properly cooked, this small but mighty vegetable can offer a base to pair with alternative flavours such as bacon, chestnuts, hazelnuts and chilli.
To maximise their shelf-life, store Brussels sprouts in the coolest part of the fridge (ideally the vegetable drawer). Aim to purchase fresh sprouts over frozen - the difference in quality is noticeable!
Don't wash your sprouts until you're ready to use them! They can hold excess water and moisture, spoiling their quality.
Sprouts are best cooked three to four days after purchase. Leaving them for up to one week means their bitterness intensifies, and that sweet flavour starts to disappear.
The best ways to cook:
Gone are the days of boiling your sprouts for hours until they're a mushy mess - this cooking method locks that bitter flavour in, so there's no wonder why you've probably despised sprouts for a long time.
Why not try roasting, deep-frying or even in the air-fryer! We love the sound of roasted garlic and parmesan sprouts, with a recipe courtesy of BBC Good Food.
Or for a completely different side-dish on your Christmas menu, try a super comforting cheesy sprout gratin with salty bacon, parmesan and crispy breadcrumbs.
Leeks are quite an undervalued vegetable, as most people think they are just like an onion, and therefore don't know how to get the most out of them.
Their flavour is earthy, creamy and buttery, making them great in comforting dishes like pies and stews.
Store your leeks in the fridge
Do not wash or trim leeks until you go to use them
If there are lots of other vegetables in the fridge with them, wrap the leeks loosely in cling film or a plastic bag, as other foods can absorb their smell
When buying leeks, make sure they're firm with lots of white and light green colouring - withered leeks with yellowing tops are no good!
Packed full of seasonal vegetables including leeks, carrots and celery, this comforting risotto is a great vegetarian option on your festive menus.
Check out the recipe here.
Goat's cheese and leek tartlets
Looking for canape or starter ideas over Christmas? These tartlets are a fine balance between the distinct sweet onion flavour of leeks, complemented with the buttery, slightly salty notes of goat's cheese.
A great side dish to complement a festive roast.
Pre-heat the grill on a high heat
Prepare the leeks by washing any dirt off them, and pat dry with kitchen towel
Place the whole leeks directly onto the grills, and turn every few minutes using tongs
Once the outsides are completely blackened and charred (after around 12-15 minutes), remove from the grill and transfer to a chopping board, then leave to rest for 10 minutes
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and two teaspoons of honey. Mix until the honey has dissolved
Once the leeks have cooled slightly, slice diagonally into decent sized chunks (around two inches each)
Transfer to a bowl and pour over the dressing, along with two tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then serve
The winter citrus - clementines
Hitting their peak flavour through the winter months, clementines are small but super sweet.
The heavier the fruit, the more juice it contains!
If you're planning to eat or use them a few days after buying, they're okay to be stored in the fruit bowl. Any longer and pop them in the bottom of the fridge to retain their quality
Buying a box of our clementines? Here's a few incredible things you can do with them:
A festive citrus cocktail to welcome your guests to the celebrations.
Simply juice six clementines and pour the juice into a jug, along with 100ml each of vodka and Cointreau. Leave to chill in the fridge for one-hour minimum, then serve in a chilled martini glass and garnish with a clementine slice.
There is something about clementines paired with subtle spices like star anise and cinnamon that scream Christmas. Add this creamy, citrus clementine trifle to round off your festive menus.
Clementine and cranberry chutney
Looking for a festive addition to this year's cheeseboard, or want to level up your leftover Turkey sandwiches? This zesty, flavoursome chutney is perfect for just that.
You will need:
3 Bramley apples
2 large onions, peeled and sliced finely
1kg of fresh or frozen cranberries
300ml red wine vinegar
500g light brown soft sugar
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
To make the chutney:
Peel and core the apples, then finely dice them and pop into a large saucepan
Grate the zest of all four clementines, and add to the pan
Peel any remaining skin on the clementines, then chop the fruit and add to the pan
Stir in the chopped onions, 700g of the cranberries, the sultanas, peppercorns, vinegar, sugar and chilli
Over a low-medium heat, cook the contents of the pan, stirring frequently. Once the sugar has dissolved (around five minutes or so), turn the heat up slightly
Simmer for around 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
Once the mixture is fairly thick, stir in the remaining cranberries. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the cranberries have softened
Leave to cool and ladle into a a jar or bowl, and serve alongside your Christmas cheeseboard or lather in leftover Turkey sandwiches