What to eat in
In February look out for colourful cabbages and tasty leeks – and warm up with our delicious chicken pie recipe
Cabbages are in season in February and come in many different shapes and colours: green, white, red, round and pointed. Look out for Savoy cabbages – with their dark green, crinkly leaves and crisp texture they're a perfect accompaniment for warming stews, casseroles and roast meat.
Cabbage is high in fibre and can help to lower your cholesterol. It also contains minerals such as potassium and iron, and is an excellent source of vitamins C and K – so helps prevent infections and keep bones strong and healthy.
To retain as many of these vitamins and minerals as possible, steam shredded Savoy cabbage until tender. It can also be stir fried – add garlic, ginger, Chinese five-spice and soy sauce for an oriental twist.
Savoy cabbage leaves are perfect for stuffing with leftover cooked rice, combined with fried onion and garlic. Blanch whole cabbage leaves for a couple of minutes, then pile rice mixture onto each leaf and roll up to make parcels. Pack parcels seam side down in an ovenproof dish, pour tomato passata over the top and bake at 170C for about 25 minutes.
Leeks are also in season this month, and, like onions, chives and garlic, can improve heart health and are good for the digestive system. They also contain a mild antihistamine, which can prevent allergies.
Leeks have a milder, sweeter flavour than onions. They work well with bacon, and a simple combination of the two – chopped and fried in olive oil – makes a tasty topping for pasta.
Cheese of any sort goes very nicely with leeks: a basic cheese sauce poured over steamed leeks can be a delicious accompaniment to all sorts of meals. It's blue cheese, such as Stilton, though, that leeks really love. This gives Derbyshire dwellers the chance to eat locally as well as seasonably – as a European Union Protected Food Name, Stilton can only be produced in Derbyshire, Leicestershire or Nottinghamshire.
Chicken, leek and Stilton pie
For the pastry:
3 tablespoons cold water
For the filling:
1 tablespoon oil plus 30g butter for frying
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 large leeks, washed and sliced
1 heaped tablespoon flour
280ml semi-skimmed milk
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
Mix the pastry ingredients together in a food processor until a ball of dough begins to form. Wrap the pastry ball in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes while you make the pie filling.
Melt the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over a gentle heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about five minutes, until beginning to brown. Add the leeks to the pan and cook for a further five minutes, until tender. Remove from heat.
To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Cook gently for a minute or two, stirring all the time. Add a little of the milk and stir in thoroughly, then continue to add the milk a little at a time, stirring continuously to remove any lumps. When all the milk has been added, turn up the heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for five minutes, stirring regularly, until the sauce has thickened.
Cut the pastry in half and roll each half out, on a floured surface, to create two large circles. Grease a 22cm pie dish and line the base with one of the circles, neatening the edges by trimming off any excess pastry (save the trimmings for decoration). Mix together the white sauce with the chicken and leeks, add salt and pepper to taste, and pile into the pie dish. Crumble the Stilton over the top. Moisten the edges of the pie then cover with the second circle of pastry. Trim the edges and seal together using a fork.
Roll out the trimmings and cut out shapes for decoration – brush these with a little water to attach to the top of the pie. Prick the pie in several places with a fork, then brush all over the top with egg. Bake in a preheated at 180C for about 25 minutes until golden brown.
Why eat seasonal food?
Eating food that's in season makes sense for people and for the planet.
Seasonal food can often be grown locally – or even in your own garden or allotment – so the food miles to get it onto your dinner plate are greatly reduced. Out of season foods bought in supermarkets have often been flown half-way around the world, creating a large carbon footprint through transportation, refridgeration and packaging.
Local, seasonal food is usually fresher and often tastes better. It is likely to be cheaper too – so choosing foods in season can save you money.
Each month we'll bring you ideas for using seasonal ingredients, along with a tasty recipe or two. Go on, give seasonal food a try!
Little Green Space February 2016