For a lot of the year the only beans available to us are imported from Africa. Our bean season lasts from June until October and I can usually find fine beans, garden peas and broad beans during these months. I got a nice surprise this morning when I came across this Irish Mange-tout at Ciaran Butler's in the market. I have honestly never tasted sweeter or crisper Mange-tout, it's night and day compared to the African produce we are used to. He only had a couple of boxes so I took both and they're available in Cabra and Marino today, he doesn't know if there will be more available. Irish Fine beans are there too and again are a different experience altogether compared to the African. There will certainly be a few more weeks of Fine beans but Im not sure if there will be much more Mange-tout before the season finishes. Enjoy!
Finding the right gift for a loved one at Christmas can be difficult to say the least. We have a few new carefully selected Cookery Books, Gift Vouchers for as little or as much as you like, or we can make hampers out of any of our products that you want. Might just do the trick...
With the festive madness behind us January can seem like a bleak month. Wallets have been stretched, belly's stuffed to bursting point and respite from wet Irish winter seems a long way off. But it's not all bad. We can still enjoy tasty hearty food like soups and stews that our bodies need it to get us through the cold. While there isn't really any new Irish produce coming into season, there are an abundance of carrots, parsnips, cabbage and brussels sprouts still growing. The potato harvest is well finished so they're coming out of storage, but are still good, the same with the apples. But what really comes into its own in January is citrus fruit, usually from mediterranean countries like Spain, Italy and Morocco.
The big juicy sweet Oranges you know and love are in season now. The navel and navelina varieties are the cream of the crop (you'll know them by the belly button like hole at the bottom of them) and there is a brand called "Ripoll" that year in year out produce the best Oranges we've come across. The season runs from December to April and they're worth waiting for from May to October.
Seville Oranges have also arrived so it's time to make your marmalade for the year. Their season is quite short, from January to mid February, so you'd want to get cooking quite soon. I'm going to try a Nigel Slater recipe I found thats supposed to be excellent so I'll post it when it's done.
The other citrus that we see now is the beautiful Blood Orange. Their unique red flesh is bursting with sweet raspberry hinted flavour. The Italians generally use these for juicing but they make great eating oranges too. The early varieties don't have the deep crimson colour of the later Sanguinello variety which comes in around mid January. Blood Oranges are generally only around until March so it's quite a short season. Having said that we really are spoilt for choice at this time of year with sweet easy to peel Clemenules just in, and if you prefer more of a sour bite to your fruit Minneolas are back in season now too. I suppose it's natures way of looking after us in the colder months with all of the above bursting with vitamin C.
Even though we are a few weeks away from the official start of Christmas, looking at the wind and the rain beating against the window makes me feel like we're already there. So there's only one thing for it. Light the fire, turn on the music and cook some real comfort food. The time of year lends itself to some real hearty cooking and whats in season reflects that. All the root vegetables are going to strong: beetroot, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, turnips, jerusalem artichokes etc. Potatoes are still coming fresh out of the ground but the harvest will be finishing up soon and then they will be out of storage until the "earlies" come at the end of spring so its a good time to enjoy them.
Although there isn't much coming and going in November for domestic produce, there are a few stars that become available from our friends across the water. Top of the list for me are Sweet Chestnuts and they come in from Italy, France and Spain. These are sweet chestnuts, not to be confused with the conkers we have that come from Horse Chestnut trees. (Don't eat them because they can be toxic) They make a great addition to any stuffing and some soups but they are definitely best roasted on an open fire or in the oven. The shell comes away easily and the meat inside is hot and tender. It only takes 25 minutes or so to cook them but remember to pierce the shell before you put them on or they will explode.
Kaki Persimmons are an exotic fruit that originally come from China and Japan, but are also grown in Europe. The Spanish season usually starts around the end of October lasts until the end of December so November is prime season. There are a few varieites of Kakis but generally the ones we see in Ireland at this time of year are from Spain and are oblong shaped with a point at the end. They can be eaten while still firm and crunchy and they skin is deep orange. But be careful, there are other varieties that have to be left until they are really ripe, when the flesh in nearly like jelly and the skin nearly translucent before you eat them because of their bitter astringent taste when unripe.
Another great fruit in season from the end of October is the quince pear. This fruit looks like a mix between an apple and a pear, has yellow skin and is very firm. Quince can't be eaten raw as it is too tart and acidic but when it's cooked it comes into it's own. The sweet Spanish jelly "Membrillo" that really compliments a cheeseboard is made from quince and because it has such naturally high levels of pectin, it is great for making jams.
October is quite a transitional month for fruit and veggies in Ireland. The peas and beans are gone for another year and courgettes, cucumbers and rhubarb are becoming more scarce as the month goes on. It's not all sad goodbyes though. The new season eating and cooking apples are in full swing as are the main crop of potatoes. Cauli's, Broccoli, and root vegetables like Turnips, Parsnips, Celeriac, Beetroot and Carrots are all thriving in October and it's time to start thinking of heartwarming stews and broths for the chilly days to come.
From further afield the soft fruits from Spain and Italy have finished until next June, as have the New Italian and Cyprus Potatoes. But some real gems are making an appearance like the French heirloom purple and white carrots. In Ireland we tend to grow Pumpkins for display at Halloween and not for eating, but there is a whole world of Squash and Pumpkins out there that are in season now. Hokaidos, Potimaroons, Patidous, and Jack be Littles are all in from France and make a really nice alternative to Butternut Squash.
Celeriac: In my opinion Celeriac is a seriously under-rated vegetable. That's probably because it's brain like features mean it's one of the ugliest vegetables going. But I wouldn't judge this book by it's cover. Celeriac is a really versatile vegetable and adds a subtle parsley and celery flavour to any dish. Especially good in mashed potatoes, you can use it in loads of soups or add it to your roast vegetables for a Sunday roast.
Kale: With Halloween at the end of the month it would be criminal not to hail the superfood that is the star of a good Colcannon. Its bursting with Vitamin K, C and A and can even help lower cholesterol. Keep an eye out for our Colcannon recipe later in the month.
Parsnips: Whether roasted with a bird on a Sunday afternoon, or boiled in a stew for a midweek dinner, the Parsnip is just a great all rounder. You can even make chips out of them!
Brussel Sprouts: The controversial Brussel Sprout makes its introduction around this time of year. I don't think there is any other vegetable that is so loved and detested in equal measure. If you hate them, skip this bit, but if you love them you'll be happy to know theres a good early crop this year and they're as tasty as ever.