January is arguably the best month of the year for heading to the nearest farmers’ market. Depending on which part of the country you’re in, you’ll find an abundance of whatever grows well in the area, and you can happily munch your way around the stalls, getting a true taste of the season and the location. Catherine Milford shares some of her favourites.
If you love Turkish or Greek food, chances are you’ve had plenty of aubergines or eggplants. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed it as part of a French ratatouille or in an Indian curry. Part of the nightshade family, eggplant is an incredibly versatile vegetable that’s 92% water and has almost no fat. However, it’s a thirsty plant, soaking up any oil you’re cooking it with, so if you’re watching the calories, try roasting or baking rather than frying. To remove some of the water, salt your eggplant prior to cooking, slice or cut it, rub it with salt, and leave for 20 minutes before wiping clean and cooking (don’t peel them or they can collapse). Season to taste and cook on the barbecue until golden and delicious.
Our year in New Zealand begins with a parade of stonefruit that we can enjoy right through to autumn, and heading the charge is the soft, fuzzy, juicy peach. There are plenty of varieties; popular peaches in New Zealand include April White (furry with a pink blush), Bonanza (yellow skin with a red blush), and Blackboy (purple/red flesh and skin). Peaches are rich in potassium and in Vitamins C and K – useful for healing wounds. They are good for dealing with sugar cravings, as although they are sweet, they are quite low in sugar. They also contain magnesium; eating a peach before bed can help you fall asleep faster. To make the most of their flavour, cut them in half, remove the stones, and sprinkle with a little brown sugar, honey, and lemon thyme leaves. Bake or barbecue until soft and juicy and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Pantry staple: chocolate spread
As any baker will know, a jar of Nutella or chocolate spread is handy if you need to whip up a quick dessert (or you just need a sneaky teaspoonful for a mid-afternoon sugar kick). One of my favourite easy dishes is spreading it over a piece of puff pastry, rolling into a spiral, and cooking for a sweet pastry twist. Another super-simple recipe is to half-dip salted pretzels into the sauce, place on some baking paper, and put in the fridge to set. For a tasty dip, mix a tablespoon through some whipped cream and serve with plenty of fresh fruit and marshmallows. Easy!