January is a month of new beginnings, resolutions and hangovers. With the excess of the holiday season behind us, healthy eating takes centre stage. For Alexia Robinson from Love British Food, January is the perfect time to rethink your diet. ‘With pennies tight at the moment there is a real danger that price promotions will drive consumers to cheaper imports,’ says Alexia. ‘This would be a tragedy.’ Dedicated to promoting British food, Love British Food is a national campaign aimed at continuing the renaissance of British food while encouraging producers and consumers to continue growing, buying and above all else, loving British food.
‘British food is some of the highest quality in the world and our seasonal climate and varied landscape produces the most wonderfully diverse range,’ she adds. For Alexia ‘every meal should have a distinct feel for where the food comes from, part of the pleasure, as you are eating it, is knowing where it was grown or reared, and better still who produced it.’ This year, the annual Love British Food celebration that is British Food Fortnight is being held to coincide with the Olympics under the title of 'Love British Food 2012'. Alexia explains: ‘The eyes of the world are upon us, food and sport go hand in hand so what better opportunity to showcase the best of British food? Promotions in 40,000 shops, pubs and restaurants and Family Feasts celebrating British food are being planned across the country as part of the London 2012 Festival.’ See www.lovebritishfood.co.uk for more information or check out your local country market or farm shop.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until summer to start tucking in to British food - a diverse range is available all year round. Alexia talks us through her January favourites.
‘Brussel sprouts are not just for Christmas!’ declares Alexia. Packed with vitamins A and C, folic acid and dietary fibre, Brussel sprouts pack a healthy punch and a unique flavoursome crunch. Sprouts might be the marmite of the vegetable world, but cooked properly, become a great alternative to kale and cabbage. ‘It’s important to keep promoting Brussel sprouts in January,’ says Alexia. ‘Too many people think of them as just a Christmas vegetable so they need plugging in the New Year too otherwise sales drop off.’ Alexia even admits to liking Brussel sprouts cold (cooked of course), or chopped in half and lightly fried with nutmeg.
‘The super-meat of red meat, [venison is] lower in fat and higher in iron than other types of meat. It’s our household's ultimate hunter-gatherer fodder,’ comments Alexia. The word venison comes from Latin venari, which means 'to hunt' and originally referred to meat from any wild animal. Most British venison comes from wild deer rather than farmed, which makes it a more ethical choice than meat from intensively reared domestic animals. The British season closes in the first quarter of the year, although runs much longer in Scotland where you can even buy venison online www.hfv.co.uk, so you can enjoy this tasty treat without having to wield a gun yourself.
A staple part of the rural diet until the introduction of the potato; parsnips were traditionally used to sweeten cakes and jams. Today, whether roasted or mashed they are a favourite at the dinner table, especially with Alexia. ‘They are always the first thing I, and everyone else in the family, eat off the plate,’ she says.
Beetroot is a superfood packed with beta-carotene and folic acid, both of which are excellent liver cleansers - good news for those who overindulged over the festive period. ‘Great in juices, salads or mashed, the sweet taste of beetroot brings colourful cheer to a grey January,’ says Alexia.
Packed with anti-oxidants and benefiting from a subtler flavour than its close relative, the onion, leeks are a hard-working winter vegetable that makes a great base for soups, pasta, creamy sauces and casseroles. They’re also delicious steamed, roasted or fried as a side dish. A member of the allium plant family, leeks are also known for their medical properties protecting against a variety of ailments from the common cold to kidney stones.
Alexia Robinson’s roast venison with a plate piled high with vegetables
‘The perfect colourful wintery dish that is comforting and special at the same time, uber-healthy and low in fat for all those with New Year healthy eating resolutions.’
Four venison steaks
Three large beetroots
Three large leeks
• Marinate the venison steaks in quality rapeseed oil for a couple of hours. Sear on all sides and pop in a hot oven for 12 minutes. Leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into thin slices.
• Cut the rough skin off the beetroot, chop roughly and roast in hot oven with lots of rapeseed oil and salt and pepper. Serve with whatever herbs have survived winter this far in your garden.
• Skin, chop and boil the parsnip and apple, then mash.
• Chop and boil the leeks
• Complement it all with homemade Cumberland sauce: buy a jar of good quality redcurrant jelly (check that it has a high fruit content), empty it into a saucepan and mix with lemon zest, the juice of one orange and half a lemon, some ginger and a huge slug of leftover Christmas port.
• Lay the thinly sliced venison on the mash and serve the leeks alongside topped by classic white sauce with lots of pepper.
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