• In season now: May

    New this month: Asparagus! The food of gods... and carrots are back.

    Still in season from last month: cauliflower, chard, green cabbage, salad leaves, main-crop potatoes (from store), salad leaves, sea kale, spring greens, rhubarb

    Goodbye till next year to: Purple sprouting broccoli (sniff, sniff), leeks, stored parsnips, forced rhubarb

  • What I’m doing here

    This all started when I picked the first strawberries from my new allotment.

    I'd never been so enraptured or so excited by food. It was a shock to find that anything could taste so good.

    So what - I'd never had strawberries before?

    No - all the strawberries I'd had were shop-bought, like as not flown in from intensive growers in Spain or Chile, and eaten in winter when strawberries should be a distant summer memory.

    It revolutionised my thinking about the fresh food we eat every day. I started to wonder if you got the same amazing taste from all types of food grown and eaten in season. And then I decided to do something about it.

    The Year of Eating Seasonally is my little experiment to find out what it's really like not to have it all. The only fruit and veg I and my family are going to eat in 2008 will be what's growing in the ground at the time (or, in winter, what I can get out of store).

    I want to find out if the hungry gap is really as hungry as everyone says it is: whether you're really eating nothing but cabbage all winter; and whether you miss strawberries in December.

    Along the way I hope I'll save a few tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere on my behalf, as I won't be requiring those French beans flown from Chile, thanks very much. And I hope I'll be rediscovering what food can really taste like.

    If you have any comments, please feel free to post them anywhere you like - or you can email me at sallywhite@hotmail.com.

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Chicken casserole

This is a really traditional winter casserole which I’ve cobbled together from all sorts of recipes until it’s at the point where it suits me!

4 chicken breasts

8oz (225g) streaky bacon, chopped into 1″ (2.5cm) pieces

8 shallots cut in half, or 2 onions cut into 8 pieces each

3 carrots, cut into 1″ (2.5cm) rounds

Half a swede, chopped into pieces about 1″ (2.5cm) across, or 4 small turnips, quartered

4oz (110g) mushrooms, sliced

3 tbsps olive oil

3/4 pt (400ml) chicken stock – homemade if possible, if not made with a cube

A slosh of white wine (about half a glassful)

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

1/2 tsp dried (or better, 1 tbsp fresh chopped) thyme

3/4 tbsp flour

salt and pepper

 Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (170C, 325F).

Start by cutting the chicken breasts into large pieces – about 2″ (5cm) across. Heat 2 tbsps of the oil in a heavy-bottomed casserole dish and brown the chicken pieces – it’ll take about 10-15 minutes at medium heat. While it’s cooking, prepare the vegetables and bacon.

Take the chicken out and set aside, then put the remaining oil in the casserole and add the flour. Mix it in well and then add the bacon, shallots or onions, carrots and swede or turnips. Fry for about 5 minutes in the oil-and-flour mixture.

Return the chicken to the casserole, and add the mushrooms. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add the wine, stock, garlic and thyme. Season to taste.

Put the casserole in the oven and cook slowly for at least 1 1/2 hours (I prepare the casserole at lunchtime and put it on the timer, so it’s ready in time for supper without having to do anything more!). Serve with potatoes or rice and a green vegetable.


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