Best in season: Winter veggies

With winter just around the corner, we thought we’d take a moment to look at all the beautiful vegetables coming into season for these cooler months and share a few cooking ideas too. Think sturdy dark vegetables such as kale, cabbage and spinach. Or root vegetables from turnips to parsnips, potatoes and pumpkins – all of them love a bit of cold weather and are perfect for soups, casseroles and side dishes.

So how do you select the freshest winter vegetables?

  •  Ask your local green grocer or, better yet, head off to a farmers’ market and pick the brains of the person who grew the vegetables.
  • Whenever buying fresh produce, it’s important to use all of your senses. Really look, smell and feel your vegetables so you know what’s fresh and what’s not.
  • Think about the season they are growing in. Delicate-skinned tomatoes won’t survive tough winter frosts, likewise eggplants or capsicums. Winter conditions mean winter produce is tough, hardy and full of the nutrients we need at this time of year.

Here are some easy recipe ideas to get you started.

Kale pesto

Blend 3 cups kale leaves (stems removed) with 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, ½ cup toasted pine nuts and ¼ cup olive oil. Keep blending until you have your desired consistency (you may like to add a little more olive oil) then season to taste with lemon juice, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. This is fantastic through pasta, spread on bruschetta or smeared over salmon fillets before baking.

Braised red cabbage

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and cook a diced brown onion with a few fennel seeds until the onion is soft. Add a diced, peeled granny smith apple and a small red cabbage, shredded. Stir to combine, season well then pour in ½ cup apple cider vinegar. Stir again, then cover and cook on a low heat for about 45 minutes. This is a beautiful accompaniment to grilled or roasted game or pork.

Spiced roast parsnips

These work well when tossed through a salad of bitter greens then draped in prosciutto and perhaps a few roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts. Just peel and cut the parsnips into nice thick wedges then toss with a teaspoon each of fennel, cumin and coriander seeds. Whisk four tablespoons of olive oil with one each of apple cider vinegar and honey and toss this dressing all over the parsnips. Spread evenly on a large baking tray then roast in a hot oven for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Lentil and spinach soup

Dice a brown onion and cook in a large, heavy-based saucepan until translucent. Add two finely chopped garlic cloves, a diced carrot and stick of celery. Stir to combine then add about 1 cup of red lentils. Stir to combine, add a small handful of herbs (we like thyme, bay leaves and rosemary) then pour in a few cups of vegetable stock (enough to cover the lentils by a few centimetres). Cook for 25 minutes on a medium/low heat, then stir through a few handfuls of finely chopped spinach just before it’s done. Season with a few squeezes of lemon and a good shaving of parmesan to serve.

Aussies love the warmer, sunny months, but there’s lots to be said for embracing the cooler seasons as well. So grab your veggies, fire up the stove and cosy on up.