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British Seasonal Foods: February

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British Seasonal Food in February
Roasted rhubarb and mackerel

In season in February are these tow wonderful ingredients, forced rhubarb and fresh mackerel Roasted Rhubarb and Pan-Fried Mackerel Recipe

Photo © RFB Photography
We are just about hitting the bottom of the long slow slide into the deficiency of seasonal foods. There’s not too, too much on offer and the weather is such a mixed bag right now, mild and weak sunshine to heavy frosts, snow and blizzards, all of which wreaks havoc with fresh food supplies.

Yorkshire Rhubarb is the one vegetable rocking a culinary boat at the moment as the forced rhubarb needs sharp hard frosts to produce the juicy, slender, pink stalks. Forced rhubarb is not to be confused with outdoor grown ( What is Yorkshire Rhubarb ? ) Always check that the forced rhubarb you are buying is English as you will easily find the Dutch stuff which is not grown in the traditional way.

The very last of the British apples are hanging on in there in the shops; they have often all but disappeared by now so make the most of them while you can.

For the stars of the February food show you will need to look to the field and towards the sea. Seafood, especially mussels, oysters, mackerel are astoundingly good right now and towards the end of the month so too will be scallops. These lovely edible bivalves are so popular that they even have their own festival; The Rye Bay Scallop Festival which starts on Feb 2nd and is a celebration with scallop tastings, cookery schools, markets and gourmet dinners all over the town.

In the field you will find rabbits and hare. Both hare and rabbit was once a common meat here in Britain but tastes changed and the poor old bunny fell well and truly out of favour following the widespread Myxomatosis virus in the 50’s and 60’s. Though both hare and rabbit are not eaten in the numbers they once were they are gaining popularity as are all things furred, feathered and gamey.

Most rabbit sold commercially is farmed and has a much softer flavour than the wild which is generally available from a good game merchant or on-line. Hare is not as easy to come by and you will probably need to order well in advance. Unless you feel extremely confident, you may want to ask your butcher or game merchant to remove the fur and joint the hare. Do ask the butcher to keep the blood as it is a great ingredient for adding to the sauce or gravy and essential for the British classic Jugged Hare , a dish which in the 18th and 19th century was the stalwart of any respectable cook’s repertoire .

Should you be lucky to have a hare then a divine sauce to serve with thick, ribboned pasta is a Pappardelle alla Lepre . The recipe is easily changed buy using wild rabbit should you find yourself with a couple going spare.

Despite the lack of exciting seasonal fruit and veg, do remember that February is a good month for food in other respects: there’s Valentine’s coming up – bring on the chocolate; Pancake Day is Feb 12th and joy of joys, Feb 18th to 24th is National Chip Week, bring it on!

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