What's in season – December

What's in season: December

by Sally Abé 01 December 2016

The festive season is upon us, comfort food and winter warmers are the order or the day. Sally Abé tells us what's good to eat in December.

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After a five-year stint in the kitchen at two Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury, Sally is now head chef at The Harwood Arms in London.

After a five-year stint in the kitchen at two Michelin-starred restaurant The Ledbury, Sally is now head chef at The Harwood Arms in London.

The winter months aren't very forthcoming in the UK, so we tend to look to hardy produce such as root vegetables and game, as well as fruit from further afield. The traditional Christmas food is hitting supermarkets and delis, where turkeys, mince pies and Christmas puddings adorn the shelves.

The most notorious Christmas vegetable must be the Brussels sprout. Often given a bad rap thanks to childhood memories of overcooked and smelly sprouts forced upon us by our parents. Sprouts have had something of a revamp in recent years, being embraced by chefs in fine dining restaurants across the country. Michael Wignall makes a choucroute from Brussels sprouts, serving it with a delicious Poached loin of veal and sage velouté. Paul Foster serves Brussels sprouts with Duck, apple and buckwheat while Galton Blackiston keeps things a little more traditional, serving sprouts alongside Partridge and Christmas stuffing.

Another Christmas must-have is cranberry. Although there is only one cranberry farm in the UK (the majority come from the US) they are found in abundance in the run up to the big day. Don’t just use them for cranberry sauce, however; try adding them to desserts and petit fours like Marcello Tully’s White chocolate and cranberry fudge or Adam Byatt’s Cranberry blondies. Cranberry also lends itself to savoury dishes, such as James Mackenzie’s Partridge, cranberry and juniper sausage rolls and Adam Gray’s slightly more unusual Potted mackerel with cranberry jelly.

Festive in its jewel like appearance is the pomegranate, which although not grown in the UK is in plentiful supply in December and makes a great addition to both sweet and savoury dishes. Marcus Wareing adds the zing of pomegranate to his Scallop and parsnip starter, or for a simple but delicious salad try Anne Faber’s Rocket, pomegranate and pecan salad and Monica Shaw’s Winter guacamole.

For an alternative to turkey this Christmas, why not give the underrated guinea fowl a go? A perfect bird to feed two to four people, the bird has a very mild, gamey flavour and is very lean. Andy Waters roasts his Guinea fowl and serves with earthy beetroot and fragrant thyme. It also works well in a starter; look to Mark Dodson’s Guinea fowl terrine for something rustic and delicious, or for something more challenging and impressive try Lisa Allen’s Guinea fowl, parfait cigar and pickled mushroom.

Fish is pretty scarce during December due to the bad weather, short days and bank holidays so it’s best to get your Christmas order in with your local fishmonger earlier rather than later. Although expensive, lobsters and scallops are an impressive addition to the Christmas dinner table and are more abundant than fresh fish. Try Kevin Mangeolles Lobster tortellini for a decadent starter or Josh Eggleton’s fun Scallop pops for a tasty canapé. Always buy pot-caught native lobsters and hand-dived scallops; dredged scallops cause damage to the seabed and are not a sustainable method of fishing.