January can be a bit of a battle for cooks who like to use seasonal produce.
But Rosemary Moon is coming to the rescue of boring mid-winter vegetable dishes armed with an arsenal of exciting and exotic spices.
‘One of the things about this time of year is that it’s the start of a really dull period for people who like to eat their vegetables seasonally. You have your root vegetables but otherwise there isn’t a terrific variety of produce,’ says the Chichester-based cook and food author.
‘But there are a lot things you can do with winter vegetables, grains and pulses to really bring them to life.’
Rosemary is leading a course at West Dean Gardens near Chichester called Spice Up Your Winter – a day devoted to the creative use of spices in vegetarian cookery.
Using winter veg, grains and pulses, Rosemary aims to inspire participants to be bolder with their use of seasonings to create cold-weather dishes that comfort and stimulate.
‘You just have to be more creative. You add your cereals and pulses to make a satisfying winter meal and then the spices for an extra zing that is mellow and warming,’ says Rosemary.
She names cumin and coriander as versatile spices and is also a fan of fennel, fenugreek and cardamom. Rosemary suggests adding cumin to the roasting dish with pumpkin or squash. ‘There are all sorts of squashes around at this time of year and cumin is perfect for them. It’s fantastic with that slightly sweet flesh of the squash.’
Rosemary says sweet and smoked paprikas are easily used in Spanish-style dishes and recommends black onion seeds as a great winter spice that can purportedly stave off colds.
‘Use them with bay leaves in rice. It makes a lovely fragrant accompaniment,’ she suggests.
Most people have spices that have been in the cupboard for months or even years. But Rosemary warns against raiding the spice rack you received for Christmas two years ago.
‘I’ve got some spices now which I first used six or eight weeks ago and the difference in pungency is amazing. They actually go pretty quickly.’
The trick, says Rosemary, is to be a little more imaginative and try to use them in a variety of dishes. Another tip is to keep them in a dark cupboard or drawer rather than on a kitchen surface in the light.
One cupboard-bound spice is star anise, which tends to be a one-dish wonder.
‘People use it for one thing and then really don’t know what to do with it. But if you’re a fan of Chinese cookery you can use it quiet easily. I also use it with sweet things,’ says Rosemary.
She will be talking seasonings and cooking up some spicy treats at the course on Saturday, January 28. It costs £105 which includes an online discount. Visit westdean.org.uk.