Pick of the Crop: Winter

Fuel your mileage through the winter months with the last in our series of seasonal food guides

Posted: 20 January 2010
by Alice Palmer
winter fuel
winter fuel

Winter might seem like a lean time, but forget getting by on imported or tinned food - Britain's farmers are on hand with a bounty of nutrient-packed fruit and veg. Fill up on fuel for your winter training with the very best of British - and as well as being tastier and healthier, eating in tune with the seasons should be lighter on your wallet and on the environment.

Jerusalem artichoke

Despite its name, the Jerusalem artichoke doesn't come from the Middle East, and it's no relation to the globe artichoke. Jerusalem artichokes are tubers, like potatoes, and were brought to Europe from North America in the 17th century. Odd-looking, knobby vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes have a sweet, nutty flavour and are in season throughout the winter months, between October and March.

Why? Jerusalem artichokes are rich in inulin, a carbohydrate packed with bacteria-promoting properties. This means that as well as being great fuel for longer runs, Jerusalem artichokes are also great for maintaining digestive health, thanks to their prebiotic qualities.
Jerusalem artichokes also contain vitamin C, phosphorus and potassium and are a very good source of iron.

Cook: Jerusalem artichokes are relatively inexpensive and extremely versatile. This veg is tasty raw in salads, stir-fried, in soup, roasted, sautéd, baked, boiled or steamed. Like potatoes, leaving the skin of a Jerusalem artichoke on means that you don't lose out on the extra fibre and nutrients found in the skin. Just be sure to scrub the skin before cooking. 

Try this: Stir-fried Jerusalem artichoke makes for a great side dish or a light veggie main. Heat a frying pan until hot, then add 1 tbsp olive oil. Finely slice a clove of garlic and two shallots, and add to the hot oil, stirring vigorously for one minute. Add two very finely sliced Jerusalem artichokes and stir-fry for a further minute or two. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice - and tuck in.

Buy: Jerusalem artichokes are widely available in farmers' markets, greengrocers and supermarkets. Avoid tubers that are sprouting, wrinkly or have soft spots. Jerusalem artichokes are by their nature knobbly and uneven, but opt for smoother specimens to make peeling or chopping easier. Store in the fridge, where they should last a couple of weeks.

Pears

Pears have been cultivated for over 4,000 years, and were popular in ancient Greece and medieval England. Today, there are more than 5,000 varieties of pear grown all over the world. Over 90 per cent of pears grown in Britain are from the Conference variety, and are at their best from October to February.

Why? As well as being packed with vitamins A and C, pears are rich in natural sugars, making them a healthy source of quick-release energy. Pears are also a very good source of dietary fibre, which is essential for the health of important digestive bacteria. It also helps you feel more full for longer, so it's great if you're trying to lose weight. 

Cook: As well as being perfect snacking material, pears are a bright addition to salads and cheese boards and a perky accompaniment to meat. Pears also make great healthy puddings, whether you poach them or add a dash of cheeky chocolate. 
Cooking times vary depending on the variety and ripeness of the fruit, but pears generally make for stress-free cooking - they can usually be cooked for longer than recipes suggest without turning to mush.

Try this: Cinnamon-poached pears is a rich-tasting but healthy pudding for those with a sweet tooth. Add 150ml red grape juice, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, two cloves and a teaspoon of honey to a small pan. Add two cored and quartered pears and poach gently for 20 minutes or so. When soft (test for doneness with a skewer) serve with Greek yoghurt.

Buy: Go for pears that are undamaged and brightly coloured. There's no need to avoid pears with a little matt brown speckling - it's completely normal. Go for slightly softer pears if you want an immediate snack - but firmer pears hold up better in cooking.
Pears don't stay ripe for as long as apples, so refrigerate ripe pears or those you won't be using for a few days.

Salmon

Salmon is found in huge swathes of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but luckily some of the world's finest salmon is found closer to home in Scottish waters. British salmon comes into season in early February and remains on menus until autumn arrives.

Why? An oily fish, salmon is super-healthy thanks to its high protein content, Omega-3 fatty acids, and high vitamin D content. Omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and benefit asthma and inflamed bowels. Since the body cannot make its own Omega-3 fats, it's especially important to put these fats on the menu. Wild salmon may contain lower levels of chemicals and a higher Omega-3 content.

Cook: Tasty pink-fleshed salmon is a supremely versatile fish, and fillets cook quickly and equally well steamed, baked, pan-fried and grilled. Smaller chunks of fresh or smoked salmon make a healthy and protein-packed addition to sandwiches, omelettes, pasta dishes and stir fries.

Try this: The balance of carbs and protein in these salmon parcels makes them a perfect post-run midweek supper. Cut a large square of baking parchment and place a portion of cooked couscous in the middle. Pop a salmon fillet on top, and add any vegetables or herbs you fancy - cherry tomatoes and chopped courgette are both tasty additions. Fold the parchment over the top and bake at 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6 for 15 minutes. 

Buy: Fresh and smoked salmon is available at the vast majority of fishmongers and supermarkets. Look out for wild Scottish fish for the best flavour as well as a lower impact on fish stocks and the environment.

Savoy cabbage

Cabbages are grown all over the world, all year round and are a huge part of eastern and western culinary traditions. However, winter brings Britons a bounty of cabbage - the Savoy, white, green and red cabbages are all local and ready to eat throughout winter. 

Why? Savoy cabbage is full of flavour, packed with vitamins, high in iron and potassium and low in calories - so it deserves a starring role in any runner's diet, especially if you're also trying to lose weight.

Cook: To prepare Savoy cabbage, remove any damaged outer leaves and cut the cabbage in half and then into quarters, cutting off the hard core of each quarter at an angle. Slice and wash thoroughly before cooking. Savoy cabbage is best cooked briefly - steaming or stir-frying are both effective - as overcooking releases sulphurous fumes.

Try this: Steam shredded Savoy cabbage for five to 10 minutes before tossing in butter for a tasty side dish.

Buy: Choose Savoy cabbage that has crisp-looking dark green leaves without any holes or discoloured patches. It should be firm and heavy for its size. Keep refrigerated after purchase.

Venison

People have been eating deer since prehistoric times, but nowadays venison is sadly off most people's radars. Three species are commonly used for food in Britain: the red deer (largely from the Scottish Highlands), fallow deer and roe deer (the smallest and often considered the tastiest).
Unlike other meat, British venison comes from free range rather than intensively farmed animals, so you can tuck in without worrying about dubious farming practices. For this reason, venison tends to be more expensive than most meat, but luckily it's so rich in taste and texture that a little goes a very long way. 

Why? Venison is an excellent protein source, perfect for recovery meals. It's also much lower in fat than other red meats such as beef. You'll also benefit from vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, iron and zinc.

Cook: Good-quality venison is tender, full of flavour and close textured, which means it's easy to produce great results with simple cooking methods. Most beef recipes work just as well for venison, but make sure to compensate for the lower fat content by marinating the meat before cooking or regularly basting a roast joint. If you'd rather not add more fat, keep the meat juicy by adding a sauce - juniper, rosemary and redcurrant all make a great addition to venison.

Try this: Braise chopped leg or shoulder meat in a traditional red wine stew, complete with winter veg, garlic and redcurrant for a filling weekend dinner you can cover and leave waiting in the oven no matter how long your long run might be.

Buy: Opt for park (free range) or wild venison. It's increasingly widely available, but as the flavour and fat content can vary considerably, head to a traditional butcher or farmer's market for cooking advice. If you can resist tucking in immediately, venison will keep for a few days in the fridge.

Purple sprouting broccoli

Although purple sprouting broccoli was originally cultivated by the Romans, it has only taken off as a crop in the UK in the last couple of decades. After months of chunky root veg, the appearance of leafy, delicate purple sprouting broccoli is a cheering sight in the shops.

Why? Purple sprouting broccoli is packed with goodies. Like other members of the cruciferous family (including regular broccoli and kale), sprouting broccoli's nutrients may provide resistance against heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes - all of which should keep you running for longer. It is packed with vitamin C and is also a good source of iron, folic acid and fibre.

Cook: Purple sprouting broccoli is supremely versatile - you can steam, boil, stir-fry or add the stems and heads to pasta, meat or fish dishes. You can use sprouting broccoli in any recipe featuring broccoli - though reduce the cooking time slightly.
Don't throw anything away - you can eat the entire plant, leaves, stems and all. When cooking, split thicker stalks about halfway up so that they cook at the same time as the heads. 

Buy: Purple sprouting broccoli is best eaten as soon as it's picked, so it's a great opportunity to raid your local farmer's market. Look for dark specimens with crisp stalks, no bigger than 1cm in diameter, which snap cleanly when broken - steer clear of broccoli that bends.


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Discuss this article


Hi,

Can anyone recommend a good site or source of varied "Running " menus ?

I am getting heat from my wife and daughter for having a limited menu when I cook every Saturday Night !!!

Thanks

Pat


Posted: 27/01/2010 at 11:47

Hi Pat,

 The best source for calorie/fat counted meals is the BBC Good Food website - they have a  healthy section and nearly, if not all, recipes are nutritionally broken down.  The other alternative is the BBC Good Food small books - the 101 series, they do 101 Healthy eats and 101 low fat feasts, but again as all BBC recipes have a nutrition breakdown any of the 101 books are good - I have a collection of half a dozen and use them the most - I also always cook from scratch and never buy ready made meals!

Hope this helps


Posted: 27/01/2010 at 12:48

I’d also recommend sweet potatoes as an addition to this list! 

They are packed full of vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene) and C, both of which are powerful antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory (so, fantastic for runners).

They’re also a great source B-vitamins, which help to release the energy from carbohydrates.  Sweet potatoes are in season from October to March. 

Jill 

www.applesandpeanutbutter.net
Posted: 01/02/2010 at 10:04


  Sorry I thought i had replied to the advice !!!!  Thanks

Pat


Posted: 08/09/2010 at 12:09

Word of warning - jerusalem artichokes are well known for their wind-causing properties! My husband and I have an allotment with lots of artichokes, but we have to give them away to unsuspecting friends!
Posted: 20/12/2010 at 11:52

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