Photography: Maya Visnyei
Swapping in local, seasonal ingredients will boost flavour in any meal and help you enjoy the glorious flavours of winter
Come wintertime, it can be hard to let go of some of your favourite warm-weather produce. And, technically speaking, you don't have to; major grocery chains stock their shelves year-round with produce from warmer climates, creating year-round availability for foods that used to be seasonally specific. But if you've ever tasted a strawberry or a tomato in the dead of January, the verdict is clear: These foods are a paltry shadow of their summer selves.
Instead, it's better to embrace what the season has to offer, and learn how to use winter ingredients to their best advantage. Here are some ways to help you enjoy what's in season, with some simple swaps to take you from summer ingredients to winter ones.
Slow-cook your way to success
Photography: Maya Visnyei | Recipe: Poached Pears
In the summer, fruit and vegetables have been basking in the sun, which naturally concentrates their sugars and results in such flavourful food straight from the tree (or earth). Winter produce, by contrast, needs a little care and cajoling in order to shine. The best way to get the most flavour out of your ingredients is by cooking them slowly, to draw out the natural sugars. Simmering, poaching, braising and roasting all achieve this to great effect.
Swap out berries for apples and pears
Photography: Jodi Pudge | Recipe: Cozy Apple Pie Oatmeal
Just because fresh berries are no longer in-season doesn't mean breakfast has to suddenly be drab. Instead, top your morning granola, yoghurt, smoothie bowl or oatmeal with slices of local apple or pear. Many varieties are specially grown to be harvested in the late fall or early winter. What's more, with improved storage technology, many local varieties that were ripened fully on the tree in the fall are available for sale all winter long. They make a terrific addition to any breakfast, adding both natural sweetness and also a boost of fibre and vitamin C.
Use winter greens
Photography: Maya Visnyei | Recipe: Winter Greens Salad
There's something almost magical about the lightness and crunch of certain lettuces at their prime in the summer, but there are plenty of delicious, hardier greens that grow all winter long, such as kale, chard, collards and rapini. As a bonus, they're packed with vitamins and make a delectable meal in their own right. Use cabbage to make a tangy, caraway-studded winter slaw or let winter greens be the star of the show, such as in a winter greens salad.
Tinned tomatoes are your friend
Photography: Maya Visnyei | Recipe: Baked Goat Cheese in Classic Marinara
Despite the conspicuous absence of winter sunshine, the good news is that the ripe, heady flavour of summer-picked tomatoes is still at your fingertips—except now in canned form. So let's leave the tabbouleh for July and instead focus on some recipes that use tinned tomatoes to great advantage, such as smoky tomato and lentil soup or baked goat cheese dip in classic marinara sauce.
Look to your pantry for dessert inspiration
Photography: Maya Visnyei | Recipe: Gingerbread Bundt Cake
Handily, plenty of sweets and treats rely on shelf-stable goods that you likely have in your pantry this very minute, so don't feel as though you're missing out on flavour just because it's January. It's the perfect time to throw together a simple twist on a classic dish, like jumbo chocolate chip cookie baked in a skillet. This is also the perfect time to indulge in a Double Chocolate Pie. Or to truly get into the hygge spirit, why not fill your house with the tantalizing smell of this gingerbread bundt cake?