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Winter is coming........

by Daphne Lambert

As the landscape changes from trees of fiery reds, bronze and gold to dark silhouettes against an ice blue sky – we leave the last days of autumn behind, winter arrives and nature rests.

This is the time of the dark night of the soul, of relinquishing outdated beliefs, attitudes and ways of being; making space for new life and new possibility to enter into consciousness.

The days when my kitchen was alive with the sounds of chopping and chatting from friends gathered together to preserve the seasonal bounty seem a long time ago. The kitchen is quiet but the cupboard is full of past season treasures, nettle tea, rhubarb vodka, raspberry & basil shrub, air dried tomatoes, blackberry cheese, pickled cauliflower and fermented chili sauce.

There was a time when more people preserved the seasonal harvests, this ensured nothing was wasted and provided much needed food for the leaner months. Smoked herrings hung up in a dry attic, hams gently smoking by the chimney and potted beef kept cool in the larder. Nuts were gathered, dried and stored, apples sliced and dried, garlanded on long strings above the stove, beans podded & dried, roots buried and eggs pickled.

Preserving seasonal foods when they are abundant and at the peak of their nutritional value is as important now as it was in the past. By preserving foods grown in the garden or allotment, wild gathered or sourced from a local grower we become more attuned to seasonality and more responsible for the well being of ourselves, our communities and the Earth.

The foods that nourish us most during the cold, dark days of winter are the dense textured, earthy flavours of root crops like parsnip, swede, turnip, celeriac, beetroot & potatoes as well as the nourishing brassicas like cabbage, kale and broccoli along with salty sea vegetables.

Slow cooking warm hearty soups, whole grains and legumes helps us to climatise to the winter, slow down and just like nature rest and wait because under winters cloak lies spring waiting to unfurl.

Warming soups for cold dark nights

Celeriac soup with chestnuts
serves 4

1 medium potato

2 medium celeriac

1 carrot

1 onion

splash olive oil

½ teaspoon each ground cumin & coriander

1 litre vegetable stock

100g cooked chestnuts- roughly chopped

teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Peel and roughly chop all the vegetables.

Put a good splash of olive oil in a large pan and gently cook the vegetables for 5 minutes.

Add the cumin & coriander, stir well & tip in the stock. Bring to the boil & gently simmer for ½ hour.

Remove from the heat, cool slightly then process the soup in a food processor until smooth. Reheat and divide between four soup bowls. Place a pile of chestnuts in the middle of each bowl and top with thyme.

Barley vegetable soup

serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 leeks, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

6 mushrooms, chopped

2 sticks celery, finely sliced

125g pot barley

1 teaspoon chopped thyme

1.75 vegetable stock

½ small white cabbage, chopped

handful of chopped parsley

black pepper & salt

to serve top with one of the following

crème fraiche, chili sauce, fresh herbs, toasted walnuts

In a heavy pan cook the onions until soft add the remaining vegetables and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes. Add the barley, thyme & stock and bring to the boil, cover & simmer for 1½ hrs until the mixture is thick and the ingredients all breaking down. Add the cabbage and parsley, season well with black pepper and salt and continue to cook a further 10 minutes.

Divide between four bowls and finish with your chosen topping.

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