What to Eat in January (A Seasonal Eating Guide)

Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts

In the pale grey light of January, still slightly sleepy from the excesses of Christmas, I find myself mostly craving something crisp and green to blow away the cobwebs – and the odd bowl of something earthy and comforting to sooth any winter blues.  This month, thankfully, has plenty to offer on both fronts.  Here are my suggestions for what to eat in January:

Brussels Sprouts

You might think you don’t like them, but perhaps you’ve only had Brussels sprouts (Rosenkohl) boiled till their soggy and bitter.  Give them another chance, perhaps:

hashed with poppy seeds and lemon,
roasted with hoisin sauce or
☆ made into crispy, crunchy, little chips.

Walnuts and chestnuts

Chestnuts

You can buy chestnuts (Kastanien – above right) all year round in their tinned and vacuum-packed forms, but the real deal are only available in winter, and though they are a classic pre-Christmas treat, I think they make a pretty luxurious addition to the menu in January, too.  You need to roast and peel the fresh ones first, but once that’s done, there’s plenty you can do with them – both savoury and sweet.  The trouble is, with only a very small a pile of them currently sitting on my kitchen counter top, it’s almost impossible to decide between turning them into:

☆ a warm and creamy chestnut soup,
☆ an Italian chocolate and chestnut torte, or
☆ Yotam Ottolenghi’s chocolate and chestnut bars (which will probably win, as there’s really nothing better).

Red and white winter radishes

Daikon radishes

You can serve a whole crunchy, peppery daikon (Rettich, above left) – also known as mooli – with the traditional German evening meal of bread, cold meats and cheeses; simply scrub it and put it in the middle of the table for everyone to cut a chunk off.  Otherwise, there’s a million and one ways you can use it Asian-style.  How about:

pickling it to serve with pork belly,
braising it with beef brisket, or
☆ making a simple radish kimchi?

Kale

Kale

It may (still) be top of the cool charts in many places around the globe, but tough, dark kale (Grünkohl) has served up around Germany for very many years, particularly in the north, where it’s served stewed, with Pinkelwurst.  The Germans apparently think it mad to eat it any other way, but there’s an abundance of ways to prepare it.  Further to the recipes I mentioned in a rogue seasonal spotlight on it, I also love it in:

☆ Diana Henry’s breakfast greens with chilli, eggs, garlic and feta
☆ Anna Jones’s earthy, lemony lentil soup, and I also rather fancy trying it more plainly in some
slow-cooked kale omelettes.

Truffles 

Truffles (Trüffel) are renowned for both their luxurious flavour and their vast expense.  You can always cheat by adding a drizzle of truffle oil to your dish instead, but it’s not really anything at all like adding slivers of the real thing.  But if you want to go all out and treat yourself, there’s all sorts of fabulous things you could do with one.  If not, you can enjoy the season (at marginally less expense) by indulging in a slice or two of truffle salami, which is available at many a butcher’s shop at this time of year.  If I fancy a truffly, meaty treat, I wander over to get some from Metzgerei Leinhos on Wiesbaden’s Yorkstraße, where they slice it wafer thin.

Also around in January: beetroot, chicory, parsnips, salsify, Savoy cabbages, swede, turnips and walnuts.

What are you making the most of this month?  Any recipes to recommend?  And is a truffle really worth the expense?

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