February comes with lengthening days, Valentine’s and Shrove.

Steeped in history and tradition, Valentine’s day is a recognised celebration of romance and romantic love across many regions throughout the world and was first celebrated in the 14th century.

Shrove Tuesday falls before Ash Wednesday or 7 weeks before Easter and derives from the word ‘shirve’, meaning ‘absolve’. Traditionally it was a time to reflect and repent your sins before fasting for the 40 days of lent.

Seasonal produce this month includes all root vegetables, winter hardy vegetables such as leeks, kale, purple sprouting broccoli and savoy cabbage, as well as over wintered apples and pears.

The weather is still cold, so lots of one pot meals and casseroles, but there are lighter dishes creeping in.

Here’s what I have been making in February…

A dish of sausage and bean casserole

Sausage and Bean Casserole

It was ages since I had made a sausage casserole, swap the courgette for a red, green or yellow pepper if you like.

Serves about 6

6 good quality pork sausages, cut in half

1 tbsp oil

1 onion, sliced

2 medium carrots, sliced

2 celery sticks, sliced

1 courgette, cubed

1 can drained beans or 1 mugful soaked & cooked dried beans

1 can chopped tomatoes + ½ can water

½ tsp mixed herbs

2 tbsp tomato puree

2 bay leaves

  1. Use a deep frying pan or sautee pan, heat the oil on a medium high heat and fry the sausages to brown well.
  2. Add the onion, carrot, celery and courgette, stir well, allow to brown and soften a little.
  3. Add the tomatoes, ½ can of water, beans, mixed herbs, bay leaves and tomato puree.
  4. Bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook gently for 45 minutes.
  5. Season to taste and serve with potatoes, rice or greens.
A dish of rocket burgers with tomato salsa

Rocket Burgers with Tomato Salsa

Rocket has a spicy flavour but is not just for salads. You could also use watercress, spinach, kale or nettles. I served these with baked potatoes, but you could also put them in buns.

Makes 6 burgers

1 pack rocket (60g)

1 ½ tins or mugfuls of cooked beans

3 spring onions, chopped

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp root ginger, finely grated

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp tahini or peanut butter

1 egg

4 tbsp oatmeal or rolled oats, plus extra for coating.

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

  1. Put the rocket and beans into a food processor and pulse to roughly chop and blend together.
  2. Add the spring onions, soy sauce, cumin, root ginger, garlic cloves, tahini and egg. Pulse again to mix, then add the oatmeal, salt & pepper. Pulse again, the mixture should be dry enough to stick together, if it’s too wet, add some extra oats.
  3. Divide the mixture into 6 and form into patties. Roll in more oats to coat.
  4. Heat about 1cm depth of oil in a large frying pan, when the oil is hot enough to sizzle when a flake of oats is dropped into it, fry the burgers for approx. 5mins each side.
  5. Drain on kitchen paper once browned and crisp.

Make the salsa

2 large tomatoes

4 spring onions

1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)

Juice of ½ lime

  1. Cut the tomatoes into 5mm cubes, finely slice the spring onions. Mix them together with the chilli flakes and lime juice.
  2. Serve with the burgers either on the side or in a bun.
A dish of stir fried peas and beans

Stir Fried Peas and Beans

This is a very quick vegetable dish to jazz up frozen peas. Edamame beans are bright green and crunchy, they go well with tender peas.

Serves 4

125g frozen peas

125g frozen edamame beans

1 Romaine lettuce heart, or 2 little gem lettuces, sliced into approx. 5mm slices

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

Juice of ½ lemon

Handful chopped mint

Salt & pepper

  1. Cook the peas and beans into a small pan with 1cm water. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and drain. Set aside to keep warm while you finish the recipe.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the sliced onion and fry gently to soften, but not colour.
  3. Turn up the heat a little, add the shredded lettuce, stir and when it begins to wilt, add the peas and beans. Squeeze over the lemon juice, season with salt & pepper and toss through the mint.
  4. Serve immediately in a warm bowl.
A dish of chermoula marinated pork fillet, served with a tomato sauce

Chermoula Pork Fillet

Chermoula is a Middle Eastern spice paste. If you can’t find it in your local supermarket, use the recipe below.

Serves 4

2 pork fillets

1 jar chermoula paste.

Sauce

1 large clove garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

4 large ripe tomatoes

  1. Remove the sinew from the pork fillet and rub the chermoula paste well over and into the meat. Put into a dish and refrigerate for between 2 and 12 hours.
  2. Pre heat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7
  3. Put the pork into a roasting tin and cook uncovered for 20 mins.
  4. Make the sauce, chop the tomatoes into dice, finely slice the garlic. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and sizzle the garlic until it starts to colour. Add the tomatoes and cook until the juices start to run and the flesh is soft. Tip into a jug and blitz with a hand blender. Return to the pan, season and keep warm on a low heat.
  5. Remove the pork from the oven, cover and allow to rest for 10 mins.
  6. Tip any pan juices into the sauce, slice the pork, allowing ½ fillet per person. Serve with the sauce.

Chermoula Paste

1 garlic clove

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground coriander

1 small red chilli

½ tsp paprika

¼ preserved lemon

70ml olive oil

  1. Blend everything together and use.
A plate of Thai red lentil soup

Thai Red Lentil Soup

A delicious fresh but warming soup on a dull day!

Serves about 6

1 onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 celery sticks, chopped

1 tbsp oil

2 lemon grass stalks, bashed & sliced

2 heaped tablespoons red curry paste

1 ½ mugs red lentils

4 mugs water

1 tin coconut milk

1 vegetable or chicken stock cube

Juice of ½ lime

2 tbsp soy sauce

Coriander to serve

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot, add the chopped onions, carrots and celery, fry on a medium heat for a few moments, add the curry paste and sliced lemon grass. Fry for a few minutes longer, then add the lentils, water, coconut milk and crumble in the stock cube.
  2. Cook for 20mins.
  3. Blitz to smooth with a hand blender or liquidizer, add a little more water if very thick. Add the lime juice and soy sauce, either stir through the chopped coriander or use as a garnish on the top.
A dish of cod fillet and vegetable couscous steamed en papillote

Cod Fillet en Papillote

This is a great way to cook cod, the couscous mops up any delicious juices.

Serves 4

4 thick cod fillets, skinned. Mine were about 5cm thick

1 yellow or red pepper

1 stick celery

1 carrot

3 spring onions

2 small beetroot

1 small red chilli (optional)

1 mug couscous

1 mug boiling water

1 tsp vegetable stock powder

3 tbsp chopped herbs, I used parsley, tarragon & mint

2 tbsp oil

Juice of ½ lemon

  1. Chop the pepper, celery and carrot into 5mm cubes, fry in a little oil to soften and brown.
  2. Chop the beetroot into 5mm cubes, fry in a separate pan with a little oil to soften and brown.
  3. Thinly slice the spring onions and chilli, mix with the chopped herbs.
  4. When the carrots, celery & pepper are done, add the couscous, stock powder and boiling water. Stir well, remove from the heat and put a lid on the pan. Allow to sit for at least 10 mins.
  5. Stir through the beetroot, chopped herbs, spring onion, chilli and lemon juice. Season with salt & pepper.
  6. Divide the mixture between 4 large pieces of non-stick baking parchment. Put a piece of cod on the top and fold the edges of the paper up to make a loose parcel.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6.
  8. Place the parcels on a baking sheet and bake for 20 mins, less if the fish fillets are thin.
  9. Remove from the oven and serve each person with a parcel which they can then open themselves.
A ramekin of set cream custard with fruit

Cream Pots with Fruit

I used frozen brambles for this dish, it would also work well with raspberries, strawberries, apricots or mango. They keep well in the fridge for a few days.

Makes 6 x 150ml ramekins

200ml double cream

250ml milk

40g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 egg

3 egg yolks

Fruit to cover the bottom of the ramekins

  1. Put the fruit in the bottom of the ramekins, heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2.
  2. Put the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla essence into a small pan and heat to scalding point.
  3. Beat the eggs and egg yolks in a bowl.
  4. Once the milk & cream are hot enough, pour over the eggs, mix well and divide between the ramekins.
  5. Put the ramekins into a roasting tin with enough hot water to come ½ way up the sides, cover with foil and put into the oven for 30 mins.
  6. Remove the foil carefully to avoid drips, remove the ramekins from the roasting tin and allow to cool before eating.

Quick Fish Gratin with Broccoli & Spinach

A super quick dish to make with minimal washing up. I used a mixture of white fish and salmon for this dish.

Serves 4

500g mixed fish fillets, cut into pieces

½ head broccoli

200g frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out

300ml tub ½ fat crème fraiche

2 tbsp chopped tarragon

2 spring onions, finely sliced

¾ tsp salt

Ground black pepper

50g strong cheddar cheese

50g breadcrumbs

¼ tsp mustard powder

¼ tsp smoked paprika

  1. Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6.
  2. Cut the broccoli, into florets and steam for a few minutes to par cook. Refresh under cold running water to set the colour. Allow to drain well and cut into smaller pieces if necessary and set aside.
  3. Roughly chop the spinach
  4. Spoon the crème fraiche into a bowl and stir through the fish pieces, spring onions, tarragon, broccoli florets, spinach and salt and pepper. Stir everything together well and transfer to a shallow ovenproof dish.
  5. Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, mustard and smoked paprika together, spread over the top of the fish mixture.
  6. Bake in the oven for 30mins, serve with vegetables or a salad.
A dish of poached eggs served on toast with steam fried mustard sprouts

Poached Eggs on Toast with Stir Steamed Mustard Sprouts

I made this one night when I was home alone, a nice alternative to avocado. Sprouts, mustard and eggs go well together.

Serves 1

1 small onion, finely sliced

6 to 8 sprouts, finely sliced

1 tsp oil

5cm piece French bread or whatever you have.

2 eggs

5g butter

2 tsp chopped tarragon

½ tsp Dijon mustard

Splash white wine vinegar

Paprika to sprinkle (optional)

Salt & pepper

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add a splash of vinegar and poach the eggs for approx. 2 minutes each for a runny yolk.
  2. Toast the bread
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan, add the sliced onion, fry for a few moments until softened, then add the sprouts. Stir fry again, add the mustard and a splash of water. Turn down the heat and put a lid on the pan. Steam for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the sprouts are tender. Stir through ¾ of the tarragon, season with salt & pepper.
  4. Tip the onions and sprouts onto the warm toast, top with the poached eggs, dot with butter and finish with a sprinkle of paprika.
A dish of lamb shank tagine

Lamb Shank Tagine

This is a delicious, warming dish with the slow cooked lamb falling off the bone. Perfect for cooking in a slow cooker ready to give you a hug when you get in from work. I served this with mash and spring greens.

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks

1 tbsp oil

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 can chopped tomatoes

3 large fresh tomatoes, cut into 1cm dice

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs rosemary

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. Heat the oven to 130C/250F/Gas3
  2. Heat the oil in a large oven proof pan. Brown the onions and garlic, remove from the pan and add the lamb shanks brown them for a few minutes on each side.
  3. Add the onions and garlic back to the pan and add the spices. Stir well to coat everything and fry for a few moments.
  4. Add the can of chopped tomatoes and the fresh tomatoes to the pan. Stir well and add the bay leaves, rosemary and balsamic vinegar.
  5. Bring to the boil, put a lid on the pan and put into the oven for 4 hours, turning the lamb shanks over halfway through.
  6. Season the sauce, thicken a little if necessary. Serve 1 shank per person with some of the sauce.
An image of a bowl of celeriac, apple & thyme soup

Celeriac, Apple and Thyme Soup

This soup surprised me, I didn’t think I would like it, I’ve never enjoyed savoury with sweet flavours! It’s also very white and I like dishes with a bit of colour. Serve it in a brightly coloured bowl, the cheese finishes it perfectly.

Serves 6

1 large celeriac root

1 medium onion

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

2 sticks celery

1 tbsp oil

Approx. 750ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 small cooking apple

1 medium eating apple

100ml double cream

120g strong cheese, eg. Cheddar or stilton, grated

  1. Scrub the celeriac root, cut off the skin and cut into chunks.
  2. Put the celeriac peelings into the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  3. Roughly chop the onion and celery, heat the oil in a large pot and fry gently with the diced celeriac.
  4. Peel, core and roughly chop the apples add to the pan with the thyme and strain in the stock. Bring to the boil, simmer for 20mins.
  5. Puree with a hand blender or liquidiser, add the cream and season to taste.
  6. To serve, put 20g grated cheese in the bottom of a bowl and ladle over the soup. Serve with crusty bread.