Bring on the hot chocolates, toasty scarves and snuggling by the fireplace. Winter has most certainly arrived, and with it comes a delicious bounty of fresh produce. Sensational winter citrus, pears and apples to name a few…
The season for WA navel oranges has started, with navels arriving from West Gingin and the tail end from the Carnarvon orchards. We depend on the orange for its refreshing flavour and texture for fresh fruit and cooking in both savoury and sweet dishes. What better snack is there than a navel orange peeled, divided into segments and eaten as it is? Or as in the Mediterranean, a bite of a fresh navel orange segment and then a mouthful of steaming hot black coffee. Look out for the blue sticker that guarantees you’re getting the freshest WA-grown oranges.
Similar in appearance to Beurre Bosc, these elegant pears are Western Australian bred. With an attractive russeted skin and exceptional eating qualities, they’re lovely finely sliced and chilled - perfect for a fruit platter or to accompany cheese. When selecting, don’t be too concerned about a ‘blemish-free’ pear; most markings are made by branches and leaves brushing against the immature pears when still on the tree, however avoid those with actual cuts or bruising. Buy pears at various stages of ripening according to when you’re going to eat then and store on the bench or the fridge accordingly.
Sometimes called abalone mushrooms because of their fan shape, they have prominent pure white gills that turn cream as they age. They have a soft texture and a delicate oyster flavor that goes well with meat and seafood. Store for a short time only in a paper bag in the fridge. Locally grown oyster mushrooms are available in small quantities. And, for more intense mushroom flavour, don’t forget to add plenty of Portobello or Swiss brown mushrooms to those winter casseroles and stews.
One of the all rounders, with glossy pink skin and white flesh, Ruby Lou is now readily available. Sliced cooked potatoes that have been marinated in vinaigrette dressing, coated in curry or mustard powder then tossed on the barbie will be a hit with the whole family as a tasty substitute for fat-laden chips. This red-skinned starchy variety is also ideal for mash, baking and roasting.
The first and, for many, the favourite, WA-grown sweet, juicy, easy-peel mandarins are in good supply now. To be sure you are buying WA grown, look for the blue ‘birthmark’ sticker – you will find these mandarins in some of the independent supermarkets and fresh markets. One mandarin will supply your daily requirement of vitamin C. Perfect for kids’ school lunches or save some shredded rind to add zing to stewed rhubarb.
Whilst local trees are dripping with lemons, kick start your day with a healthy glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice. The addition of grated rind and juice takes the flavour of favourite winter fruit puddings, pies and tarts to new heights. Alternatively, squeeze and freeze lemons for use over the next few months, and make a batch of preserved lemons to flavour salads, couscous, seafood and meat dishes.
These crunchy, silky ‘trees’ of flavour haven’t always enjoyed the most stellar of reputations; long considered bland and unappetising, mostly due to the dated fashion of cooking the absolute life out of it, broccoli is experiencing a bit of a renaissance for those in the know. The entire vegetable can be eaten, stalk included, and really only needs a few minutes of steaming or boiling to achieve that beautiful bright green colour that indicates it’s perfectly cooked. Refresh in iced water if you’re using it in a salad or tossing through pasta- this will keep the colour and the crunch. When purchasing broccoli look for compact heads with a deep green colour and avoid any with yellowish tinge.
This new member of the navel orange family has a beautiful rosy pink glow to the skin and sensational internal pink flesh colour, which is very sweet and, best of all, seedless. It’s grown right here in Gingin and available in small quantities in selected stores. Rosey Reds low acidity makes it easy to digest for people who normally can't eat oranges and suffer from reflux. Rosey Reds interior colour comes from the presence of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant which doctors believe have cancer fighting qualities.
Often mistakenly called aniseed due to its glorious scent, fennel is a late winter treat for braising, roasting or thinly slicing and serving raw. A bit of extra virgin olive oil, some quality sea salt and you’re in dipping and nibbling heaven… Use the leaves and seed of the wild fennel with curry and seafood, whilst the sweet bulb of cultivated fennel combines well with tomatoes, olives and herbs.
Along with carrots and celery, an essential trio of a whole range of soups, sauces and braises. Fry gently in a little oil or after browning meat, then cook slowly in stock with the meat to develop the flavours. Slowly sauté a great pile of onions with olive oil, butter, red wine vinegar and brown sugar for gorgeous agro dolce (sweet and sour) taste. Great in a no-frills steak sambo and as a side with roasted meats.
The ugly duckling of the winter veggie tribe, Celeriac more than makes up for its lack of good-looks with sensational flavour. It produces a smooth, mild and creamy mash and is heaven in a hearty gratin or roasted with other root vegetables. Raw celeriac can also be grated and combined with a mustard-spiked mayonnaise to produce remoulade, that French bistro staple. Look for tennis ball sized roots (the larger ones are slightly less flavoursome) and peel before use.
Loved for their soft, oniony flavour and lovely aroma, use leeks as a base for a stew or braise, as you would onions, or make them the feature in a killer pie or soup. Select firm, straight specimens with glossy green leaves and white necks. When ready to use, trim the root end and most of the thick green leaves (you can leave the paler green section intact) and slice lengthways. Make sure you thoroughly wash the leek as the layers have a tendency to trap soil. Make a classic potato and leek soup and top with crispy pancetta- perfect for those snug nights in with a bottle of red.
Celery helps to reduce stress hormones, regulating blood pressure and has powerful diuretic properties. A pureed celery soup (with a couple of potatoes, for the velvety texture) is delicious, especially if finished with a dollop of sour cream and crumbled blue cheese. Celery stalks can be placed into a baking dish, béchamel poured over the celery and topped with crumbled blue or gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake until tender.
These stout-looking fragrant pears have a sweet and juicy yellow-white flesh and are considered one of the best eating pears with a distinctly rich flavour. When pears are ripe, the flesh at the stem should give a little when you press down lightly on and remember that pears ripen from the inside out, so the exterior may be a bit firm, though they will actually quite soft on the inside. Store in the fridge to keep them at their peak for longer. Great with pork, walnuts, almonds, blue and goat's cheese, parmesan, chocolate, cinnamon, rocket and watercress
Put away the caster sugar, these delicious red grapefruits from Kununurra are sweet enough, thank you! With their lovely pink blushed skin and their sweet and tangy juice, grapefruit sparkles with both superb flavour and excellent health benefits; one half of an average-sized red grapefruit provides 80% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C and some important anti-oxidants. They’re also believed to be very effective in lowering cholesterol levels. When selecting, check for the “Pure Rewards” sticker for the top-notch, WA grown fruits.
Dedicated marmalade makers should keep their eyes peeled for their share of the limited supply that is available in some fresh markets now. Eaten fresh, Seville oranges are quite sour, so not to be confused with sweet, juicy navels that are also at their best. The Seville orange is large with seeds and has a strong, slightly bitter flavour.
This eye-catching Carnarvon grown fruit adds a taste of the tropics to fruit platters, desserts and lush salads that transport you back to holidays past There’s often a bit of confusion regarding the difference between papaw and papaya: they’re different cultivars of fruit from the same species carica papaya. Papaw is the larger yellow fleshed fruit and papaya is smaller with salmon coloured flesh. Ripen at room temperature and then store in the fridge for a maximum of 2 days. Also keep a keen eye out for green papaya, which has been picked exceptionally unripe. Peel the skin and thinly slice the crunchy flesh- very popular in South East Asian salads.
Swedes are a favourite winter vegetable traditionally used in soups, casseroles and stews. Also gorgeous roasted whole or mashed as a vegetable accompaniment. Locally-grown swedes usually come with their fresh green tops intact, and you can cook them as you would any green vegetable to get twice the value.
A beautiful-looking apple with flavour to match, Pink Lady is the preferred eating apple of many for its sweet yet tart taste, juiciness and crisp texture. Store in the fridge and enjoy cool, they’re ideal with a few slices of good cheese to round out a meal. Clearly prized for its fresh eating qualities, Pink Lady is also wonderful to cook with. It develops a beautiful pink blush when cooked and holds its shape well either whole or in segments; serve it stewed for breakfast, in sauces, pies, tarts and salads.
Yes, even in the middle of winter, arriving now from market gardens around Wanneroo are sweet, juicy strawberries to brighten the dullest of days! Ripe strawberries impart cheery colour and delicious flavour when used in winter desserts, and combine well with other fruits in season including apples, pears and oranges. For a fast breakfast smoothie, blend a punnet of strawberries into a couple of cups of milk and some yoghurt. Or combine strawberries with cooked rhubarb, apples or pears to serve with muesli or cereal.
Cooked or raw, red cabbage adds a splash of colour to winter cooking. Slowly cook thick slices of red cabbage with sliced apples and onions, red wine vinegar and cinnamon and serve with pork or lamb. Alternatively combine with the crinkly Savoy in a mixed cabbage slaw.
Ideal for winter fruit desserts and cakes, rich red-coloured rhubarb adds a sweet yet tart flavour without any prior cooking. Simply fold chopped stalks through cake and muffin mixtures or layer with sliced apples and top with butter-cake mixture, crumble or pastry for a simple dessert.
Hailing originally from bonnie Northern Scotland, Kestrel is long-oval in shape and has white skin with purple/blue splashes around the eyes. A good all- purpose potato that is excellent, in particular, for roasting and frying. The kestrel has a fairly dry texture with good flavour and produces a lovely smooth mash. Try cubed kestrels tossed with a touch of maple syrup and grainy mustard, then roasted off in a hot oven. Very more-ish! Low in fat and scoring the highest of all foods on the ‘satiety index’, basically a measure of how much something fills you up, spuds are perfect, healthy winter fare.
Rich in flavour and so versatile, these full-flavoured, brown-capped mushrooms are perfect in pasta, pizza, risotto, casserole and barbecue recipes. Make generous use of fresh herbs like thyme, parsley, basil or coriander to complement the robust flavour.
The crisp texture and peppery flavour of turnips are a welcome addition to autumn casseroles and soups. Turnips don’t suit long storage as they turn bitter, so store them in a plastic bag in the fridge and use them within a few days. For an Aussie take on the Scottish classic “Haggis, Neeps and Tatties”, substitute good-quality spiced mince for the haggis and serve with mounds of mashed turnip and potato. A whisky and cream based sauce is also a nice addition…
Bunched baby beetroot, carrots, parsnips and turnips are mild in flavour and cute enough to entice even the fussiest of eaters. Roast, stir-fry or microwave before combining with a fruity olive oil and plenty of fresh herbs. Ginger and garlic are optional extras.
A slightly more recent addition to the Australian market and a very welcome one! Among their many virtues, they are inexpensive, packed with vitamins and quick to cook. Choy Sum, Pak Choy, Bok Choy, Gai Lan…there’s a pretty long list of delicious greens to choose from. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use within 2 days. Also, when storing your greens, be mindful that fruits like bananas and apples emit ethylene gas, which can cause brown spots and quick deteriorization of your greens, so don't store them in close proximity of each other.
Abundant during the cooler months, Fresh silverbeet has dark green, ribbed leaves and a crisp, creamy white fleshy stem. Sometimes confused with Spinach, Silver beet is more common in Australia because it’s more heat tolerant. Rich in folate, which is good for a whole number of reasons, so buy a big bunch and use it in pies and quiches, substantial winter salads or for colour and flavour in pastas and risottos. Remove the lower portion of the stalk before slicing and adding it to dishes