With crimson red flesh and a tart taste, blood oranges are a delicious ingredient for fish dishes, particularly red mullet, or meaty game, such as pigeon. Plus, you can of course use it for all sorts of desserts including, tarts and crumbles, as well as cocktails.
Brussels sprouts are actually available from late October, through until March, but they're a quintessential part of our Christmas day dinner. Look out for plump, bright green heads, with tightly packed leaves.
Cauliflower is probably one of my favourite vegetables. You can deep fry it in breadcrumbs, turn it into a spicy curry soup, or bake a comforting cauliflower cheese. For the latter just make a roux with flour and butter and then turn it into a white sauce by adding milk. Grease a baking dish and place the semi steamed/boiled cauliflower into the dish, pour over the sauce and top with a grated hard cheese.
One of my favourite Christmas holiday memories is watching my Father roast chesnuts on Boxing Day while I wrote my university dissertation. They make a great snack at any time. If you don't want to get the barbecue out, you can always just heat the oven to a high temperature, cut a cross in the bottom of each nut, and roast until all the skins peel open. Make sure you cook them thoroughly otherwise they can upset your stomach.
As a child my parents and grandparents used to take me to pick cockles. It was always great fun. To this day I still love them simply pickled in vinegar. Just thoroughly wash the cockles (soak them for several hours in fresh water) and then simmer them until they open up. Drain but retain the liquid as it makes great stock. Remove the cockles from the shells and sprinkle liberally with vinegar.
This crimson red berry has become a Christmas dinner staple. Teamed with sugar, orange juice and lemon zest, and boiled until the berries begin to soften they make a delicious sauce to serve with your roast meat. If you have some sterilised jars to hand you can also make it in bulk and hand it out as Christmas presents.
Goose is wonderfully rich and although your best bet is the butchers, supermarkets are beginning to sell more goose. Goose is delicious with all sorts of winter flavours such as, chestnuts, apples, prunes and beetroot. Plus if you roast it, there'll be plenty of fat to roast your potatoes in!
Leeks are an excellent base for soups, souffles, gratins, tarts and stew, plus they are an essential for good homemade stock. I love them gently sauteed and combined with double cream and grated cheddar. Serve with a roast rack of lamb and a side of boiled potatoes.
If you love seafood then you probably adore oysters. You can use them in steak and kidney pudding, steak and ale Irish pies, as well as seafood pasta dishes. However, the best way to eat them is of course the simpliest: with lemon juice, sea salt and a dash Tabasco.
If you want to add a bit of colour to your Christmas dinner, red cabbage is an excellent option. It's particularly popular served with roast goose in Germany. Just shred it and fry it with some grated apple, white onion, as well as some spices such as ginger and cinnamon. Add a little stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
Forced rhubarb is available from late winter through to early spring and unlike its natural counterpart has a sweeter taste which means it needs less cooking. Simply stew it and serve with ice cream, or create a crumble topping and turn it into a timeless classic. The flavour of rhubarb goes well with ginger so you can even spice up your classic crumble should you wish to.
Turkey has become the bird of choice when it comes to Christmas dinner. Click here to for a foolproof guide on roasting your bird - Winter Recipe: The Perfect Roast Turkey & Gravy. And of course, come Boxing Day, don't forget to use the leftovers for a gluttonous roast turkey sandwich with cranberry and stuffing!
White cabbage tends to have a sweet, mild taste, which is why it works so well in coleslaw. Make sure you pick one that's heavy with smooth skin. You can boil it or steam it, use it in soups or stews, as well as for your own homemade sauerkraut. Naturally it's great teamed with pork.
The main crop of turnips (green tops) is available from August to March. Try to avoid buying them with any markings, brown spots, or patches. Much like the swede you want something smooth and unblemished, and you can boil or mash it, or pop it into soups and stews.
Despite looking quite different to it, the swede is often confused for a turnip. Swedes are available from mid October to late February. Try to pick one with smooth skin. Smaller swedes will have a sweeter flavour. My Mum always mashed swede and served it with our Sunday roasts. Simply cut off the root, peel, then cut into chunks. Boil the chunks until tender and mash with plenty of butter and white pepper.