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The best winter ingredients and how to use them

Winter may be all cold days and dark evenings, but there is an abundance of incredible ingredients that can liven up your cooking as well as lifting your mood. From vibrant citrus fruits, to succulent game or creamy chestnuts, these are the best ingredients to enjoy in winter and what to do with them.

  1. Citrus fruits

    For a touch of winter sunshine, make the most of the bounty of citrus fruits available. Tangy grapefruit is great in salads for a burst of sweet-and-sour flavour, while oranges and lemons lend themselves to this classic St Clement's cake. For something a bit more hearty, try pairing oranges with rich pulled pork and mustard lentils. Smaller tangerines and clementines add a festive spin to desserts and drinks, such as in this clementine prosecco cocktail.

    Citrus fruits
  2. Root vegetables

    There’s an abundance of nutty celeriac, sweet potatoes, parsnips and swedes on offer at this time of year. Roast with oil, garlic and woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme for a simple side for any roast, or get a bit more creative and use in place of potatoes in other dishes. Try topping a creamy fish pie with crispy parsnip ribbons, making a hearty celeriac mash or baking swede into a classic beef pie

    Root vegetables
  3. Chestnuts

    Once cooked, chestnuts have a soft creamy texture and a mild nutty flavour that works well in both sweet and savoury dishes. Blitzed into seasonal bakes such as this gorgeous chocolate chestnut tart they create a moist crumb much the same as ground almonds, while roughly chopped they add a subtle sweetness to roasted root veg.

  4. Mussels

    In season from October to March in the UK, mussels are much easier to cook than you may think. Fresh mussels just need a good scrub to remove any 'beards', discarding any shells that are broken or don't close when tapped. Best steamed in flavour-packed broths, try this easy one-pot cider mussels recipe or a spicy Thai-inspired linguine.

  5. Kale

    Like most leafy green veg, kale is incredibly versatile and adds a gentle bitter note to dishes. Start the day with some kale, smoked salmon and egg on toast in place of your usual spinach, bake up some crispy kale for an Asian-inspired side or snack, or add to a veggie filling for this green lasagne recipe. For a festive spin, pair with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts

  6. Pomegranates

    Pomegranate seeds are an instant way to add a burst of juicy sweetness and jewel-like colour to dishes. Scatter over a classic fruity tagine, stir through spicy Indian street food with this easy chaat recipe, or add some sparkle to party drinks with this pomegranate mocktail. For a refreshing winter pud, try this simple orange and pomegranate salad

  7. Dates

    Naturally sticky and sweet, dates are the perfect dried fruit to have on hand. Snack on a few whole dates to curb afternoon cravings or chop and stir through your breakfast cereal in the mornings. Medjool dates are particularly fudgy in texture and so great to use in baking, try in an extra-fruity banana bread, jam-packed raw chocolate brownies, or a classic sticky toffee pudding. For a savoury spin, they help to balance the spicy flavour of this chorizo-stuffed roast beef

  8. Duck

    With a rich, gamey taste and tender meat, whole roasted duck is a fabulous alternative to a traditional Sunday lunch if feeding a crowd. For a more intimate dinner, duck breasts and legs make perfect dinner-for-two options that still feel a bit special. Try these orange and red wine braised duck legs or simple pan-fried duck breasts with spiced cauliflower for great examples of how well it matches strong spices and citrus flavours. 

  9. Venison

    Similar to fillet steak, venison has a really strong, meaty flavour, and is naturally lean. It loves big flavours like black pepper and juniper. Try coating venison steaks in crushed peppercorns and sea salt before searing on a hot griddle until cooked. And, like steak, always rest venison before serving. This means the juices run back into the meat, giving a more succulent end result.

  10. Bramley apples

    These large, squat cooking apples are abundant from December to March. Their tart flavour means they're best eaten cooked – heat mellows and softens the taste, making them ideal for a classic apple crumble or Dorset apple cake, as well as pies, tarts and bakes. They're also the foundation of a good apple sauce to serve with roast pork, such as in this spicy jerk-style pork recipe.

    Bramley apples