Season's best

Enjoy a vibrant, flavourful February packed with the freshest of ingredients. Kick off with nutritious, creamy avocado, great in salads, dips, wraps and smoothies.

An avocado is ripe and ready to eat if it gives slightly when squeezed. Store ripe avocados in the fridge and harder avocados in your fruit bowl. To speed up the ripening process, put them in a brown paper bag with a banana. To prepare, slice down the middle, lengthways, cutting right to the stone. Twist the halves in opposite directions to separate. Discard the stone and scoop out the flesh using a spoon. If you're not eating the avocado right away, simply brush the flesh with a little lemon juice to prevent discolouring.

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Also in season...

Red cabbage

Red cabbage

This tightly-packed red-purple brassica has a crisp, peppery flavour. Keep the colour locked in during cooking by adding a dash of vinegar. Red cabbage is delicious raw. Shred it before adding to salads and slaws.

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Enjoy this sweet tropical fruit in salads, stir-fries, puddings and drinks. To test for ripeness, gently squeeze at each end – if it 'gives' a little, it's ready. A ripe mango will keep well, chilled, for up to four days. Serve at room temperature. To dice, slice off the cheeks (the fleshy sides), then score the flesh in a diamond pattern being careful not to pierce the skin. Scoop out the cubes with a spoon.

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Whether raw or cooked, celeriac adds a nutty, subtle-yet-sweet flavour to many a dish. Cut off the knobbly skin with a sharp knife to reveal crisp, white flesh. Chop into chips to oven roast, or use in soups or risottos. It's also delicious in a remoulade – simply grate and toss with mayo, mustard and lemon juice. Celeriac can be kept for several weeks, even after cutting – just shave off a layer to refresh it.

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A member of the allium family alongside onions and garlic, leeks have a more subtle flavour and slight sweetness when cooked. To prepare, trim away the green top and root, and remove the outer layer. Cut in half lengthways, and rinse thoroughly to remove any soil. Leeks pair well with delicate ingredients: try using them in place of onion as the base for a risotto.

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This distinctive pink vegetable is a popular ingredient in British puddings and baking. 'Forced' rhubarb – in season now – is grown in warm, dark sheds and harvested by torchlight. It's sweeter than the thicker, outdoor-grown varieties, available from spring through to October/November. Choose rhubarb with firm, crisp stalks. Rhubarb is often used in a sweet crumble, but its tart flavour works well with mackerel and duck, too. Store in the fridge for a few days and keep the leaves on until you're ready to use it. Alternatively, blanch and freeze for up to 12 months.

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Kiwi fruit

Kiwi fruit

Kiwis are best eaten raw, as cooking reduces both their vitamin content and their vibrant colour. Ripe kiwis should feel firm, but yield slightly when pressed. If hard, leave to ripen at room temperature before eating. Use them in a tropical trifle, or finely chop with red onion, chilli, lime and coriander for a fresh and fruity salsa. If you prefer a less zingy fruit, try gold kiwi, which is super sweet and juicy. 

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