It's easy to dismiss February as a waste of a month, cold, bleak, damp; at least it's short, right? But it isn't all gloom. Let me tell you my five things which make February worth celebrating!
As a foodie, one of my favourite things about February is picking the wonderful veggies from the bleak, frosty vegetable patch. Cauliflower, leeks, purple sprouting broccoli, and Jerusalem artichokes are all in season at this time of year. Growing them myself gives me the thrill of actually going out to pick and prepare my own grown vegetables, it's really easy, and if you can, I'd definitely recommend giving it a go! If not, why not pop down to your local farm shop, and find the colourful array of vegetables they have in season and prepare a hearty warm soup.
February is also a month celebrated by the Chinese as it sees's in their New Year! To be part of the celebrations (or if you're like me and just want an excuse for a party!) drape your home, and yourself if you wish, in red and gold, create a firework display in your back garden, invite round some friends and family, and go dumpling-mad! This year Chinese New Year falls on February 19th, so make a note in the diary.
If you don't have enough of them on Valentine's Day, February is also the best time for Great British oysters. Although the season runs from September to April, oyster aficionados claim that this is the best month for oysters native to the British Isles. With oyster's natural aphrodisiac quality, and Valentine's Day being over for another year, enough said. Get shucking!
And if none of those appeals, for those lucky enough to be able to have the freedom to jet set, simply pack your bags and head east, February is weather wise, a fabulous time to visit South-East Asia!
However, all this celebrating in February leaves little time to do the mundane essential things such as spring cleaning. I strongly believe that cleanliness is next to healthiness, and what healthier way to do it than using fresh natural ingredients from your kitchen?
I've got some great spring-cleaning tips that will not only help you stay healthy, but it also gets your house sparkling without breaking the bank!
Firstly, mix white vinegar with an equal measure of water and use to polish windows and glass tops, spray on shower curtains and screens to remove mildew, and apply to stubborn sticker or glue residue to make them vanish. This is quick and easy and a great natural remedy, not to mention cheaper than buying products pumped full of chemicals.
Shaking baking soda onto the bottom of a cold oven (so that you have about ½ cm of powder) is also an efficient way to budge the grease build up, spray some water over it to dampen it, close the oven door, and leave it for a couple of hours. Then simply wipe away the powder and Voila! A naturally sparkling oven!
Another one of my 100% natural cleaning techniques is to add 10-20 drops of my favourite essential oils to a jarful of baking soda, close and shake well, and - ta-da! Easy-peasy carpet freshener. Simply shake over your carpet, leave for 15 minutes, and vacuum. I love lavender and peppermint oils for a fresh and clean smell throughout my house.
And for the easiest air-freshener of all, simply open a window for an hour or so! It really is that simple, alternatively, add a teaspoon of lavender oil and a teaspoon of sweet orange oil to 100ml of distilled water, place in a spray bottle, shake and spray! Now you've no excuse, enjoy February, get cleaning and get healthy.
So let's make the most out of February and all its vegetable glory with one of my favourite warming dishes; Curried Parsnip and Coconut Soup, it's time for comfort eating. For some reason, parsnip seems to be one of those vegetables that people back away from in horror. I blame over-boiled school dinners of yore. Which is a shame, because when properly prepared, it really has the most magnificent flavours: nutty, sweet and earthy, all at once. This wonderful soup is the perfect way to introduce parsnip to anyone who has yet to be convinced of its brilliance, if you're already a fan of parsnip, you're in for a treat!
Prep Time: 12 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Wheat Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegetarian
You will need:
- 1 tablespoon groundnut oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 300g parsnip, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 stick celery, finely chopped
- 2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon red chilli flakes
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 2 tablespoons water
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 100ml coconut milk
- ½ bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- Heat the oil in a medium non-stick pan, and lightly fry the seeds until they start to pop.
- Add the parsnips, onion, celery, ginger, chilli flakes, turmeric, garam masala and 2 tablespoons of water. Place the lid on and cook until the onion and celery are soft - about 5 minutes.
- Add the stock, coconut milk, bay leaf and thyme to the pan, cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, remove the lid and leave to simmer until all the vegetables are cooked - about 8 minutes.
- Blend the soup until smooth, using a hand-held blender or by transferring to a food processor.
- 1 teaspoon coriander, finely chopped
- Ladle into warmed soup bowls, garnish with the coriander and serve immediately.
- As well as spices and coconut, parsnip goes fabulously with cream cheese. To make the most of this, I love to serve this soup with toasted rye bread spread with cream cheese.
For more delicious recipes like this, my book 'The Balance Diet' is available from Amazon.