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EXCLUSIVE: What to cook this winter with Jean Christophe Novelli - Lifestyle

As a top chef, why do you think cooking seasonally is important?

Because you are guaranteed the food that has the most nutrition. It’s best the closest it is to you, with the shortest time on the shelf or since it was cut from the bush or dug from the ground. After 48 hours it all starts to diminish. You can pay the same price on something that is perishable, but you need the vitamins and it needs to be fresh.

The more you buy local, the more they will invest, the more they will grow and distribute and the cheaper it will become. If you buy more seasonal, more local, you have more guarantee about where you stand with the product.

What are the benefits of eating seasonally grown food?

The seasons are the clock of nature, if you really want the best of something it has to be in its natural harvest time, some things only have two or sometimes four harvests a year.

The best period is spring and summer because the sun gives everything more flavour and makes it less acidic, also you don’t have to buy abroad.

You will pay a fortune for cherries in the winter for example, but things don’t last. If it’s not seasonal you might think it’s fresh but very quickly it will turn bad.

If you could pick your favourite food item from each season what would they be?

Autumn – mushrooms, pumpkins, onions, and grapes are the best now (October). Winter – I like cabbage, although winter and autumn are the same things really. Spring – this is more exciting, you have the start of your aubergines (my favourite), you can start getting asparagus, almost every veg starts coming up in spring. Summer – you can have anything, red currants, the best raspberries, the best melon, peaches…

For all our budding British gardeners out there who haven’t started their own vegetable patch yet, where would you suggest they start?

Now (October) is the right time, to prepare for next year to get ready for the first growing season. Also don’t worry too much about frost as the seeds under ground will be fine, root vegetables will be ok. You can start with anything, whatever you want to eat, start with that.

Do you think it’s easier or harder to eat a seasonal diet?

If you wish to stick to a diet, it’s more versatile to do it by eating seasonal produce; it’s more exciting and beneficial with all the vitamins in fresh food. What people forget is that you can have as many vegetables as you want and you won’t get fat – you can digest it so easily.

What will be your top seasonal dish to cook this winter?

Something with honey and roast pumpkin, like a soup. I keep the seeds and roast them like nuts. I also do a nice cabbage with ham shoulder or hock smoked. Cabbage and turnips, suede – all these types of food are fantastic. We eat more consistently when it’s cold, you need the extra carbs to keep you warm and active. You are burning more calories in the winter just to keep warm!

Jean-Christophe Novelli is working with Flora Cuisine to launch the first recipe book created by mums, for mums. The recipe book will be available in October through the Flora Hearts facebook page. Customers at Asda will receive a free copy of the book on purchasing three bottles of Flora Cuisine.