After last week's hearty fare to warm the body as the cold kicks in, this week I'm focusing on flavours that will warm the heart. And what better way to start the three-course meal I've prepared here than with chilli? More substantial salads tend to work better at this time of year, and this one has a nice hint of fire to stimulate the tastebuds.
For the main course, the capers add a distinctive piquancy, while the fennel provides a mild sweetness that works beautifully with the sage's earthy finish.
Finishing up, I've gone for a clementine sorbet. Yes, it is icy-cold – but the divine sharpness of that fruit can't help but expel any thoughts of the dullness of the day.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
Warm salad of sprouting broccoli, onion squash, chilli, and hazelnut sauce
If onion squash is hard to find, you can substitute butternut squash; the skin will need to be removed, but otherwise treat it in exactly the same way.
1 onion squash, sliced in half, deseeded, skin left on
1 dried chilli, crumbled
4 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 red onion, outer skin removed and sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 bunch of sprouting broccoli, washed, patted dry and sliced into six long slices, including the stems and outer leaves
For the dressing
100g/31/2oz whole hazelnuts
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp red-wine vinegar
120ml/4fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
First make the dressing: preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4, lay the hazelnuts on a tray and place on the middle shelf of the oven for five minutes to tickle out their flavour and colour them slightly. Place the anchovies and mustard into a mortar and pound with a pestle until you have a rough paste. Add the hazelnuts and vinegar and pound once more. Pour in the oil and stir well to combine. Taste and season with a little salt and pepper if needed.
Now turn up the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas6. Lay the slices of squash on a baking tray, crumble over the chilli, pour over two tablespoons of the oil and season with the salt and pepper. Cover with foil. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, uncovering for the final 10; the squash should be tender but not falling apart. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash is cooking, place the onion rounds in a smaller baking tray and add the balsamic and remaining olive oil.
Season with a little salt and pepper, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then, as with the squash, uncover and cook for a further 10 minutes; the onions should look glossy and turn a deep purple in colour.
Place a large pot of well-salted water on to boil, prepare the broccoli and, when the water is boiling, plunge the broccoli in and cook for two to three minutes; drain but do not refresh.
Arrange the warm vegetables on a plate, spoon over the dressing and serve, adding some roasted cherry tomatoes if you wish.
Pork with fennel, capers and sage
1-11/2kg/2-3lb shoulder of pork
Sea-salt and black pepper
2 tbsp mild-tasting olive oil
11/2tbsp capers, very well rinsed and roughly chopped
1 tsp lemon zest
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small bunch sage
1 small bunch rosemary
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 fennel bulbs, peeled and chopped into quarters
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
80ml/3oz verjuice or dry white wine
250ml/8fl oz pork or chicken stock, or water
A splash of vermouth (dry)
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Trim the pork of all but a thin layer of fat. Make a few incisions with a knife to allow flavour to permeate the flesh. Season all over.
Combine the capers, lemon zest, garlic, sage and rosemary with the fennel seeds. Spread the mixture all over the surface of the pork and into the incisions.
Toss the fennel and carrots in one tablespoon of oil. Heat a large, ovenproof skillet (you'll need one with a lid) over a medium heat and pour in the remaining tablespoon of oil. Place the pork in the pan; it should sizzle. Brown gently but well, and surround it with the vegetables.
Add the verjuice and stock, put the lid on, place in the oven and cook for three-quarters-of-an-hour. Remove and stir, then return to the oven for an hour-and-a-half.
Take out the meat and vegetables, set aside and keep warm. Return the pan juices to the stove and place over a high heat, skimming off any fat. Boil and add the vermouth, scraping the caramelised bits from the bottom of the pan. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Slice the pork, and serve with the vegetables and a spoonful of the rich pan juices.
This is a gentle, refreshing way to finish a meal, so light in flavour it's almost ethereal.
8 sweet, juicy clementines
100g/31/2oz caster sugar
200ml/7fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped out
3 tbsp sherry (Lustau or Pedro Ximénez)
Slice the clementines in half and squeeze to remove as much juice as possible. Strain the juice through a colander and set aside. Place the sugar and cream in a small, heavy-based pan. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla pod and add them to the cream-sugar mix with the pod itself. Place over a medium heat and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook for about a minute – you simply want to infuse the cream with the flavour of vanilla and dissolve the sugar. Remove, and set aside to cool. Once cool, pour through a strainer on to the clementine juice. Stir well, add the sherry, pour into an ice-cream maker and follow the instructions. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, place it in a Tupperware bowl and put in the freezer. Stir every half-hour until it sets. Once set, scoop into bowls and serve at once.