The festive period officially gets underway with the start of Advent


The season of Advent starts tomorrow and signifies a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

The term is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming”.

Already I’ve had many conversations about Christmas that involve cooking turkeys, the price of a new IPad and the best recipe for a Christmas pudding. We’re bombarded in the supermarkets and by the media from mid September about Christmas purely from a materialistic point of view to the extent that we’ve almost forgotten what it’s actually about.

If it was up to me there’d be a blanket ban on any mention of the festive period until the official start of advent, December 1st. No family should be in debt because of pressure to buy the right presents and have hysterical amounts of food on the table. Today is Small Business Saturday and the perfect time to celebrate our local retailers. Buying local makes sense for the economy and for your own pocket. Take the example of potatoes. You can buy 2.5kg of acceptable potatoes in a supermarket for around £2.50. But if you bought a 10 kilo bag of high quality Kerr’s Pinks, for example, from a farm shop or grower it would cost around £6. That’s a saving of £4 and you’re still giving that small producer and retailer a fair price, and not paying for fuel for some oligarch’s yacht. Carrots are another prime example. If you buy from a farm shop or direct from the grower they will cost a fraction of the price, won’t be washed to within an inch of their lives, and taste so much better than those trapped in plastic. My first recipe is for a braised brisket served with barley cooked with carrots. The carrots are prepared two ways – roasted in oil and made into a puree to cook the barley and then grated to add a different layer of texture. Braised brisket is cheap to make and tasty and a little goes a long way in this recipe. The shredded brisket sits on top of the carrot and barley and is then topped with a parsley oil. Parsley is one of those humble things that deserves to be celebrated. When you buy locally grown the leaves look like rich, verdant curls and they have that smell of freshness combined with the earth that is quite unique.

Parsnips have now had the benefit of a good frost that will intensify their sweetness. They’re lovely roasted in oil or duck fat but I like to mix them up a bit in the flavour and texture stakes. After roasting I brush lightly with mustard and honey and then roll in a mixture of crispy oats and crispy roasted chicken skin. When you roast a chicken the best bit is the golden brown outside and it works really well with the parsnips.

The country is full of small businesses that deserve and need our support and today is the day to start doing it. You’ll be doing everyone a favour.