By Louise Oliver

During the shortest days of the year the darkness and cold of winter is certainly upon us. Yet at my door arrives an array of different vegetable guests for dinner- admittedly some a bit dirty. It was with some surprise that I discovered that winter really is the time for feasting, particularly on vegetables. My bag contained Brussels sprouts, cabbage, parsnips, beetroot and carrots to name but a few. These alone would provide me with my seasonal five a day – and I hadn’t even peeled my satsumas yet! I have been getting to know each of these veggies singularly, however in the spirit of the season would I and, more importantly, would my vegetable guests be able to get along happily and with minimal effort, in the one dish?

The root vegetables, covered in soil, can be a bit off-putting at first. Yet this is what makes them great, winter storage vegetables. Keeping them in a dark, cool space at home will preserve their flavour and nutritional value. Once washed and peeled back to reveal their glorious colours, all it takes is a bit of chopping and then they can be put together in a roasting dish in the oven. To make roasted root veg, there is little effort required and the slow cooking allows their sumptuous sugars to be enhanced. To be energy efficient and of course keep your carbon foodprint low, it’s a great time to have your cake, meat or bread in the oven at the same time.

The brightness of the various shades of cabbage are instantly uplifting and require little preparation. The hardy kale will benefit from having any tough stalks removed with a knife, but once done it can be quickly blanched and added to your roasted roots. Once all together, your bounty of veg will really shine with the addition of some of your favourite herbs such as parsley, thyme or chives. They can also handle a good hit of chilli, mustard and citrus for some winter spice heat.

It seems no coincidence that these veggies are full of Vitamin C and many other nutrients. Could it be nature’s way of warding off those seasonal colds? As Michael Pollen points out in his Food Rules manual, ‘the colour of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant levels that they contain. Many of these chemicals help protect against chronic diseases but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing a variety of different colours.’

A glorious array of colours and complementary flavours are abundant in this Rainbow Pie recipe which can easily take pride of place at the centre of your winter feast. Five layers of vegetables and herbs are sprinkled with a generous helping of local cheese and encased in a hearty pastry. It does take a bit of time to prepare but, as with any pastry dish, this can be speeded up if the pastry is made the day before. The bright layers of veg can be changed to include whatever seasonal delights you have to hand. The recipe would also work as a filling for little winter pasties.

The Roasted Vegetable Frittata uses any combination of root vegetables and is a tasty way to use up leftovers. For times when you require something lighter, try the delicious Winter Veg Slaw. It’s great made as a big batch and served on its own or to brighten up a lunchtime sandwich.

So winter provides a rainbow of colourful vegetables that not only boost your immune system but brighten your plate and taste-buds too. Your seasonal 5-a-day can take centre stage and with just a little care and attention, can truly sparkle together.