Live life on the veg and learn to love your roots

Winter root vegetables

Winter root vegetables - Credit: Archant

I must admit to being something of an ‘aubergines, courgettes and tomatoes’ cook, but when I saw the queues of refrigerated trucks at Dover I thought it might be wise to embrace our home-grown winter vegetables, such as you find in abundance at farmers markets at this time of year.

However, I ordered a vegetable box, (from Morrisons) delivered in a timely fashion and duly unpacked. Potatoes, parsnips, carrots and swede; cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts, leeks and onions.

Some of these find their way into my regular shopping anyway, but some I have more difficulty with. I was determined not to waste anything, even the sprouts and the swede. Regular readers will know that I have never knowingly included sprouts in my cooking. But I remember how chef Anton Mosimann treated them; shred finely, stir-fry in the wok with garlic and fresh ginger, to which I added a splash of fino (not having rice wine available) and a few drops of soy sauce. They were even better next day with an egg on top.

Carrots and parsnips presented no problems; the juicer for the carrots, with a knob of ginger, and Jane Grigson’s curried parsnip soup. The dreaded swede was somewhat intimidating, but I decided to treat it like celeriac, so shredded, salted and rinsed I made it into a slaw. When first cut, swede is surprisingly sweet and good to nibble on; who would have thought? Young beetroot, too, is good raw, finely sliced or shredded and mixed with lamb’s lettuce or baby spinach for a fresh and crunchy salad.

In our house we can never have too many potatoes, and leeks in the box suggested a vichysoisse. And there’s always bubble and squeak and colcannon, and simply left-overs sautéed for breakfast with eggs. The pristine cauliflower made a homely dish of retro cauliflower cheese, and also a creamy soup not unlike the vichysoisse with some potato to give it heft.


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The same week as the winter veg box, finding the pressure frying pan at the back of the cupboard was a serendipitous discovery, brought about when it looked as if the cooker was going to pack up.  This sturdy utensil turned out to be incredibly useful. In it I can sauté vegetables, rice or meat, then add liquid, put on the lid, seal it and bring up to pressure. Perfect for thick vegetable soups such as minestrone and garbure, it will also cook those winter vegetables in no time; especially good for cabbage, which cooks quickly under pressure, leaving less smell behind. Artichokes, too, respond well to pressure cooking, steaming rather than boiling, and again, cooking in a fraction of the time; 10 minutes for red cabbage and about the same for artichokes. Pulses such as dried beans and chick peas, soaked overnight, will cook in 8-10 minutes.

Red cabbage

Red Cabbage - Credit: Archant

I was sceptical about the claim to make a risotto in six minutes after the sauteeing of shallots and rice, but I must admit that being able to make a very good risotto in about 10 minutes from scratch was impressive; it was creamy, with a slight bite to the Arborio rice and suffused with my wild garlic pesto.

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Garbure (Serves 6)

This is a hearty, thick soup from the Pyrenees, so you might expect pork, goose or duck in some form to enrich it. Diced foie gras works well, as does Bayonne or Iberico ham, diced black pudding, Toulouse sausage or chorizo. However, using vegetables alone, and vegetable stock makes for a  lovely vegetarian soup, and goes a good way towards your five-a-day.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons duck or goose fat or extra virgin olive oil

1 – 1 ½ teaspoons pimentón dulce

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1.5 litres vegetable, chicken, or ham stock

200 g each green or white cabbage, carrots and celery or celeriac, prepared as appropriate

250 g cooked cannellini or other white beans

100 g cooked meat  - optional

Method:

Take two tablespoons olive oil, mix it with the pimenton and put to one side. This recipe uses the traditional method, but if you have a pressure cooker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan, or casserole, and cook the onions until golden. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Drop in the vegetables and cook until the vegetables are almost tender. Add the cooked white beans and whatever meat additions you are using.

Garbure vegetable soup from the south of France

Garbure a soup from the South of France - Credit: Frances Bissell

Simmer the soup for 2 to 3 minutes, season to taste, and serve, with a thread of pimenton oil over the surface of the soup.

©Frances Bissell 2020. All rights reserved.

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