Produce report: June 19
Looking for a little something to bring variety to wintry meals? Banana shallots, a cross between small regular shallots and onions, are here to answer the call. They are also one of the week’s best buys which adds to their appeal.
Sweet and less strong than an onion (more like mild garlic) their papery brown skins are relatively easy to peel — so much easier than peeling those smaller types which grow in a fiddly cluster of individually wrapped cloves. Shallots have less water and cook quicker than onions so care needs to be taken to ensure they don’t burn. But, sweetness apart, they have another upside: there’s no garlic or onion breath to worry about and they are easier to digest. When substituting, use 2 regular shallots for 1 banana shallot.
Whatever type you choose, all are lovely roasted, which brings out the sweetness even more. Kathy Paterson serves hers smeared over French bread to eat alongside her Greek beef stew. To serve 4, make a deep cut along the length of 12 large unpeeled shallots, place them in a roasting dish and drizzle over 3 Tbsp olive oil and 2 sprigs thyme. Roast them for at least 1 hour at 160C (if you have her slow-cooked beef in the oven too), otherwise for 45 minutes at 190C. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the soft flesh and serve it on stew or smear it on bread to accompany one. Store shallots in a cool, dark, dry place with good air circulation and they will keep for several weeks.
The flowering Chinese cabbage (best when the yellow flowers are still in bud) is rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, fibre and B vitamins along with a lot of calcium and iron. With lower levels of oxalic acid (which interferes with mineral absorption), the iron and calcium in Asian greens is more readily absorbed than in traditional leafy greens such as spinach and silverbeet. To prepare, cut choy sum in half horizontally to separate leaves from stems and stir-fry (stems for 1-2 minutes first and leaves for a minute or so). Or steam your choy sum and finish with a dressing of light soy, oyster sauce and sesame oil. (See our recipe for Simple Chinese Greens.)
Still hunting for variety, we’re seeking out jerusalem artichokes (those knobbly tubers are here until August). Unlike most starchy vegetables, the main carbohydrate here is inulin, which is tolerated by diabetics. For winter salads, look for peppery watercress and witloof (which makes a great braised vege too). Agria potatoes, spaghetti squash, brussels sprouts, parsnips, cavolo nero and broccoli are good buying.
It’s time then to whip up an apple cake. Delaney Mes’ cake contains dried fruit as well as apple and is served with yummy dark caramel sauce.
Best buy from the imports: South American mangoes which are sweet and very affordable.