Get the idea: winter veg
The family were talking about why we liked winter vegetables. One of the reasons was that they had strong flavours. We decided we like the sweet, spicy, earthy tastes rather than summer’s juicier, even sweeter ones. And we like cooking with winter produce. Like any good ingredient, you don’t need to add lots of other flavours. I try to make a vegetable dish that brings out all the things I like about the vegetable, something I have been doing more and more. Lately I have been serving at least one vegetable dish rather than a plainly cooked vegetable in each meal. I usually keep one other vegetable dish very simple for balance.
ENJOY THE FOLLOWING WHEN YOU WANT TO MAKE MORE OF A VEGETABLE:
Bake carrots in cream and serve with steak. Peel and cut lots of carrots into 2cm-thick sticks and place in a wide ovenproof dish in an even layer. Season, add a bay leaf, juice of a lemon and some chopped parsley. Pour in enough cream to just cover. Bake at 180C for 25 minutes or until bubbling and brown and the carrots are tender.
Slow-fry plenty of 3cm-sliced leeks in lots of extra virgin olive oil for 20 minutes or until the leeks are soft but not browned. Add a can of chopped tomatoes in juice. Simmer until thick. Taste, season and serve tossed through pasta with parmesan, eat it simply on crusty sourdough bread with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil or serve with barbecued lamb racks or steak.
Coat plenty of 3cm-chunks of peeled, deseeded pumpkin in extra virgin olive oil and a little salt and roast in a baking paper-lined tray for 35 minutes at 200C or until the pumpkin is tender and well browned. Give it a stir now and then. Add to al dente short pasta with diced fried bacon, baby spinach leaves wilted in the hot bacon fat, a generous grating of fresh nutmeg, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and plenty of freshly grated parmesan to serve.
Scrub, but don’t peel, plenty of purple-skinned kumara and roast them in a dry pan at 200C for about an hour or until a skewer can be inserted easily into the middle of the largest one. While they are cooking, thinly slice 2 big onions and fry gently for 20 minutes in plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Remove from the heat and reserve. Remove the kumara from the oven and, as soon as they can be handled, split them in half and spoon the flesh evenly into a mixing bowl. Add a big handful of walnut pieces, the onions and a handful of chopped parsley. Toss gently, taste and season. Put the mixture evenly into a shallow ovenproof dish and pour in enough cream to cover. Sprinkle an even layer of coarse breadcrumbs on top. Dot with butter, bake at 200C or until browned and bubbling.
Very thinly slice savoy cabbage, avoiding the thick stalks. In a large saucepan, fry plenty of chopped pancetta in extra virgin olive oil until the pancetta fat is translucent. Add a large pinch of fennel seeds, the sliced cabbage, a large finely chopped clove of garlic and the zest of a lemon. Stir-fry over high heat until the cabbage is very hot but just wilted. Taste, season and serve with roast pork or in warm flatbread with mashed borlotti beans.
Cut a cauliflower into florets; peel and thinly slice the stalk. Boil until just tender in plenty of salted water, drain well and cool. In a bowl place a couple of cups of plain unsweetened yoghurt, some toasted cumin and coriander seeds, some finely chopped ginger and garlic, a pinch of chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Mix this gently through the cauliflower (don’t break it up) then spread it out on a baking paper-lined shallow oven tray. Sprinkle with chopped cashews and place in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes or until well browned. Good with lamb.
One of the things I learned last year in Italy was that broccoli florets, cooked a little more than I would usually do, (just starting to get soft) are great when well drained and served well drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and well seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Slice lots of brussels sprouts 1cm thick and slow-fry in plenty of extra virgin olive oil with finely diced preserved lemon peel, pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes, until soft and browned. Taste season and serve. Good with chicken.
Peel lots of parsnips and pack them around a whole chicken. Put plenty of fresh herbs and squashed garlic inside the chicken. Drizzle the chicken with extra virgin olive oil. Add a splash of white wine and place in the oven at 200C for about 1 to 1 and a half hours or until the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced. Make a pan gravy. Remove the chicken and parsnips from the pan and reserve in a warm place. Pour off any fat from the pan, place over high heat. Add a splash of white wine and stir the dish with a wooden spoon. Add chicken stock, boil, thicken by stirring in enough of a mix of 2 tablespoons cornflour stirred into 3 tablespoons water. Serve over the chicken and parsnips.
Sweden’s Jansson’s Frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation) is one of the world’s great dishes. Layer a well-buttered ovenproof dish with a thick layer of thinly sliced peeled agria potatoes, thinly sliced onion, then another of potato, more onions, more potatoes, a layer of anchovy fillets and a last layer of potato. Pour over enough of a mix of half chicken stock, half cream until well soaked. Cover and bake at 200C for 1 hour, uncovering for the last 15 minutes to brown.