Seasonal veg facts & recipes …

By Ruth Quinlan, a chef who is introducing new flavours and inspiration to Hornbeam Cafe.

August: Tomatoes

heritage tomatoes shrunk

Tomatos are from the remarkable deadly nightshade family (along with peppers, potatoes and aubergines). Many generations of selective breeding have reduced these toxic alkaloids. One nightshade defence that humans have fallen in love with are the pungent capsaicins of chillis. Tomato comes from the aztec word tomatl meaning plump fruit.

These sweet-tart fruits are treated like a vegetable probably because of their relatively low sugar content (3%, similar to cabbage). They have relatively high levels of meaty-flavoured components (glutamic acid and aromatic sulphur compounds) which add depth and complexity to sauces. They are rich in vitamin C and  the antioxidant lycopene, which is especially concentrated in tomato paste and ketchup.
The flavours of tomatoes come from the sugary outer flesh and the acidic jelly and juice. The flavour of tomatoes can therefore be enhanced by adding both acidity and sugar.
Cooked tomatoes lose the fresh green notes of raw, but these can be reintroduced by the addition of a few leaves to the sauce towards the end of its cooking. Leaves have long been considered toxic but recent research shows that the toxic tomatine binds to cholesterol in our digestive system so that the body gets rid of both, reducing our net intake of cholesterol. Green tomatoes also contain tomatine and have the same effect.
Tomatoes should not be stored in the fridge. They become mealy below 13’C as their membranes are damaged. Fully ripened tomatoes are less sensitive but lose flavour-producing enzyme activity at low temperatures. This can be recovered if tomatoes are left at room temperature for a day or two before eating.

Flavour combinations:

  • anise
  • aubergine
  • avocado
  • basil
  • peppers
  • capers
  • chilli
  • chocolate
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • coriander leaf
  • cucumber
  • egg
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • horseradish
  • lemon
  • lime
  • mushroom
  • nutmeg
  • olive
  • onion
  • peanut
  • potato
  • sage
  • strawberry
  • thyme
  • vanilla
  • watermelon

Recipes

Salads: paired with any of the above ingredients eg watermelon!
Basil and tomato:
Combine them in a thick sauce for pasta or pizza, a soup, risotto,  omelette or a tart. Or simply chop and pile them onto toasted bread rubbed with a garlic clove, with olive oil, salt and pepper, or make a salad with mozzarella or a panzanella salad with yesterday’s bread. Or try tossing chopped tomato and torn up basil leaves through just-cooked angel hair pasta with a little olive oil and seasoning
Stuffed “greek” tomatoes:
cut off the tops of a dozen large tomatoes. Scoop out the flesh and mix it with 2 cups of cooked rice. Add 2 tbsp chopped onion, 2 tbsp currants, some chopped garlic, pepper and salt and, if you have it, some chopped thyme or fennel or parsley. Stuff the tomatoes with the mixture, pour over some olive oil and bake in a covered dish at 180’C for about 35 minutes.
Tomato soup:
ideal for making when you can buy huge quantities of rather battered, very ripe tomatoes cheaply. Make lots and freeze it.
For 4-6
  • 200g onions, chopped
  • 50g butter
  • 900g tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp dry or sweet sherry (use sweet if the tomatoes aren’t or add 1tbsp sugar)
  • 3 tbsp torn basil
  • salt and black pepper
  • veg stock (optional)
  • cream and more basil, to serve
Sweat the onions very slowly in the butter until cooked through, but not brown. Add everything else except the cream. Cook for abouto 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened. Whiz the soup in a blender or push through a mouli. Thin it if you like, with some stock.
Tomato jam:
for 1litre
  • 1.5kg tomatoes
  • 2 star anise
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 vanilla pod, split down the middle
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • salt
  • 300g white sugar
Halve tomatoes and scrape out seeds with a spoon. Put a saucer in the fridge.
Chop the halves roughly and put into a heavy-based non-aluminium pan with the spices (you could put the smaller spices into a piece of tied muslin or one of those metal tea leaf infusers that allows the flavours out, which saves you either eating them or fishing them out after). Add the rest of the ingredients and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring to the boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Test to see if it has reached setting point by dripping a bit off a spoon onto the saucer. It should hold its shape and be the consistency of soft jam.
SOURCES:
  • McGee Food and Cooking
  • E David South Wind Through the Kitchen
  • N Segnit The Flavour Thesauraus
  • S Raven Garden Cookbook

July: Courgetttes

The scourgette shrunkquash or curcubit family has made three broad contributions to human pleasure and nutrition: the sweet moist melons and not-so-sweet moist cucumber, the sweet starchy, nutritious “Winter” squashes, which are harvested fully mature and hard and keep for months, and “Summer” squashes, which are harvested while immature and tender, and keep for a few weeks. This last category contains courgettes. All Summer squashes have a pale, delicately spongy flesh that softens quickly when cooked. They are sweetest when picked young. The courgette plant will produce a fixed weight of courgettes in its life, so pick them young and sweet and tender and get lots of them, instead of getting just a few tough-skinned and less sweet marrows.

“Courgettes are versatile as well as delicate. They can be stewed in oil with tomatoes and/or onions and served hot or cold; they can be fried in butter; or cut into long thin slices, dipped in batter to make delicious fritters; they can be cut into miniature chips and deep-fried as the Italians like them; they can be stuffed with rice, or pureed and mixed with cheese to make a gratin; they can be plainly boiled, sliced and mixed with oil and lemon for a salad; halved lengthways, the flesh scooped out and the shells fried and a courgette souffle can be the one of the best souffles in existence.” Elizabeth David

My favourite way apart from in a good ratatouille or fried in butter with a few freshly chopped herbs like mint, parsely, marjoram or dill (or a mixture) added at the end, is to slice them lengthways, brush lightly with olive oil and griddle or barbecue them until they are slightly charred and tender. Then dress them with finely sliced garlic, olive oil, lemon, mint, salt and pepper.

You could save the recipes which feature tomatoes until next month when local tomatoes will be properly tasty and ripe .

recipes:

Courgettes au gratin

 for 4 (or 2 if served as a course on its own)

  • 6 small courgettes
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 50g+ butter
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup dried breadcrumbs

Slice courgettes into thick pennies and strew with salt, leaving them in a colander for an hour or so to drain off some of their moisture. Dry them somewhat in a tea towel.

Heat half the oil and butter in a large frying pan, and toss the dried courgettes in it, a few at a time, browning them. Keep them warm. Melt the rest of the butter and oil and cook the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley until you have a thickened puree. Add the courgettes and turn the mixture into a gratin dish (medium depth ovenproof dish) Cover with the breadcrumbs, dot with butter and cook in a hot oven (210’C/mark 7) for half an hour.

 

Even simpler courgette with tomatoes

for 3-5

slice 4 courgettes, salt them and leave to drain for half an hour. Put them in a fireproof dish with plenty of butter and 2 sliced and peeled tomatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes on a very low flame.

 

Fritters

 for 4-6

  • about 5 courgettes
  • deep oil for frying
  • batter:
    • 120g flour
    • 3 tbsp melted butter
    • 150ml lukewarm water
    • salt
    • 1 egg white

start the batter about 2 hours before it is needed. In a bowl mix the flour, a pinch of salt and the melted butter, then add water gradually until you have a thickish, creamy mixture. Let it stand in a cool place.

Now cut the courgettes into thick lengthwise slices, sprinkle on salt and leave to drain in a colander for half an hour or more. Rinse and pat the slices dry.

At the last moment beat the egg white to soft peaks and fold it into the batter mixture. Coat the courgette slices with the batter. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and deep fry the fritters to a golden brown. Drain very well before serving.

 

Courgette and lemon salad

This is a raw courgette recipe, made more beautiful by the inclusion of both green and yellow-skinned varieties.  For 6

  • 3-4 courgettes
  • grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 lime
  • juice of ½ lemon and ½ lime
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill, mint or tarragon
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • salt and black pepper

peel the courgettes into long thin lengths or use a mandolin to similar effect. Put the slices in a shallow dish. Make a dressing with the remaining ingredients. Pour this over the courgettes and toss gently to mix.

Optional: scatter over toasted pine nuts or toasted flaked/chopped almonds.

 

SOURCES:

  • McGee Food and Cooking
  • E David Summer Cooking and French Provincial Cooking
  • S Campbell and C Conran Poor Cook
  • S Raven Garden Cookbook

 

June: Broad Beans

fava beansWhen broad beans are young enough I can eat a buttery heap of those tender mild nuggets of summery green. Be generous with them and enjoy the podding preparation. They are only around for a short time. Unzip the pods with your thumb, see the little beans nestling in their white fleecy bed and smell that clean sweet bean smell. It’s a nostalgic treat for me. When they are really young you can steam and eat them whole or chopped, pods and all. When older they require long slow cooking.

The fava, or broad bean Vicia faba is the largest commonly eaten legume and was the only bean known to Europe until the discovery of the New World. It apparently originated in West or Central Asia and was among the ealiest domesticated plants (3000BC). There are several sizes.

The broad bean Faber vulgaris is the fava grown widely in Europe for early Summer use. When young, the green beans are delicious as peas and should be cooked simply and speedily and served with nothing but butter. Slighty older beans need a longer cooking and may be improved by a polish of hot buttery parsley sauce. Older still and you’ll need to shuck them. Shucking is the term for removing the pale green bean skin. This is necessary when the skins are whiteish and even wrinkled rather than pale green and pert (though some don’t mind the bitterer flavour and tougher eat the skins embue). It seems like a huge effort but shucking can be quite a soothing, meditative task. It is easiest when the beans are cooked, either by squeezing them so the two halves of bright green bean flesh pop through the softened skin, or you can mash them through a sieve.

“beans be damned by Pythagoras, for it is said that by oft use thereof the wits are dulled and cause many dreams, for dead men’s souls be therein”. The Pythagoreans were well known in antiquity for their vegetarianism. “Pythagorean diet” was a common name for the abstention from eating meat and fish, until the coining of “vegetarian” in the 19th century.But this diet prohibited the consumption or even touching of any sort of bean. It is probable that this is due to their belief in the soul, and the fact that beans obviously showed the potential for life.

About 1kg beans in their pods gives about 300g broad beans.

flavour combinations:

  • with mint and or parsley
  • with salty flavours especially pecorino (parmesan-style sheep milk cheese) but try soya sauce
  • with smokey flavours eg smoked paprika (traditionally ham)
  • with acidic foods eg lemon juice and zest
  • with nuts

 

recipes:

puree of broad beans with toasted almonds:

this soup is delicious quick and easy, keeps well in fridge and freezes well. It has a wonderful bean green colour and an exquisitely earthy flavour.

  • 1.2kg young broad beans
  • 900ml boiling water
  • 1 small onion or a bunch of spring onions – roughly chopped
  • 150ml milk
  • 150ml cream
  • salt and pepper
  • 40g flaked almonds (toasted briefly in oven/pan ’til golden)

wash pods thoroughly and cut away any decayed bits or stems.open pods and slide out beans. Cut pods into 5cm pieces and put into a pan with ¼ tsp salt. Pour over the boiling water and boil them uncovered for 15 mins or until soft. Meanwhile sweat onion in butter for 5 mins. Add the beans and milk and simmer 7 mins or until just tender. Blend pods in their water and pass through a sieve or food mill. Return this mixture to the pan, blend and add the bean mixture. Leave some whole if you want a rougher texture. Add cream and taste and season. Reheat soup but do not boil. Serve with almonds on top

 

broad bean and mushroom soup:

  • 1kg broad beans in the pod
  • 600ml boiling water
  • 1 onion or bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 110g mushrooms. Finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 30g butter or oil
  • 450ml milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil, savoury, chices or parsley

pod the beans and boil them in the boiling water for 8 mins or less (until tender). Blend. Sweat onion with garlic and mushrooms in oil or butter for 5 mins or until soft, but not brown. Add bean puree and milk. Taste, season and serve with chopped herbs.

 

Warm broad bean salad:

  • 400g broad beans (shelled weight)
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp chopped chervil (or parsley and basil and/or tarragon)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tarragon or white wine vinegar
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper

Make a dressing by mixing herbs and vinegar and onions in a bowl and whisking in the oil. Cook beans in boiling water about 5 mins or until tender. Drain and if some beans are large shuck them. Mix with the dressing.

 

falafel

  • 500g dried fava beans soaked overnight
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with salt
  • 2 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
  • 2 bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds roughly ground
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, roughly ground
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 100g chickpea flour/plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1l sunflower oil for deep frying
  • 8 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Drain the beans well. Place half in a large saucepan, fill it with cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cool 5-10 minutes, skimming off any scum as it builds up.

Place the raw beans in a food processor and pulse until more or less smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl and repeat the process for the cooked drained beans. Add garlic, herbs and spices, onion, flour, egg and bicarbonate of soda. Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Take walnut sized balls of mixtures and flatten into discs about 2 cm thick, 5cm diameter, making sure edges do not crack. If using sesame seeds, pour onto a plate and dip each disc into these.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and when it is hot but not smoking, add the falafel in batches. Fry until golden brown on both sides, remove and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with pita, pickles, tahina, and crunchy salad.

SOURCES:

  • D Hartley – Food in England
  • H McGee – Food and Cooking
  • S Raven – Garden Cookbook
  • H Wright – Soups

 

May: Spring Greens

spring greens smallAre young cabbages (a cultivar of brassica oleracea, similar to kale) which have failed to form a heart. In general, loose-leaved plants accumulate more vitamins C and A and antioxidant carotenoids than heading varieties, whose inner leaves never see the light of day.Spring greens are particularly rich in vitamin c, folic acid and dietary fibre.) Added fat significantly improves our absorption of fat soluble nutrients such as the vitamin A precursor in brassicas. Loss of nutritional benefits can be minimised by rapid and brief cooking. According to food scientist Harold McGee, “to maximise the retention of vitamins and minerals, cook small batches of vegetables in the microwave in a minimal amount of added water”. Cooking destroys some of the nutrients in food but makes many nutrients more easily absorbed. It’s a good idea to include both raw and cooked fruit and vegetables in our daily diet.

Flavour combinations:

  • butter, salt and pepper
  • chilli and garlic and spice
  • most nuts and seeds, especially toasted/roasted ones
  • salty flavours: anchovy, soy, parmesan…

eg

David’s salad:shredded greens with soy sauce, honey, toasted sesame seeds and oil. This is a great, more-ish salad. Take out some of the thicker ‘ribs’ before tightly furling the leaves like cigars and slicing across as finely as you can. Be generous with the seeds!

Stir-fried: A hot version of the above salad could be served as a light meal with steamed rice, at a pinch. Better still, go for the full stir fry and add greens to the wok after other veg are nearly done. Finish off with a spoonful of tahini/peanut butter thinned with at least twice as much water

boiled/steamed:Briefly cooked shredded greens in very little water – so they retain some bite Thoroughly strain, then season and butter and serve immediately.

Medieval instructions: “take a large quantity of the worts and shred them and put butter thereto and seethe them and serve forth and let nothing else come nigh them”

greens with mustard seeds for 2: finely shred 400g cabbage, soak in water 15 mins with salt then drain. Heat 4 tbsp oil in a deep pan. Add mustard seeds. When they crackle add 1 chopped green chilli, a chopped 5mm square piece of fresh ginger, 10 curry leaves. Saute for 1 minute, mixing well. Add a large pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Cook further until you have the consistency you like.

Greens with spices and tomato for 4: shred 450g greens finely. Finely chop 2 onions, a fingertip sized piece of ginger and a green chili. Fry these in 3 tbsps oil until browned (half an hour) add 1/8 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp coriander powder, ½ tsp chilli powder (if you like the heat). Add cabbage. Mix well, cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Add 3 tbsp tinned, drained, chopped tomatoes, salt (and a little sugar if your tomatoes taste sharp) and cook until done.

SOURCES:

  • D Hartley – Food in England
  • H McGee – Food and Cooking
  • C Panjabi – 50 great curries of India

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April: Rhubarb

Rhubarb irhubarb_stalkss a vegetable native to Siberia. The leaves are poisonous due to their very high levels of corrosive oxalates; it’s the stalks that we eat. They are intensely sour. Counterracted with sufficient sugar, their fascinating flavour emerges: cooking apples, tomato plants and strawberries. It became popular in early 19th Century England as the first fruit-like produce to appear in early Spring. It is used as a cathartic in Chinese medicine. In Iran and Afghanistan it is used as a vegetable in stews, with spinach. And in Poland, with potatoes. The name comes from a combination of the Greek rha (rhubarb and the Volga river) and barbarum (foreign). Forcing stalk growth to produce pinker, sweeter, tenderer stalks faster, and availability of cheaper sugar resulted in a rhubarb boom which peaked between the wars. Different varieties vary in colour between green and red. Acidity is notably due to oxalic acid which is present in quantities double or triple levels in spinach. The colour of red stalks is best preserved by minimising both the cooking time and the quantity of added liquid which dilutes the pigments.

Pairings:

  • ginger
  • orange
  • anise
  • vanilla
  • saffron
  • rosemary
  • almond
  • juniper

 

Obviously there is rhubarb crumble and rhubarb and custard but also:

Raw rhubarb with cucumber and rocket (Paula Wolfert):

thinly slice cucumber and rhubarb, toss with a little salt and and leave to stand. Mix in rocket, lemon juice and a little mint.

Would be good with some fatty food eg generously oiled roast root veg.

Poached/roast rhubarb:

Cook short lengths in a pan gently, with a couple spoonfuls water only, sugar (about ¼ the weight of rhubarb, depending on taste) and sparing flavourings – combinations or singles from the list above (or in the oven without water, and with the flavourings slightly crushed) serve with custard, cream or almond cream (below)

Rhubarb and dried apricot fruit salad:

Marinate raw sliced rhubarb with rosemary and honey for a couple of days. Mix with sliced dried apricots. Serve with almond cream, made by blending 1 tbsp skinned whole almonds per person to a fine powder-paste, then dripping in a little water and blending until the desired consistency is achieved.

 

Sources

  • H McGee Food and Cooking
  • N Segnit The Flavour Thesauraus
  • P Wolfert The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

 

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March: purple sprouting broccoli

From wild cabbages, more than a dozen major crops of very different kinds have developed: some leaves, some flowers, some stems. Then there are dozens of relatives including radishes, rocket, horseradish and watercress. The original weedy natives of the Mediterranean and Central Asia had evolved thick succulent leaves and waxy stalks in that salty, sunny habitat, which make it hardy. Cabbage was domesticated around two and a half thousand years ago, and became an important Eastern European staple because of its tolerance of cold.

Purple sprouting broccoli is a member of the cabbage family cultivated for its tightly bunched clusters of small flower buds. Until comparatively recently this was the main variety of broccoli grown in England. It was introduced from Italy (broccoli means little shoots) in the late 17th century.

As for that lovely purple, antioxidant anthocyanins are responsible. Antioxidants fine tune our system for disposing of foreign chemicals, hence are thought to be anti-cancerous. The colour disappears on cooking because the pigments readily bleed into surrounding tissues, and are diluted into invisibility when cooked cells break open.

Once picked, the sugars in broccoli start to convert to tough lignin fibres in the outer part of the stem, and can easily be removed with a peeler. Otherwise, eat your broccoli as soon as you can.

It is delicious and tender and needs very little cooking. The flavour is milder if boiled or steamed than if fried/roasted. Think sweet and mild with a delightfully yielding texture. It might be a cabbage cousin but it has none of the unpleasant bitter or flabby dishwater flavour of overcooked sprouts or cabbage.

All varieties of broccoli have a predilection for salty ingredients, hence popular pairings with blue or hard cheeses, salted anchovies and bacon. Chilli and garlic is another great accompaniment and crunchy peanut butter was made for broccoli:

Gado gado salad: for odds and ends of vegetables

  • Roast 200g skinned peanuts at 190’C 6-8 mins.
  • Cool then grind ’til smooth.
  • Add 50ml soy sauce, 2tbsp brown sugar, juice of half lime, chilli to taste and 2 crushed fried garlic cloves (fried with 2-3 chopped shallots or a small onion.
  •  Whiz ’til smooth. Add 400ml coconut milk. Whiz again.
  • Use to dress a combination of raw and cooked vegetables eg cooked spuds, raw matchsticks of carrot, raw florets of cauliflower and steamed greens

Broccoli noodles

  • stir fry small shoots with finely chopped garlic and ginger
  • add oyster sauce, and
  • serve with egg noodles

On toast

  • lots of broccoli steamed and tossed in olive oil, salt, chili and lemon juice
  • served on good toast, rubbed with a garlic clove and maybe a poached egg on top.

Pasta

Or as above but tossed around pasta (finely chop the garlic clove and mix well)- chopped anchovy and grated parmesan are great additions.

 

Or simply steamed and served with lemon and butter, black pepper and salt or hollandaise sauce.

 

Sources:

  • McGee – food and cooking
  • Segnit– the flavour thesaurus

 

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February: Parsnip

Parsnip is earthy and sweet with gently distinct flavours of parsley, nutmeg and pine and a soft, fudgy texture when cooked. It is versatile, working in both sweet and savoury dishes.

It goes with:

  • aniseed (eg fennel/fennel seeds/tarragon)
  • salty foods eg parmesan and stilton
  • nutmeg/ginger/clove/caraway
  • walnut
  • watercress (you get a good balance of crisp, clean pepperiness and soft sweet spiciness)
  • peas (they have some similar flavour molecules in common)

Pastinaca sativa is from the umbellifer family (having umbrella-shaped flower heads, like fennel, parsley, carrots cumin etc), is native to Eurasia and grows wild all over South-East England, especially on chalky/limestone wasteland. If you spot its yellow flowers, mark it and you can dig up the roots once the foliage has died back and the root has softened in the frost. Parsnips can be domesticated within a decade by simply moving wild roots to richer soil and selecting seeds from the larger examples.

They accumulate more starch than carrots and convert it to sugars when exposed to cold temperatures, which is why winter roots are sweeter than autumn roots. The parsnip is richer in vitamins and minerals than the carrot, being particularly rich in potassium. They were known to Greeks and Romans, though the Romans didn’t seem to distinguish them from carrots. It was an important staple until the introduction of the potato. The version we know today was developed in the Middle Ages. Before sugar became cheap they were used to make cakes and jams in Britain. During WW2 they were eaten as mock bananas. Try roasting them with a bit of rum, brown sugar and clove.

Recipes

Parsnip and primrose pie

Boil and drain about 1.5 kg parsnips and press them through a sieve. To about a pint of this add a tablespoon of honey, a couple of pinches of nutmeg and ginger. Beat in the rind and juice of 2 lemons and one egg yolk. Line a flan tin with thin pastry and fill with the mixture. Make a lattice with any cut trimmings and bake until golden brown (start with half hour at 190’C). If using egg, beat the white, sweeten it and pile around the edge of the flan. Return to the cooling oven to set. Serve cold, garnished with primroses. A very pretty country dish.

Chips

Scrub parsnips (peel if you have time and want a more absorbent and therefore crispy skin) and chop into any size you like. Bring to the boil and boil 2 – 5 mins depending on size. Drain well, then roast in a hot oven in oil for 30 mins, shaking pan occasionally to move them around. They don’t want to be tightly packed. It’ll mean they sweat, instead of crisping.

Soup for 4

Gently fry 2 medium chopped onions ’til golden-brown (see variations for additions at this stage) After a minute add 3-4 scrubbed, chopped parsnips (or mixture of parsnip and potato) and then stock or water to cover and salt and pepper. Simmer ’til tender.

Variations: add either a handful of finely chopped parsley stalks/1 tsp caraway/ 2 tsp curry powder (or your own combination of favoured ground curry spices. You can also add nothing at this stage but stir in a couple of spoonfuls of chopped or crumbled stilton or cream just before serving.

Patties

Boil, drain and mash parsnips with a little flour, a pinch of nutmeg, a lump of butter, pepper and salt and form into small, flat cakes an inch high. Leave to stand and cool, so they hold together better. When cool (optional: dip these into beaten egg and then breadcrumbs and) fry in oil, lard or dripping, til brown. Good with harissa (on the side or mixed in) or parmesan (grated/shaved and mixed in or added on top) and some crunchy bitterish salad leaves.

Parsnip wine

One of the oldest English wines – requires a wine cask. Scrub, chop and boil 2kg parsnips gently in 4l for about 25 minutes (with a little whole spice if liked), Strain and add 1.5kg demerara sugar to the liquid. When the liquid is lukewarm, float on it a slice of toast spread with 1 tbsp fresh yeast. Let it ferment 36 hours (time depends on weather). Then turn it into a cask which it should fill. As soon as fermentation ceases, bung securely and leave for 6 months unmoved. Transfer to bottles, during a frost. Store 12 months before using. Improves up to 10 years.

 

Sources:

  • McGee Food and Cooking
  • Hartley Food in England
  • Segnit The Flavour Thesauraus