Curried parsnip soup is just what we need for the cold-dark months – nourishing, comforting, and just a little bit spicey. I’ve made it for years, following recipes from several books, mainly Jane Grigson’s classic Vegetable Book, and The Goodness of Potatoes and Root Vegetables by John Midgley. Here is my version.
1 Kg parsnip, cleaned and cut into large lumps
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
a clove or two of garlic, chopped fine
1 litre stock
150 ml cream
2 tbs butter, heaped
1 tbs flour
1 or 2 tbs garam masala
ground chili to taste
Boil the parsnip until it softens a bit, then drain and let it cool. Now you should be able to lift the skin off easily with a sharp knife. Cut into smaller lumps and combine with the onion, garlic and butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Fry gently, with the lid on for about ten minutes, then add the flour and spices. Fry for another couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, then slowly add the stock and leave it to cook. When the parsnip is really tender, purée it, warm it up again and add the cream. Serve garnished with parsley, chives, or coriander.
Simple way to keep root crops fresh and safe through the winter.
How can you keep root crops like carrots and beetroot fresh and crisp until the middle of winter? A friend from Ash Road Allotments told me how: a mini root cellar. It is just a large flower pot sunk into the ground in a sheltered place, maybe a greenhouse. You layer dry sieved leaf mould or spent potting compost with roots. This protects them from frost or drying out.
Dig them out when you need them and just clean them off a bit. They are ready to use.
A simple but comforting bake of pumpkin, potatoes and cheese.
This works with many kinds of pumpkin and winter squash, including Butternut and Golden Hubbard – my current favourite. The inspiration came from Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book We have been making it for many years, adapting it to our own taste.
About 1 Kg pumpkin flesh
400g or so of potato, peeled and chopped
A good lump of butter, or a mix of butter and olive oil
About 150g of grated Gruyère plus some Parmesan.
Boil the potatoes and pumpkin flesh* until they are soft and drain them well. Add the butter/oil, the eggs and most of the grated cheese and mash them all together. Tip the mixture into an oven dish, scatter the rest of the cheese over the top with some dots of butter, to help it brown. Bake in a medium hot oven until the top is brown and golden.
*Butternut squash has very thin skin which comes off easily with a peeler, but some pumpkins have quite tough skin. You can cut these into large chunks, take out the seeds and stringy bits and bake the chunks until they are soft. Then the flesh can be scooped out easily and added to the cooked potatoes for mashing.
A versatile Finnish cake with apples or other fruit.
This versatile recipe for an Finnish apple cake was published in 1978 by the Leeds branch of the National Childbirth Trust in a little booklet called Growing Up With Good Food. The booklet was a collection of recipes from Leeds mothers, edited by Catherine Lewis. We still occasionally use our old copy, now dog-eared and food-stained.
Rahkomenakakku has been a long time favourite in our family.
I’ve tried several recipes for fennel, and my current favorite comes from our ancient copy of Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book. It is very simple, and simply delicious.
Some heads of fennel
Quarter the heads of fennel and boil them in salted water until they are just tender – neither crisp nor mushy. Drain them and lay in a generously buttered oven dish. Grate Parmesan over them along with plenty of black pepper. Bake them at 200deg C until they are bubbling in buttery juice and the Parmesan is golden.
Occasionally I manage to grow some good cauliflowers, and when I do I appreciate these two simple recipes. I call both of them “cauliflower a la Grecque” – my versions of French versions of real Greek cooking. They do actually taste very good even though they may not be strictly authentic.
Part of the trick of cooking cauliflower is to catch them just as they soften, but before they go mushy. Your nose can help here. You get to recognize the the change of smell when they are done.
A cauliflower, broken into florets
Olive oil: two measures
Lemon juice: one measure
Prepare a dressing in a bowl by whisking together the olive oil and lemon juice – just enough for the amount of cauli you have. Steam the cauliflower in a covered pan with just a bit of water until it softens, and drain it. Add the florets to the bowl and gently mix with the dressing. Serve either warm or cold.
Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce
A cauliflower, broken into florets
I like to make enough tomato sauce to have some left over for dishes like this. Tomato sauce made with onions, garlic and oregano works well, but other sorts are good too. Just add the florets to a pan with enough sauce to cover them when you mix them together. You may need to water the sauce down a bit to stop it sticking and burning. Cover the pan and steam until the cauliflower is just done. Serve hot.
Jenny Ward brought this amazing Persian dish to one of our autumn shows, where it was quickly polished off. Not only is it delicious, but it also uses up lots of courgettes – just the sort of recipe we need!
500g of courgettes – in 5mm slices
1 small onion, finely chopped
Handful of dill and parsley, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 tbsp olive oil
Fry the onions in 2tbsp olive oil until soft. Remove from the pan. Then fry the courgettes in batches until coloured and remove from the pan. Add more oil if needed. Whisk the eggs and milk in a bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients. Pour the mixture into the pan, and cook on a low light. Finish off under the grill to brown the top.
We discovered this way of doing broad beans so long ago that we can’t find the original recipe. I think it is a Greek. Anyway it is delicious and very simple if your broad beans are still young and tender.
If your broad beans are still young enough, just steam them in a bit of water until tender – only a couple of minutes – and drain them. Make a bit of dressing of olive oil and lemon juice in a serving bowl and tip in the broad beans and stir them in. If the skin of your broad beans has started to get tough you may want to go to the trouble of skinning them.
I find myself giving my beans a gentle squeeze to judge if they are ready to pick. This can be especially useful when there are lots of leaves in the way so that you can’t see the beans clearly.
Broad Beans: I especially like them when the beans are still tender and not too big. You can feel them through the skin of the pod. As the beans mature and start to get tough the pods develop a smooth, hard surface.
Green Beans: French beans and runner beans for eating green are best before the beans inside start to swell and the pods become stringy.
Dried Beans: Beans for drying, Borlotties for example, get a papery feel to the pods when the beans inside are nice and dry.