Perfect carrot and something juice

Juices can get complicated…this was a good blend… five large carrots, one apple, half a cucumber, one orange…

I top and tail the carrots but don’t skin, wash if I have to, trim the apple with skin on again, sometimes might use two but differrent varieties give different amounts, always skin the cucumber and the orange which is there as seasoning. All told I guess half of carrot juice a quarter of apple and one eighth each of cucumber and orange. Good morning.

The great new root vegetable riddle solved

IMG_6620.JPGI found this enormous and mysterious root vegetables in Leila’s iconic grocery shop on Calvert Avenue E2 where there was some confusion as to what it might be and wore an Italian name which now escapes all of us. A new vegetable! My Italian friends thought it might be a topinambour – jersualem artichoke – but it was far too big for that. I hacked off the outside and trimmed it up neatly. At this stage from the smell I was anticipating a subtle, elusive, tantalising  horserdash-potato cross, a kind of lesser known cousin of celeriac. The batons took some time to cook – about 25 minutes. I served them with butter. And olive oil.IMG_6624.JPG I suppose I have just come to accept that the rare and mysterious find is more usually a compact, large cricket ball variation that looks like a vegan sentry or ammunition for a howitzer

The answer, disappointinlgy, is here  but thanks to Ian Neale for providing the evidence.

What to do with celery…

IMG_0318THERE is always too much celery. It needs some attention. It is the needy child in the kitchen. You can serve it with cheese or as a base for canapés but that is a bit retro for me.

Celery’s greatest virtue is as part of the base for any soup. It is a fast flavour enhancer. It is the cheat’s vegan stock and gives body. Celery+cauliflower+chickpeas = a result. It is of course a fine soup in its own right and will also mingle well with blue cheese on top. You just have to strain it so you don’t get any wiry bits.

It can also roast around a chicken, with a little cider for luxury.

Raw it benefits from being disguised with elegant shaving off a mandolin (or a potato peeler) perhaps combined with fennel (which is also good in broth and soup) and dressed with lemon and evo. Or more complex nuts, pomegranates, herbs and bulgur wheat. Or for fun its root (celeriac)

Most famously it is an essential part of a waldorf salad – mixed with white cabbage, apple, grapes, walnuts, mayonnaise and a few extra splashes of cider vinegar. The Thai variation uses the celery as base for a vibrant sauce of chilli, peanuts.

The leaves are powerful herbs, used sparingly. The seeds too are useful. I have seen recipes where they are preserved in cognac for a couple of weeks and then used to spruce of soups and casseroles.

Braised is a good surprise, on its own or perhaps with onion and carrot or other root, just saute in butter for five minutes, then cover with broth or stock or wine even and let it cook down…serve with just a little sauce on top.



Winter fruit salads


THE strange luxury at this time of year are the quality of the winter fruit we get in London markets. You can struggle to find  ripe peach all the year around but if you want the smoothness of papaya, the sharpness of pomegranate, the juice of the water melon..

There is an ambivalence about fruit as regards its fructose (and whether it is ripe or not at all) but the answer is breakfast, an irresitable smash of colour, like this simple assembly above which is just papaya, pomegranate and satsuma.

A slightly more  complicated variation is thisimg_3755With grapes, blackberries, red grapefruit, lychees and raspberries. Well hey, it was christmas.

Fair game..broth with lentils, roots, kale and chestnuts


THERE are usually plentiful game birds – pheasant, partridge, pigeon etc – in the farmers market around now and typically they are cheap. I bought four partridge for £10 where four mince patties for burgers were £6. Of course you can roast the birds and use the carcass for the recipes below but you get more flavour if you poach them and work on the broth. I am going to post two recipes from the same base, although you probably might not guess they were even of the same family. In all I got about 20 portions.

Swedes, parsnips and celeriac all come in pretty big sizes now too, so it is not so wasteful discarding the first batch from the broth, although if you bought the beef patties, you could use them as simmered vegetables to go with. (My mum always maintained burgers were Russian anyway and would serve the meat panfried with some mushrooms sweated in butter and finished with a dollop of creme fraiche).

I am not sure if this is a stew or a soup, take your pick…

Game broth with lentils, roots, kale and chestnuts

2 partridges, I large leek, 1 large parsnip, half a large celeriac, half a swede,I large carrot, I bunch parsley

Cover the birds with cold water in a large pan and bring to a simmer. Trim half the vegetables, neatly if you are going to serve, roughly if you not. Keep the skins if they are clean. We will use the other half for the soup.  As the water comes to a bubble, add in the vegetables. Just take the roots off the parsley and keep the leaves for garnish. Simmer 20 minutes. Lift out the partridges and let cool for a few moments. Carve off the breasts and set aside and return the rest to the broth and vegetables. Simmer covered for an hour.

Split the broth into two pans. Discard the vegetables and the bones.

2 litres of broth from above, 100g lentils, 100g chestnuts vacuum packed, leftover vegetables from above, 2 stalks kale

Cover the base of the pan with a layer of lentils. Add the broth and the chestnuts and bring to a boil. Trim the leftover halves of parsnip, celeriac, carrot and swede into neat cubes. Take two of the partridge breasts and dice small. Add all to the broth and simmer 20 minutes. Trim the stalk off the kale and massage in your hands and mix in for another five minutes.

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb…

IMG_0020IMG_0267IMG_0022THIS time of the year, rhubarb is a boon bringing a fresh sourness to the kitchen and hit of vitamins…like the chicory  – see below –  it was developed in enforced darkness in sheds in an area of west Yorkshire around Wakefield known as the rhubarb triangle which now enjoys PDI status. After two years and a frost the plants are moved indoors where the warmth allows their bitter-sweetness to develop. Originally the plant is thought to come from Siberia. These days it is thought of as a vegetable in Europe but a fruit in the USA. I have seen it used as a sauce for salmon, but usually we  keep it for breakfast, poached with rather too much water because it makes a fabulous drink cold out of the fridge, perhaps a touch of sugar although forced rhubarb is sweeter than summer crops, so not necessary. Just cook long enough until it blooms like this. You can use the strained base for a crumble. Or just custard by way of desserts. In Chinese medicine it is classified as a laxative. It has few calories and a notable array of B vitamins.IMG_0025

Braised chicory


CHIC-chic-chicory does not always have to be a salad. In winter it can also come warm. Wrapped in air dried ham with a béchamel is a man in course but as a vegetable its bitterness makes an interesting contrast with say chicken or indeed other things on a plate. Here I have quartered it lengthwise and simmered with covered with a glass of water and a goodly knob of Dutch butter for 20 minutes or so…

According to wiki it used to be a common roadside weed, although I cannot remember any growing down our street. It has some lovely alternative names like blue sailors, succory and bachelor’s buttons from its blue flowers. But what we get in the shops is technically Belgian endive (witloof) which are grown underground, a technique developed by accident at the botanical gardens Brussels in the 1850s. Texts confuse the whole chicory family which are quite different gastronomically from raddichio or puntarella at one extreme to witloof here. But it is an old food. Horace mentions: “Me pascunt olivae, me cichorea, me malvae” – bring me olives, chicory and mallow leaves…

Plums, poached for breakfast


Poached plums are an easy breakfast and also an easy way to ensure that they have develop their alkalinity with a little teasing heat if they are not quite ripe which in this country (England) is not very often. Shame because a ripe plum is a marvellous thing.

The trick is not to use too much water. Just wash, cut in halves and dampen with a few tablespoons of water. You can use agave if you feel the need to sweeten. Bring to a heat and wait a few minutes – probably five or so – for the plums to burst. Take off the heat and transfer to a bowl and the fridge to chill. Serve with yoghurt.