WHAT'S YOUR EXCUSE?
How are we going to feed ourselves this year? Forget junk food. Forget superfoods. Forget adverts, tellycooks and health gurus. They're all after our money, whether they know it or not.
A tasty meal can be so simple. You've heard it here before: simple quality veg does not need to be expensive; it does not need sauces, or lots of work. So what's your excuse to still buy good-looking but flavourless veg from Tesco's or Sainsbury's?
- Lack of money? Say goodbye to the middleman and buy at farmers markets: see www.somersetfarmersmarkets.co.uk.
- Lack of time? Find a box scheme at http://vegbox-recipes.co.uk/veg-boxes/find-a-box-scheme.php?county=Somerset or see Merrick's www.merricksorganicfarm.co.uk / 01458 252901, Riverford www.riverford.co.uk / 01803 762059, or Abel and Cole www.abelandcole.co.uk / 08452 62 62 62.
- Lack of space? www.verticalveg.org.uk/about-2 shows you can grow food anywhere. In containers, hanging baskets, on balconies, on window sills.
- Lack of time and money? Box schemes again: http://vegbox-recipes.co.uk/veg-boxes/find-a-box-scheme.php?county=Somerset. And by the way, look at http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com.
- Lack of transport? Order online at www.localfooddirect.co.uk/, or ring 01458 830801 for Somerset Local Food Direct, a community business run by local producers, so as well as buying fresh and delicious food, you'll also be helping the local economy.
- If you have time but no money, you could join the Lets - Local Exchange Trading System - and barter your way to more than just homegrown veg (www.core-energy.co.uk/ysslets.html). And you might also find this interesting: http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com.
If the weather is suitable: early peas, broad beans. Apple trees, if the weather isn't too severe and the ground not waterlogged or frozen.
Veg: beet, broccoli, brussels, cabbage, carrots, chard, celeriac, kale, leek, parsnip,
potato, pumpkin, rocket, spinach, swede, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, chicory, celery, corn salad, endive, kohlrabi, salsify, winter purslane.
Meat: goose, mallard, partridge, pheasant, venison.
Fish: bib, cockles, crab, dab, flounder, lobster, mackerel, oysters, pollack, scallops, whiting.
If you're bored and want to do something outside, www.gardenorganic.org.uk
is the place to look for "what to do" in your veg, fruit or herb garden at this time of the year.
Carrots - delicious roasted. Just chop into big pieces, toss in olive oil in a roasting tray with whole unpeeled garlic cloves and some cumin seeds. Roast until caramelised and golden. Carrots are also ideal in a root veg mash. Cook any roots (celeriac, parsnips, swede) until tender, drain, mash together with plenty of butter, salt and pepper.
LENTIL and SQUASH SOUP for 6.
500g squash, 170g lentils, 1 chopped onion, 1/2 tsp tomato puree, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped celery, 60ml dry white wine, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp curry powder, 1 minced garlic clove, 1 bay leaf, 1.3l water.
Peel, deseed and chop squash. Simmer all ingredients until they are tender, stirring occasionally, 45 mins. Thin soup with more water if necessary. Season.
FRIED KALE with SESAME and GARLIC serves 3. Good with roast chicken and goose.
200g kale, 2 tblsp sesame seeds, olive oil, 3 finely sliced garlic cloves, sea salt, pepper, lemon juice.
Chop kale into 1cm wide ribbons, discarding stringy stems. Toast seeds until golden, stirring often. Turn up the heat, add 2 tblsp of olive oil before throwing in the kale. Stir, occasionally flicking in some water to keep the moisture content up. After 2 mins, throw in garlic. Keep everything moving for another 3 mins, until the garlic just begins to brown. Transfer to plate and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
CABBAGE, CHEESE and APPLE CASSEROLE for 6.
1/4 cup butter, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped head cabbage, 3 sliced tart apples, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/4 cup milk, 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar.
Melt butter, add onion, cabbage, apples, salt and pepper and sautee for 10 mins. Add milk and cheese, mix. Pour into dish, cover, bake at 180°C for 30 mins. Uncover and bake for 10 more mins. With cooked potatoes.
PARSONAGE PHEASANT without oven.
A plucked or skinned pheasant, beetroot, apples, onion, thyme, bay leaves, salt.
Joint pheasant, rub in salt, fry till it browns. Add thyme, bay, grated beetroot, sliced apples, sliced onion and some water. Let simmer for about an hour, a big one might need a bit more time.
Turn the pieces every so often and spoon the cooking juice over. Lovely with kale.
SWEDE with BUTTER and STOCK
500g swede, 35g butter, 500ml stock.
Cut swede into 1cm pieces. Melt butter, add swede. Stir so they get coloured all round: then pour in stock and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 mins until you can squash them with a fork. The liquid is then a buttery juice. Season, serve straightaway.
QUICK BEET, CARROT AND EGG for one.
1 small beet, 2 small- to medium-sized carrots, garlic cloves, egg, oil.
Grate beets raw (use cooked ones if you like). Grate carrots, dice garlic. Heat water to poach the egg. Saute beet for a few mins, then add garlic and grated carrot. Cook 2 more mins, while poaching an egg. Put beet-carrot mix on a plate, top with egg. Add salt, pepper. To fill it out you can add some heated sweetcorn.
SPINACH and BEANS
200g cooked butterbeans, cannellini or chickpeas, 2 tblsp olive oil, 1 onion, 2 cloves garlic, 300g spinach leaves, salt, pepper, ¼ tsp ground cumin seeds, ¼ tsp ground coriander seeds.
Chop onion and crush garlic. Gently sauté both until soft. Add coriander and cumin and sauté for 2 more mins. Add beans to the mixture and heat through. Add spinach, cover and cook for 2 mins until the spinach has wilted. Season.
CREAMY PARSNIP AND SQUASH BAKE
500g parsnips, 500g butternut squash, 450ml double cream, 1 small finely chopped onion, thyme, butter, 25g grated mature cheese.
Put cream, onion, thyme into pan. Slowly heat to just below boiling, remove from heat, leave to cool. Heat oven to 160°C. Butter a dish. Thinly slice parsnips and peeled, deseeded squash. Layer both in dish, put herby cream on top, scatter with cheese. Bake for 1 hr.
KOHLRABI, POTATO and SPINACH GRATIN serves 6
500g kohlrabi cut into 3mm thick rounds, 200g spinach cut up if large, 250g potatoes cut into 3mm rounds, 600g onions, 200ml double cream, 1 tbsp sunflower oil, butter, salt, pepper, 2 tsp thyme, 200ml water, 1 tbsp chopped parsley. Topping: 60g breadcrumbs, 25g melted butter, 40g grated cheddar or hard goat's cheese.
Preheat oven to 190°C. Sauté sliced onion until soft and starting to take on a little colour. Throw in kohlrabi, potatoes and thyme, season generously. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 mins. Uncover, add spinach, parsley, cream, water, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by half. Place in buttered dish. Mix crumbs, butter and cheese, sprinkle over top. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
*********NEXT ISSUE: Strange foods.
OYEZ OYEZ: this time of year there are plenty of courses and training days, locally, about food and the growing of it: see http://incredible-edible-somerset.ning.com/.