The cold weather brings us an abundance of root vegetables and harvesting them young is a great way to enjoy them.
Root vegetables are somewhat overlooked. Maybe it is their rough exterior or cheap price but they seem to have fallen by the wayside in terms of being rated as highly nutritious store houses available right through the winter months when little else is.
I love to sit down to a plate full of well roasted, ever so slightly crunchy baby carrots along with a perfectly roasted chicken.
Roasting naturally increases the level of sweetness already found in these underground dwellers and in baby carrots and beetroots, the sweetness level is especially high.
Parsnips, swedes (Or as the Americans oddly call them, rutabagas and is in fact an accidental cross between a turnip and a cabbage) beetroot, carrots and turnips are all available in miniature sizes that need no cutting, very little trimming and just a wee bit of oil, salt and pepper to make them delicious.
All high in Vitamin C and low in sodium they are a wonderful addition to any diet.
Look for firm fresh produce and store carrots and beetroot in the fridge for up to a week. Turnips like to be stored with your potatoes somewhere cool and dark.
A few quick cooking tips for perfect roasted vegetables
-trim only the stalks off baby beetroots and cook them unpeeled to minimise their colour leaching. The old trick of boiling beets whole, then peeling off the skin is a good one if you particularly want to get rid of the skin of larger, tougher beetroots.
-just scrub rather than peel your baby vegetables. The larger they are the woodier they become so choose the right size for your needs and peel accordingly.
-don’t crowd your root vegetables when roasting them. Allow them plenty of room to crisp up at the edges
-don’t discard those beautifully coloured leaves from the beetroot and turnip tops. They can be stir-fried with garlic and finished with a squeeze of lemon for delicious winter greens that work well with shredded red cabbage.
At this time of year other underground delights start arriving at the market such as Jerusalem artichokes and new season potatoes. The abundance of other autumn vegetables and produce to mix with your root vegetables is plentiful. Pumpkins and squash, fennel, mushrooms, pears, walnuts, radicchio, apples….. The autumn table is a delightfully flavoured and eye catching place.
One of my absolute favourite autumn recipes is Creamy Roasted Parsnip Soup.Using the finest and freshest parsnips is the key for that wonderful sweetness that works so well with woody spices such as cumin and coriander. If you are short of time or energy, skip the roasting part and place all the ingredients in to a saucepan and simmer gently till softened.
Creamy Roasted Parsnip Soup.
1 kg parsnips, peeled and cut into quarters
2 white onions, peeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, top sliced off to expose the flesh inside
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
4 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and freshly ground
4 teaspoons cumin seed, toasted and freshly ground
¼ freshly grated whole nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 200 C.
Place the parsnips, onions and garlic head in a large roasting tray with a little oil, salt and pepper.
Roast for 20 minutes or till the parsnip is just beginning to soften. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to squeeze the garlic from its skin.
In a large saucepan, heat a little more oil and add the cumin and coriander. Allow to cook for 30 seconds before adding the stock.
Add the parsnip, onion and garlic and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes or until the parsnip has totally softened.
Using a stick blender, blend the parsnip, onion and garlic to a lovely thick consistency. (This could also be done in a food processor and returned to the sauce pan)
Add the cream and blend once again.
Return to a simmer and check seasoning. Adjust as needed.
Serve in large bowls with pita or Turkish bread and piles of homemade hummus.