Rooting Around - in and out of the garden

Spring is surely on its way when the sun shines!
I've been outside today, walking around the whole of our plot, delighting in the sunshine. It's relatively warm and gone for the moment at least are the grey skies. How good it feels; for what with all the rain and earlier heavy frosts and snow covering, I've been working indoors for almost two months now. At least it's given me time to catch up on reading and also allowed me to play around in the kitchen, trialing recipes and ways of preparing those vegetables we managed to store last Autumn. So this post offers some basic ideas for using roots: carrots, swedes, turnips, parsnips – if you have none stored, at least they are cheap to buy.
Use from your own store of winter veg, or resort to the supermarket if stocks are low
If your Carrots are by now tired and horny, serve them this way (a tasty dish I discovered many years ago at The Willow Reaturant in North Yorkshire's Pateley Bridge). Cut carrots into small pieces, boil until soft, then mash (or whirr quickly in a food processor) with a seasoning of grated nutmeg; place into  an oven-proof dish, dot with butter and re-heat in a hot oven. Swedes and Turnips have a very powerful flavour not much liked by children, and can be wet and sloppy if over-boiled. Nevertheless, they impart a delicious flavour to soups and stock, or can be mashed together with plenty of pepper, or mixed with carrots finished as at the ‘Willow’. Parsnips, too, are often eschewed by children, but again are delicious mashed, alone or with carrots. I like to mix roughly chopped carrots and parsnips with a little cream, as if I was preparing mashed potato, but leaving the chunks. Nutmeg is good with this mixture, too.

Soups are a useful lunch standby for they can be made in advance and reheated when needed. And the beauty of many  recipes is that you can vary them according to whatever vegetables you have available, and make them thick as potage, thin and delicate as consommé, heartily chunky or smooth and creamy. Be adventurous, and get hold of a copy of ‘Soup Glorious Soup’, by Annie Bell (Kyle Cathie, 2010; ISBN 978-1-85626-913-1) and you’ll be using it throughout the year – and not just with humble roots. Over 100 recipes will take you through all four seasons, for soup truly is the ultimate comfort food, so versatile and not restricted to just the British way of thinking.

Useful, too – in kitchen or garden – is Mathew Bigg’s recently revised ‘Complete Book of Vegetables’ (Kyle Cathie, 2010; ISBN 978-1-85626-974-2) where “the ordinary mingles with the extraordinary”. An A-Z guide to vegetables, with practical considerations as well; it will encourage you to try growing all sorts of produce this year. A bonus for both new and experienced gardeners is the welcome nutritional advice – and plenty of delicious recipes. 

And as we're talking about growing and using your own produce, take a look at details of the forthcoming 'Edible Garden Show' to be held at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry in mid-March.
Finally, don't forget: if you haven't already done so, to check the root vegetable varieties - and others - that you wish to sow in 2011. Click here to go to the Dobies seed catalogue; you'll find the growing advice and nutritional information useful as well.

(This post written by contributor, Ann Somerset Miles.)

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