I don't know whether they release a pheromone into the air at the beginning of December- one that makes you start craving spice and citrus, brassicas and root veg- but I'm definitely susceptible to it.
Having a birthday in December has always made that month special for me- so many childhood tastes, smells and expectations. So, in common with Baldrick, I find myself getting excited when I see all the delicious root vegetables stacking up on the shelves when I'm shopping.
This is the season for cabbages and kale, sweet potatoes and swede , turnips and 'taters, parsnips, celeriac and carrots...
This week's menu (I expect you've guessed) makes the most of the season's root veg: sweet potato and parsnip crisps with spicy dip followed by a celeriac gratin (with or without meat to accompany it) and finished off with a carrot and walnut cake with cream cheese topping.
Also, all of these dishes freeze well and can be brought out to the Christmas table next month.
|Sweet potato and parsnip crisps|
For the starter- sweet potato and parsnip crisps- a mandoline was recommended to produce the fine rondelles needed. I also experimented with a sharp knife and a food processor and - depending on the thickness of your sweet potato, either of these will do fine if you don't have a mandoline.
The main thing is to keep your slices as thin as possible, and as consistent.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.
Scrub your veg but don't peel unless there are obvious blemishes.
Slice as thinly on the round as you can- with a knife, mandoline or processor.
Coat in a bowl with olive oil, fleur de sel, ground pepper and dried rosemary or thyme.
Line two large baking trays with greased foil and lay the rondelles out in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes or so, watch them to see if they begin to over-colour. You want them to curl up at the edges and brown evenly but not burn.
These crisps will freeze well in a plastic container. When you are ready to use them, spread them out on a baking tray again and warm through until crispy.
Main course uses that ugly but scrumptious vegetable- celeriac. Think celery, meets potato, meets 'Day of the Doctor' and you have a celeriac.
So, any recipes that suit potatoes or celery (or even Doctor Who) go nicely.
I have made a celeriac gratin- with celeriac, creme fraiche, cheddar cheese and not much else.
Peel and thinly slice the celeriac and place in a bowl of acidulated water (water with lemon juice or white wine vinegar) to prevent browning.
When you are ready, rinse it off and put into a bowl with a small tub of creme fraiche, lots of salt and pepper, some chopped rosemary and a good handful of grated cheddar cheese.
Lay out evenly in a gratin dish and top with some more grated cheese.
Bake in a hot oven (200 degrees) until the celeriac is tender and the top is golden and bubbling.
This dish is great on its own- or with meat such as pork chops- or next day as leftovers with salmon. In fact it did us all three!
For pudding I made a carrot and walnut cake- simple sponge mix, 2 grated carrots, 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts and a teaspoon of mixed spice- mixed together and baked in a loaf tin for 25-30 minutes at 190 degrees until golden and risen- and when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool on a wire rack - and then decorate with cream cheese frosting ( a small tub of cream cheese mixed with a teaspoon of vanilla essence and 1-2 tablespoons of icing sugar) and shelled walnut halves.
|Carrot and walnut cake with cream cheese frosting|
So, a three course meal using an assortment of root vegetables.
Not expensive, nicely flavoured November nosh!