Friday, 29 November 2013

Week 41- Back to my roots!

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...

OK- enough.

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.
Allow them to cool for 5 minutes before serving- sprinkle with some more salt and pepper and serve with dips ( take a look back at blogpost 'Mexican Lucky' or search in the cloud above for 'salsa') for an idea.

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.
Celeriac gratin

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!

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