Wednesday, 3 February 2016

'Forgotten Vegetables'

The 25th January has come and gone for another year- and again we found ourselves celebrating Burns Night with French friends: this time in the Auvergne.

Although last year's Haggis Parmentier and whisky went down well in the South of France, this year the traditional triumvirate of haggis, neeps and tatties enjoyed even greater favour with our fellow Lavoutaises.* This is partly because the local hearty food is not dissimilar in many ways.

Gourmets from other parts of France, dismiss the cuisine of the Auvergne as 'peasant food' but, as a good Burns Supper shows, humble dishes should not be underrated.

In fact, vegetables like turnips, swede, squashes and heritage carrots are becoming very popular and indeed a bit trendy.
A stall at my local market in fashionable Cassis specialises in what are called 'forgotten vegetables'(legumes oublies), and they feature on many a restaurant menu in the expensive little streets of the port.

For Burns Night, I refined my Parmentier dish of last year by making individual portions in little dishes- just haggis, topped with mashed potato and grated emmental cheese and baked in the oven until golden- but well received.

Individual dishes of haggis

Topped with mashed potato and grated Emmental

Individual Haggis Parmentier
I accompanied these with purees of carrot and swede.

All three of these purees can enjoy a bit of an Auvergne makeover- the local speciality is Aligot- a delicious combination of mashed potato and Tomme cheese ( which is stretchy, creamy and slightly tart like a good Mozzarella). You can make this from scratch ( as in the recipe below) or use the cheese to jazz up leftover mashed potato by beating it in as you reheat.


Bring peeled mashing potatoes (like Maris Piper) to the boil, and then simmer until tender.
Drain and add a splash of milk, a knob of butter, salt and pepper, a grating of nutmeg and 125g of Tomme fraiche, cut into small pieces.

Beat in vigorously with a wooden spoon until the cheese has melted and the mixture beomes sticky and stretchy- it is ready to serve.

Carrots are another simple veg that can be made glorious with a few added ingredients- boil them until tender in stock rather than water, drain, add a knob of butter, plenty of salt and pepper and a good splash of cream. Puree in a food processor, adjust seasoning and serve.

Vibrant carrot puree

Swede are known as rutabagas or navets suedois (Swedish turnips) in France and until recently were very difficult to find (other than as animal fodder!) They are now having a bit of a renaissance - and I found a recipe which marries them with apple.

Swede and apple- a marriage made in heaven
The combination is excellent and you should try it.
Just slice and boil your veg and fruit, drain, mash with a potato masher and season with plenty of salt and pepper.

I came back with quite a haul of 'forgotten veg' last Friday from the market, and used them in a variety of ways.
My veggie basket
Firstly, I roasted them all in the oven for about an hour at 180 degrees ( peeled and chopped into even sized pieces, tossed in a little olive oil along with plenty of salt and pepper and 4-5 whole garlic cloves).
A colourful trayful
A lovely accompaniment to meat dishes.

Oven roasted 'forgotten' veg

The colourful leftovers went firstly into a soup, not unlike the Clapshot Soup I've featured after Burns Night before. Beware of using purple carrots in leftover dishes though as they do turn things a funny colour!
Clapshot Soup

I also made a Squash Risotto:

You need- leftover roasted squash (abut 150-200g), 200g short grain or risotto rice, 1 litre hot chicken or vegetable stock, 1 glass white wine, 2 leeks or small bunch of spring onions, 1 clove of garlic- crushed, 50g Boursin or other cream cheese with herbs.
Soften the garlic and leeks/onions in some olive oil.
Stir in the rice to coat the grains with oil.
Pour in the wine and bubble.
Add ladlefuls of hot stock as the mixture begins to dry- stir in and continue until the rice is tender
( about 15 minutes).

Stir in the cream cheese and serve with optional extra grated cheese (Parmesan or Emmental.)

Squash Risotto

Finally, back to haggis and I have an Auvergne version- no, although this is a hunting area, they haven't started trapping the little beasts there yet- this is a vegetarian version which uses the delicious Puy lentils from the region:

Grate 2 carrots then pulse together in a food processor- 2 shallots, 1 clove of garlic, 50 g mushrooms, a pinch each of cayenne or paprika and salt, 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, a grating of nutmeg, 2 cups of cooked Puy lentils, juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, a sprinkling of thyme and a small can kidney beans (drained and mashed). Tip into a bowl, mix in the grated carrot and add 1 egg and 50g of oats. Shape into patties and fry like little burgers.

Vegetarian Haggis- Auvergne style

Here's tae us!

* Lavoutaises is the name given to people who live in the village of Lavoute-Chilhac in the Auvergne.

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