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Yummy mummy!
winter vegetables, simple and delicious

Apart from the rain, the only good thing about winter is comfort food and especially winter vegetables. It can be as simple as sweet carrots, steamed or boiled tossed through masses of chopped parsley and butter, salt and pepper or you can go one step further and put them in a light béchamel. Add some corned beef or grilled fish and it is gorgeous. Cabbage and fennel are both really fantastic in béchamel and both at their local best this time of the year. Boiled cabbage was given such a terrible reputation, but lightly cooked, well drained and tossed through, butter, salt, pepper and a little white wine vinegar it is really terrific.
Everyone loves roast vegetables and you need to make plenty because everyone always wants seconds. Anything left over (if you’re lucky) can be put into a light stock the next day, pureed and turned into a good soup.
We love the Silpat brand silicone baking sheets. They are so much more environmentally friendly than using screeds of baking parchment and as proof of their longevity; some of mine are at least eight years old. Rewarmed mash is a pet hate unless it is fried in screeds of butter until it is crunchy and brown and served as bubble and squeak. Left over mash can be vacced or frozen and is very handy for thickening instant soups of the very best kind. If you are lucky enough to have a Thermomix or MyCook you can put all your left over cooked veg into it, add some stock heat through and puree, or you can put everything into a saucepan, heat through and puree with a stick mixer. Pumpkin soup has to be the most denigrated of all soups, but if the pumpkin is roasted through EV olive oil, seasoned well and roasted and then added to chicken or vegetable stock it is still one of the best soups. We also make a very nice version embellished with African Berbere spices and served with a garnish of crushed roasted peanuts.

We have also been doing a lot of experimentation with cooking vegetables sous–vide and have been working with two types of slow cookers to get an approximation of the commercial sous–vide machines. One of the very great advantages of the home or commercial vac machine is that one can get ahead and in the instance where there is a single oven being able to cook the veg sous–vide, set a time and forget about it has obvious advantages. Hopefully it won’t be that long before small electrical appliance companies make temperature controlled slow cookers with rapid heat recovery for the somestic market and then we’ll be able to share these techniques with the broader public. At the moment we are finding big differences between the low temperatures of two brands of slow cookers which makes it exceedingly hard to write accurate recipes.
Last but not least Brussel Sprouts are back in fashion, not that they were ever out with us, blanched and tossed through EV olive oil, or butter, or a mixture of both, salt pepper, lemon juice and freshly grated nutmeg they are heaven. The smaller the better and always cross score the stem end it helps them to cook evenly.

Roast Vegetables
Good for carrots, young parsnips, turnips

EV olive oil, melted butter or ghee (go easy on the salt if you are using ghee)
honey, molten either in the microwave or on the stovetop
Maldon sea salt
black pepper, freshly ground
peeled (if they need it) and prepared vegetables

pre heat oven to 200°
Put on a large pot of water and add a generous amount of salt and bring it to the boil. In the meantime put a little honey and butter into a stainless steel bowl and sit it over the pot. When the water comes to the boil, blanche the vegetables for about three minutes or until the tip of a butter knife will go into the veg for about 2mm without resistance. Drain and add to the butter and honey, season well with salt and pepper and toss over. Cover a lipped baking sheet with a silicone mat or baking paper and slide the vegetables onto it.
Cook for 30 minutes, turn over and cook for another 30 minutes (longer if they are not cooked). They should be nicely caramelised. Pick up the mat/paper and slide them onto a warmed serving plate and serve.

Roast potatoes can be done in the same way but if you can manage the last 30 minutes at 220°C they will have more crunch.

Everyone ends up with odds and sods of vegetables left in the fridge and this savoury crumble is a great way of serving them to acclaim. Just remember when you are cooking the vegetables to put them in to cook in the proper progression, meaning the veg that take the longest to cook go in first. If you are adding peas or similar veg that will cook rapidly add them when you have taken the vegetables off of the heat. The parmesan crumble can be made entirely in advance.
The vegetables can be blanched and put into béchamel, then covered with the crumble topping, or sautéed with a little stock or cream and then covered with the crumble topping. Done with the béchamel and served with a green salad it makes a very easy and tasty winter lunch.

Parmesan crumble
This vacs well, or can be keep for about two weeks in an airtight container and is very handy to have in the fridge

300g/600g strong flour
200g/400g finely grated Parmesan Pecorino
black pepper freshly ground
handful of herbs, stalked and roughly chopped
150g/300g salted butter

Put the flour, cheese and pepper into a food processor, mix on pulse and with the motor running add the butter down the feed tube. Use as required.

pre heat oven to 175°C
Scatter some of the fine crumbs over the vegetables and cover the top with big lumps made by firmly pressing the mixture together. Cook until golden.

tips — the parmesan pecorino cheese mix is available from most continental stores. It is quite salty so if you use salted butter there is sufficient seasoning but if you are using unsalted butter add a little sea salt.