Although it is eye-searingly bright here in Edinburgh, the temperature has dropped and I have treated myself to a morning of central heating. I don’t usually keep the heat on for myself (even though the cats stand by the gas fire with pleading, unblinking eyes) but I have got so used to the ‘balmy’, ‘warm’ upper 40s/low 50sF of the past few weeks that I have tripped the switch and am currently basking in its invisible glow.
Elsewhere in the UK towns and villages are submerged under flood waters, and further afield there is the horrendous sounding polar vortex sucking heat from air and life from an economy. So, if there is any time of year when we really need good healthy, energy-giving food to cheer us up, it is dark, frigid apologetic January. Though we tend to think of January as a barren month for food, or one legitimately given up to slow cooking, much of its frosty offerings are of the healthy and fresh kind.At this time of year in the UK we can easily find leafy dark greens of many persuasion – from crunchy pak choi and frothy-leaved cavolo nero, to slender and majestic purple sprouting broccoli. There are also mounds of orange and colour-striped winter squashes, irresistibly cheery pomegranates and deep purple cabbages to tempt us. The only downside of all this magnetically beautiful produce is that I have been keeping myself awake at night thinking of different ways to use these deeply coloured and deeply nutritious seasonal goodies. Just yesterday I bought a bundle of silky-pink forced rhubarb for the princely sum of 30 pence, marked down from £3. I have at least half a dozen things I want to do with this one slim bundle, but not a lot of free time to do so. If you are at all like me, you are similarly spellbound. We don’t need the razzmatazz of summer to get our culinary juices flowing, do we?
A remaining homegrown (well, my neighbour Warwick’s home) beetroot, ruddy skinned and really quite massive, is the inspiration for this salad. The lone beetroot had been sitting on a wooden ladder in my garage (long story), out of sight, out of mind over Christmas when I finally remembered it. One beetroot. Probably too old to use raw, not enough to actually pickle or make soup, but quite enough to muck in with other hard winter veg for a good roasting with spices. I am loving the warm spices right now, so the much-neglected caraway came out, along with its best friend cumin, followed by an elegant but sticky bottle of pomegranate molasses. I wanted something fresh with this too, so my bowl of clementines were raided and parsley was cut. I roasted the vegetables under cover for most of the cooking time to ensure they were cooked through without risk of burning, uncovering them for a final blast. I then doused it all in sticky sharp-sweet pomegranate dressing and mixed in the fresh stuff and nuts.
I served this to a group at work yesterday, and we had a slightly different version, with barberries, for supper. This salad was accompanied on both occasions by my Freekeh and Greens Soup, although we had a wicked Waitrose parmesan fougasse with our meal.
What winter vegetables are tempting you still? Are you happy with what’s available now, or are you champing at the bit for spring?
Last year: Rosemary and Thyme Chickpea Pancakes (Socca de Nice)
Two years ago: Butternut Squash and Almond Dip
Track of the week: Tamikrest – Ayitma Madjam (A fantastic ensemble from the Tuareg region in sub-Saharan Africa)
Who says winter can’t be colourful? Warm, bright vegetables, toasty nuts, sliced sunny citrus and flecks of green – all drizzled with a sticky-sharp pomegranate dressing. This is perfect with a bowl of soup for lunch. Come dinner time, add some heft with added poached and shredded chicken, cooked lentils or chickpeas, puffs of baked tofu or some slices of griddled halloumi.
Serves 4, as a side dish
Parsnips – 4
Carrots – 4
Beetroot – 1 medium
Shallots (eschallots for preference) – 8
Extra virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp
Pomegranate molasses/syrup – 2 tbsp
Caraway and cumin seeds – 1 heaped tsp each
Hazelnuts or pine nuts – 1 small handful
Clementines or small oranges – 2
Flat-leaf parsley – 2 cupped handsful, leaves only
Salt and pepper
Pomegranate molasses – 1 tbsp
Red wine vinegar or cider vinegar – 2 tsp
Maple syrup – 2 tsp (optional)
Ground cumin – ¼ – ½ tsp
Extra virgin olive oil- 3 tbsp
Salt and pepper
1. Scrub the vegetables and peel the beetroot. Cut the parsnips and carrots into batons. I topped and tailed them then cut them in half into cylinders then quartered the cylinders. For the beetroot, halve, then cut into wedges or thick slices. Peel the shallots and halve lengthways.
2. Place the vegetables into a mixing bowl and toss with the pomegranate molasses and oil. Lay the vegetables in a single layer onto a foil-lined baking sheet or roasting tin and sprinkle with the seeds; season. Cover the tray with foil and roast for 30 minutes at 200C/400F. Remove the foil, turn the vegetables, and roast a further 10 minutes uncovered. Set aside.
3. During the last five minutes of roasting, place the hazelnuts or pine nuts on a separate tray and roast. If you use hazel nuts, when they are cool enough, rub off the skins between your fingers. Chop if you like, or keep whole.
4. Meanwhile, peel and slice the clementines or oranges and chop the parsley. For the dressing, whisk together all of the ingredients. Decant the warm vegetables into a serving dish or large bowl and toss through the dressing, nuts and parsley. Top with clementine slices and serve.
Nutrition notes: This salad is a feast of delicious, heart-healthy dietary fibre. The roasted carrots and beetroot give us more available beta-carotene than even their raw counterparts, while much of the anthocyanins are still present in the roasted beetroot (it diminishes greatly when boiled). This salad is packed with potassium, folates, manganese (hazelnuts are stuffed with it), Vitamin C (diminished by cooking the parsnips, but we have fresh oranges and parsley to make up for that), and a considerable amount of blood-thinning Vitamin K from the parsley. Tuck in!
Variations: add in dried barberries, dried unsweetened cranberries or sour cherries; sub out oranges for persimmon or pears; maple syrup or honey for the pomegranate molasses (add in a title lemon juice too to keep the ‘wee nip’). Chuck in some cooked or sprouted whole grains for a ‘meal salad’ par excellence. :D
Link-ups: I seem to accidentally be in tune with a shed-load of challenges and recipe round-ups this month. For the first time in ages I am linking up with Jac at Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa at Lisa’s Kitchen for their jointly-run No Croutons Required Challenge, with this month’s theme being Veggie Soup or Salad. Perfect fit then.
Now over to Karen of Lavender and Lovage for her monthly Cooking With Herbs challenge. Her theme this month is Citrus. Yep.And then to Four Seasons Food, co-hosted by Louisa at Eat Your Veg and Anneli at Delicieux. Seasonal veg and citrus – check.A brand new challenge for 2014 has popped up over at Fuss Free Flavours (Helen) and Utterly Scrummy – Extra Veg. It looks very inclusive so go and pay a visit and link up your ‘extra veg’ recipes. Back for the first time in awhile (she’s a very busy lady these days – trust me) is Ren Behan‘s Simple and In Season. Every month she invites anyone with an active blog to link up their seasonal recipes – with a prize too. Although as her children are choosing this month I know I don’t stand a chance! Need to post a sweet one next time. :D
Wow. Thanks all for the brilliant hosting. That’s a lot of blog hopping for me. I feel a bit dizzy now. I shall go for a wee lie down…