The harvest of the cold months presents a pick of the crop of wonderful vegetables that carry delicious sweetness to hearten and warm a hungry appetite. Root vegetables like carrots, turnips, swedes, parsnips, potatoes and kumara are at their best in winter, when the sugars develop well in cold ground.
Leafy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kale, silverbeet, leeks and spinach have stronger flavours and depth than the delicate green veggies of spring and summer.
Boiling these vegetables however, doesn’t make for tasty eating as they often display fairly bitter characteristics and so they all really lend themselves to spices, herbs, plenty of butter or olive oil and interesting combinations to boost interest and soften the flavours.
Mashed root vegetables are the perfect food for winter eating to accompany the roasts and grills and they’re a welcome change from salads and raw food of the warmer months. Sprinkling vegetables with a few roasted nuts or a good slosh of a special olive oil like a citrus pressed oil can take a very ordinary dish to new heights and make eating quite an interesting adventure.
In winter one of the most comforting foods is cheese. We have some superb locally made cheeses now so don’t be hesitant to crumble or grate a little feta, cheddar or Parmesan over your vegetable dish to add a new and tasty dimension. I have three winter dishes this month to enliven your cooking and tempt the fussiest of diners.
Note: When I prepared these vegetable dishes for the photo, we ate them for our dinner with a couple of sausages. There was quite a lot of veggies over, and they made the most delicious fry-up, not unlike bubble and squeak, for lunch on a cold wintry day.
Carrot and parsnip mash with orange, ginger and mint
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
½ tsp salt
4cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 tbsp butter
Small handful of mint leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Cover the carrots and parsnips with water, salt lightly and bring to a simmer until tender.
Drain well, return to the pan with the ginger and the butter and mash until well mixed. You can use a food processor for a smoother finish but I like the mash to be a bit chunky.
Grate the rind of the orange finely and add to the finely sliced mint leaves.
Stir in the orange juice and gently reheat the mash. Turn into a serving bowl and top with the grated orange rind and the mint.
Garnish with a good grinding of black pepper.
Fried Brussels sprouts with walnuts, lemon and feta cheese
600g Brussels sprouts, sliced into 3 or 4 pieces
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp good olive oil
3 tbsp walnuts
100 g crumbly feta cheese
Bring a pan of salted water to a simmer, add the Brussels sprouts and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain immediately and refresh under cold water. Make sure the sprouts are free from excess water by patting with paper towels.
Heat the oil in fry-pan and add the walnuts. Allow them to toast in the pan for about three minutes until they start to smell nutty and toasty.
Add the sprouts to the walnuts, turn up the heat and toss well so the sprouts start to turn golden (about 6 to 7 minutes.)
Turn into a heated serving dish, crumble the cheese over and grate lemon rind over with some extra citrus pressed olive oil drizzled over if you have any.
Baked kale with potatoes, olives and garlic
750g kale or cavolo nero
750g small waxy potatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
20 pitted black olives
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup water
¼ cup vermouth or white wine
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Wash the kale well in plenty of water and drain. Strip out the thickest stems, but there’s no need to remove the smaller stalks. Slice the kale into 2 cm slices.
Scrub the potatoes and cut into very thin slices.
Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Add the garlic and stir until it softens. Add the potatoes, tossing well. Add the kale, olives, water and vermouth/wine and bring to a simmer.
Cover the dish tightly and bake in the oven until the potatoes are just barely tender (about 35 to 40 minutes) shaking occasionally.
Add a little extra olive oil to finish and serve hot or at room temperature with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon.