Roast Vegetables

IMG_6877Throwing a load of vegetables in a tin with some herbs, oil, salt and pepper is about as easy as cooking gets. Easier than boiling an egg, even. It's a great accompaniment to roast meat and steamed fish and gets a load of different colours on your plate. I love picking out the caramelised, sticky and juicy bits that have caught in the pan while roasting, it's such a comforting and delicious treat that the cook gets all to their sneaky self.

Often I'll roast a chicken or joint of pork on top of the veg, that's a real treat. The meat takes on a deep flavour, and the juices in the pan are so rich and delicious, you just pour them over, there's no need to make a sauce.

I've even roasted a load of sausages in among the vegetables, a perfect one pot meal. All it takes is a little peeling and chopping then the oven does the rest.  You can throw in some tomatoes too, they give off their juices and mingle deliciously with the other veg. Fennel softens beautifully, giving off its light, mellow aniseed to the pot and onions turn golden, sticky and sweet.

Use what is available at the time and keep an eye on it while cooking so it doesn't burn. 35-45 minutes at 180c is normally about right, depending on what veg you use. One tip I'd give is to have the more delicate vegetables at the bottom and harder ones such as beetroot, carrots and the like on top.

Drizzle everything in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Mix through some hardy herbs such as rosemary, sage and bay leaves and finish off with some young thyme and perhaps chilli flakes as it comes out the oven. Put it straight on the table and dig in.

Artichoke with Vinaigrette

artichoke-vinaigrette-5An unseemly noise for a teenager, let alone a human came from me when I first dipped the leathery leaf of an artichoke into a mustardy vinaigrette in Brasserie Le Linois, Place Charles Michels.

Usually, it's difficult if not impossible to recreate those dishes from memories of the past in a foreign country. The smells, the sounds, the air all colour our memories and we are destined to be disappointed. But fear not! The artichoke doesn't suffer from this problem. It tastes the same to me now, dipped in that dressing as it did all those years ago.

How does this happen I imagine myself hearing you ask? I have no idea, but being May, and them appearing in my greengrocer I'm not going to ask too many questions.

You can cook them in simmering water, covered for 30-45 minutes depending on their size, or, if you are desperate for your hit, they do just as well in the microwave, wrapped in clingfilm for about ten. I prefer simmering them though, you can add aromatic flavours to the cooking water.

To the water, add 2 fresh bay leaves, a tablespoon of peppercorns, a large splash of tarragon vinegar (or plain white wine vinegar if you prefer) and some salt. Bring the water and artichoke to the boil, then simmer until cooked, that is, when the leaves come away easily.

Leave it to cool a little and eat slightly warm dipped in vinaigrette made by whisking together one tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, two tablespoons of tarragon cider vinegar (or again, plain) then slowly incorporating about ten tablespoons of olive oil. Use less if you prefer a sharper dressing.

Pull the leaves from the globe, dip them in and tease off the flesh into your mouth as you remember your long lost youth...

Ça va, mon chou?

IMG_5867Savoy cabbage, quickly cooked, with butter and pepper is pretty good as it is. But if you want to pep it up to serve as a side dish with south-east Asian food it may not quite cut the mustard.

The trick with cabbage is to not cook it for a whole school term. A flash in the pan to soften it is enough, so be careful and be quick. This is fiery and comforting at the same time and goes really well with some steamed fish with lemongrass and lime leaves.

Ingredients 1/2 Savoy cabbage, shredded Coconut oil for frying 2 hot red birdseye chillies, sliced 1tbsp red Thai curry paste 1tbsp dessicated coconut 1tbsp coconut aminos or soy sauce 1tbsp lime juice 100ml coconut cream Salt to season

Method Sauté the cabbage in some coconut oil, letting some of the shreds almost burn. Add as much chilli as you like, my chillies were surprisingly hot, so be careful. Add the curry paste to the pan (home made if you can be bothered) and add a little more coconut oil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring well so it doesn't burn. Pour in the coconut cream and heat through. Tip into a bowl and blowtorch the top of the cabbage if you have one to give it a little bit of a dramatic char. Add a little more sliced red chilli and some hazelnuts sprinkled on top if you fancy, and serve.