The challenge I have set myself this year is to produce more of our own food. The plan is to be completely self-reliant on our vegetables year-round, which will entail eating more seasonally. We have gone some way down this path already, as we have vegetables we stored or preserved last year supplementing the few veg we still buy from the supermarket. But part of this challenge is to change our diet to eat more seasonally, and not rely on our favourite veg year-round. Especially as these are hot-climate veg.
The veg we have available to us at the moment are the last of the leeks and parsnips still in the ground, which need to be used before they go to seed, a last couple of sad-looking cabbages which have been picked leaf-by-leaf, pak choi and cavolo nero overwintered in the greenhouse, and potatoes stored from last autumn. We also have early carrots planted last autumn and purple sprouting broccoli starting to head. We did have winter squash, but have eaten the last of those. We had stored onions and garlic but finished them long ago, so we have increased the quantities sown of those this year. I was lucky enough to buy some early red onions from a local farm stall recently though, so consider those to be fair game.
The veg ready in the garden now mean we don't need to buy supermarket veg so long as meals are planned accordingly. That means not buying as many greenhouse tomatoes as I'd like (our preferred diet is tomato-heavy) and working with the root veg we have now. Dinner on Saturday night filled that niche nicely.
Recipe: Morrocan tagine of spring and stored root veg.
First pre-heat the oven to 220C and make a Chermoula paste:
2 red onions , chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1-inch knob of ginger , peeled
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp each honey, cumin, paprika, turmeric
1 tsp hot chilli powder
about 1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves
Put all of these in a blender and whizz to a paste.
Then collect and scrub:
3 large parsnips
3-5 small carrots
4-5 small potatoes (I used Arran victory because those are the potatoes we're using up at the moment)
6 smallish leeks
1 head purple sprouting broccoli
and whatever else you have in the garden/store (I cheated and tossed a few small tomatoes in. I will add some whole garlic cloves and chunks of red onion next time.)
Cut these into bite-sized chunks. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the veg in a tablespoon of olive oil for 5-10 minutes until browned. You may need to do this in one or two batches. When browned, put the veg in a casserole dish. Add a few prunes or dates, pour the chermoula paste and 1 1/2 cups of water over, cover and put in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, reduce the heat to 180C, and bake for another 45 minutes. Sprinkle some chopped mint over the tagine before serving.
The result is sheer magic. Warm, satisfying and really tasty. Traditionally, this is served with couscous or bread. We preferred to eat it with brown basmati rice, accompanied by a good dark mild beer (a form of English ale) while sitting in front of a lit chiminea.