Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Have Yourself A Veggie Little Christmas

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas
 This is the second broadly non-gardening post in a row, but I am going to resume that line of attack when I have actually done some. (Although I did set out to prune my apple and pear trees on Christmas Day, armed with long-handled loppers and secateurs. I went out and looked at them. Thought ‘Um’. Snipped off a few twigs, mourned my immediate lack of pruning saw* and step ladder and went back inside. )

But with Boxing Day comes renewed vigour. Starting the day with black coffee and stollen in bed followed by cranberry and orange smoothie will do that every time.

I have long held that it is not that vegetarian food is lacking in flavour, nutrition and excitement; rather, people generally make it very badly and then exit, disappointed. I favour the Hugh-and-Jamie technique of boshing ingredients together to create food that excites and inspires. And as self-appointed queen of the adapted recipe I was very happy to get the River Cottage Veg book. It has some really good ideas and the evangelistic fervour for things vegetable is rather endearing. (But what took you so long guys?)

Mix and match fillings
But that was after lunch. In an eternal mission to keep tastebuds on their toes lunch was, in fact, Unexpected Tarts with all the expected Christmas trimmings. You do it like this:

Blind bake some seasoned pastry in jam tart tins. Caramelise some onions and lightly cook some little cubes of squash and small broccoli florets. Season a little cream with black pepper and bouillion powder and coat the broccoli and squash (keeping them separate).
I'm no food photographer, but they did taste nice

In each pastry case put a base of caramelised onions. Then create a little pile of squash or broccoli (or leek or mushroom or celeriac etc). Then add one of: slivers of chilli/chopped walnuts/cranberry sauce. Then top some with brie, some with cheddar and some with stilton and bake for 10 mins-ish. (Broccoli, cranberry sauce and brie was very good as was squash, chilli and cheddar...and broccoli, walnut and get the idea).

This produces 4096 different variables (I think) so a) you can cater for all tastes and b) it stays interesting and unexpected. Hence the name. The problem is that because each one tastes different it is hard to stop.

Boxing Day: veggie sushi party at my sister’s. I have always been deeply suspicious of sushi – for obvious reasons – but people tell me it is good. So as not to be too Green Eggs and Ham** about things*** I had an open mind (although I am not wild about rice, dubious about nori, would rather leave tofu and have conservative views of soy sauce).

Turns out I like making OCD vegetables – lightly wilted spinach, neat strips of seasoned carrot, slivers of avocado, spring onion and shitake mushrooms. But I really don’t like teriyaki sauce. I like shitake mushrooms, ginger, sesame seeds; really liked wasabi – and all the veg. And I tried, I really did. But it was sticky and salty and slimy in places, and I can’t be doing with the textures. I am sorry Sam-I-Am, I’d rather leave Green Eggs and Ham.

*We never rush Christmas and as it happened a spanking new Felco pruning saw turned up under the tree on Boxing Day

 ** “I do not want it in a boat, I do not want it with a goat, I do not want it in a box I do not want it with a fox, I do not like green eggs and ham, I DO NOT LIKE THEM Sam I Am”. With thanks to Dr Seuss

*** ...But ham is not on the menu and I don’t like actual eggs much either...

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