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It's time to put root vegetables back on the menu
With the autumn officially here it’s now time to start embracing the wonderful selection of root vegetables coming into season! With their deep earthy flavors and rich wholesome nutrients they are perfect for creating dishes for the colder months when we just need something warming and a bit more substantial. Here is a few of my favorite root vegetables and some ideas of what to do with them!
Often called beets in the US, these wonderful roots are packed with rich earthy flavor and a vibrant red color. Also look out for golden beetroot which is bright yellow in color, I like to peel and slice each variety and roast them separately. For the red beetroot season them with olive oil, red wine, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and cover with foil, roast at 400F/200c for an hour until tender. Repeat the same process with the golden beetroot, but switch out the red wine for white wine and balsamic for white wine vinegar. Once cooled place on a platter and sprinkle with goats cheese and walnuts for an amazing autumn salad
Jerusalem Artichokes are often called sun-chokes in the United States, they are from the same family as the sunflower and are actually the tuberous roots of a rather tall flowering plant.
Their flavor is hard to describe, very rich and delicate and almost creamy. I love making a puree from these to serve alongside venison or wild game, they also make an incredible soup, try adding some shredded confit duck for a luxurious touch!
Celeriac, which is also called celery root, has a texture similar to rutabaga or turnip with a very pleasant sweet, mild celery flavor. The root is not actually the root of the common celery stick, however it is part of the same family.
Celeriac is wonderful when boiled and mashed with butter and cream, a touch of truffle oil and Parmesan cheese. Also try replacing half of the potatoes in a gratin for celeriac to add a wonderful delicate earthy flavor
Most of us have grown up with carrots as a staple dish, usually boiled and served plain. Why not try roasting them with some honey and sesame seeds?
Another great way to cook carrots is to braise them, cut the carrots in half length ways and then in half across the middle and place into a deep sided roasting dish, cover with chicken stock, a generous knob of butter and a few sprigs of thyme and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook at 400F/200c, covered with foil for about an hour until tender, drain the braising juices into a pan and simmer on high until reduced into a delicious glaze to pour over the carrots
Too often parsnips get left to Sunday lunch or Christmas day, certainly in the UK anyway. They look like white carrots but are more starchy like potatoes with a wonderful sweet flavor. I love adding them to a gratin to give it a subtle sweetness or roasting with honey and sesame seeds. Parsnips pair really well with curry flavor, so making a rich creamy soup with a hint of curry powder is definitely one of my favorite things to do with them, the soup is especially good on cold winter days.
Butternut squash has to be one of my favorite vegetables and although it isn't a root at all, I wanted to include it on this list because it's wonderful for this time of year and has many similarities to root vegetables
One of my favorite things to with butternut squash is simply to cut it into wedges and bake with some paprika, olive oil and seasoning, once cooked top with some caramelized red onions, crumbled blue cheese and walnuts
Making your Own Herb Flavored Olive Oil
Flavored olive oils are an amazingly simple and easy way to add instant flavor to your cooking, oils will soak up any flavors you add and as long as the herbs and spices are completely submerged in the olive oil they won’t go bad. You can make flavored olive oils very easily and it’s a great way to use up left over fresh herbs. To make flavored olive oil you simply need one large bottle of good olive oil with an opening large enough to squeeze in the flavoring ingredients.
Begin by pouring about one third of the oil into a separate container, store the spare oil and keep for another time. Pour the remaining two thirds of the oil into a saucepan and add your flavoring ingredients, place on a medium high heat and cook for approximately 5 minutes until the herbs look like they are starting to sizzle. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the oil to cool completely for a few hours before carefully pouring back into the bottle, use your hands to add any sprigs of herbs or ingredients that need a little extra help getting into the bottle, top up the bottle with extra oil if needed. The oil is ready to use straight away however the longer you leave it, the more the flavor will intensify, here are some flavoring ideas:
Garlic & herb olive oil (great for Italian cooking and focaccia bread)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 10 cloves of garlic (peeled and cut into quarters), 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 12 fresh sage leaves, 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, 3 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon onion powder
Smokey herb olive oil (great for Cajun style food and barbecues)
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 8 fresh sage leaves, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 dried red chilies, 3 bay leaves, 5 cloves of garlic (peeled and cut into quarters)
Spicy herb and garlic olive oil (great for adding a kick of heat)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 8 cloves of garlic (peeled and cut into quarters), 10 small dried red chilies, 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, ½ teaspoon chili powder, 3 bay leaves
Curry flavored olive oil (great for curries)
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, 5 cloves of garlic (peeled and cut into quarters), 2 tablespoons mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon curry powder, 3 sprigs of fresh curry leaves, 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds, 1 inch piece ginger root (roughly chopped)