This is a new series for my blog, marrying up two of my favourite foods: Vegetables and Olive Oil. The tendency is to think of dishes based on Mediterranean vegetables when cooking with olive oil but in fact this lovely flavoursome ingredient can enhance traditional English vegetables equally well.
Autumn sees the beginning of the root vegetable season and what could be more quintessentially English than the carrot? The second carrot crop of the year starts in late September and runs until December, though much of the crop lasts through to the early Spring. Red Cabbage also appears in the shops at this time of the year. Look for really shiny outer leaves with no brown patches. Finally, I have chosen mushrooms for the third of my October trio. At one time all the mushrooms eaten were gathered from the fields but today they are mainly farmed.
The Flemings are credited with introducing carrots to the UK from , but carrots are mentioned even earlier in Roman cook books. Carrots are, of course, grown for their roots but the court ladies in the time of Charles I wore the pretty foliage as a decoration. So often carrots are just part of the base mix of vegetables for soups and stews etc but here the carrot is the star of the show.
Warm Carrot Salad with Rocket
The Spanish name for this salad from Grenada is quite unpronounceable but the exotic flavours of the Alhambra Palace linger on in this Moorish recipe. For the best effect it needs a really fruity extra virgin olive oil from Andalucia. Serve with a selection of other tapas dishes.
- 225g carrots, peeled and sliced
- 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp ground cumin powder
- 75g drained canned red kidney beans or chickpeas
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp clear honey
- a few handfuls of rocket leaves
Place the carrots in a small pan with one tablespoon of the oil, pepper and cumin. Barely cover with water and bring to the boil. Continue to cook over a medium heat for about 7 minutes until all the liquid has boiled away and the carrots are al dente. You may need to stand over it towards the end to stop the carrots burning. Remove from the heat. Add the chickpeas or kidney beans into the pan with the carrots and toss together.
Mix the remaining oil with the lemon juice, sherry vinegar and honey and pour into the pan with the vegetables. Arrange the rocket on individual serving plates and spoon on the vegetables and their dressing.
This traditional Jewish dish is served as a dessert and makes a very good family pudding in the cold winter months.
- 225g carrots, peeled and grated
- 25ml olive oil
- 50g plain flour
- 1 small cooking apples, peeled, cored and grated
- Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
- 2 tbs Sherry
- 100g sugar
- 4 eggs, separated
Set the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Gently fry the carrots in the olive oil until soft. Blend in the flour and stir to a smooth paste. Remove from the heat. Add the apples, lemon juice and rind, Sherry and sugar and mix well. Beat in the egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites to a medium peak stage and stir a tablespoonful into the carrot and apple mixture. Finally fold in the remaining whites. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes and serve immediately.
Cabbage has been around in the UK since very early times and comes in very many different varieties. Red cabbage probably originated in central Europe and it is very popular in Germany where it is often served with game. “Red” cabbage was first described in England in 1570, all of the early varieties being round-headed. Red cabbage is not only colourful but is also very versatile. It is great in salads and stir-fries, giving them a really crunchy texture but it is also very good braised.
Mulled Red Cabbage with Smoked Gammon
This unusual stir-fry benefits from a long marinating time so start the day before.
- 75ml red wine
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- 2 tbs red wine vinegar
- 1 tbs clear honey
- 2 cloves
- 1/4 tsp allspice
- pinch cinnamon
- 500g red cabbage, shredded
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cooking apple, grated
- 225g smoked gammon, cooked and cut into thin strips
Heat the red wine, lemon juice, vinegar and honey in a pan, stirring until all the honey has dissolved. Stir in the spices and remove from the heat. Mix the shredded cabbage with the onion. Spread over a shallow dish. Pour on the warm marinade and leave to stand overnight or for as long as possible. Drain, retaining the liquid. Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan and stir-fry the cabbage for 3-4 minutes. Add the apples and 4-5 tablespoons of the retained liquid and bring to the boil. Add the shredded gammon. Cover with a lid and boil fast for about 5 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are cooked to your taste. Serve with noodles.
Spiced Cabbage with Orange
The toasted spices and orange juice give a wonderfully aromatic flavour to this cabbage dish. Serve with rice and curries.
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 50ml orange juice
- a little grated orange zest
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 175g green cabbage, very finely shredded
- 75g red cabbage, very finely shredded
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted
Put the raisins in a cup with the orange juice and zest and the vinegar. Heat the oil in a non-stick wok or deep frying pan. Fry the cumin seeds and mustard seeds for about 1 minute until they begin to pop. Add the onion and sliced cabbages and stir-fry over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes. Pour in the raisins and orange juice and cook for a further 1–2 minutes. Serve hot from the pan, garnished with toasted flaked almonds.
In the past country people would get up early in the morning to pick field mushrooms to eat for breakfast or perhaps to sell in the local market. Nowadays field mushrooms are hard to find in the shops and large brown or white mushrooms or Portobello mushrooms are used in their place. However, if you can find them they are well worth buying as they have a good deal more flavour than farmed mushrooms and are more tender as well. Just grill with lashings of extra virgin olive oil, maybe adding add a dash of Worcestershire sauce to taste.
With the spread in the popularity of Mediterranean-style food, chefs have felt free to add all kinds of different toppings to their own versions of bruschetta. Here is one of my favourites. It has been anglicised to use English field mushrooms rather than the much more expensive Italian porcini.
- 6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 8 large field mushrooms
- 4 tbs white wine
- 1 Italian ciabatta loaf, sliced lengthways and cut into two
- 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped spring onion
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix the garlic and olive oil and use 3-4 tablespoons to brush the gills of the field mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and place on a grill tray. Sprinkle on the white wine and grill for 4-5 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the grill. Brush the remaining garlic oil over the pieces of ciabatta bread and toast on each side.
Arrange the cooked mushrooms on each piece of toasted ciabatta. Mix the tomato, parsley, spring onion and seasoning. Sprinkle over the top and place under the grill for a further 1-2 minutes. Serve at once.
It is important to choose large open cup mushrooms here rather than flat field mushrooms, because the rim helps to stop the soufflé mixture from overflowing onto the baking sheet.
- 4 large open cup mushrooms
- extra virgin olive oil
- 75g grated cheese
- 25g fresh breadcrumbs
- 25g walnuts or pecan nuts, finely chopped
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 tbsp thick soy sauce
- 1 tsp French mustard
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Preheat the grill.
Cut the stalks out of the mushrooms. Brush the caps liberally with olive oil and place under the grill, gill-side down. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook the other side for 5 minutes.
While the mushrooms are grilling, mix the cheese, breadcrumbs and nuts in a bowl. Mix in the egg yolks and all the remaining ingredients. This will make quite a stiff mixture.
Whisk the egg whites until they are very stiff. Mix 2 tablespoonfuls into the cheese mixture and then fold in the rest. Place the grilled mushrooms in an ovenproof dish, gill-side up. Pile the cheese soufflé mixture on top. Place in the oven and bake for 10–15 minutes. Serve at once.