We've had a cold winter here in the bog, as our heat pump has not been working and we've had to use a great deal of firewood to keep warm. We've also been running through the last of the bog turf that The Girl and I footed -- stacked to dry in the bog -- a few years ago.
We also need to redo our entire garden, as well; the scaffolding boards we used to build our garden, six years ago, have rotted through, and we need to rebuild it in brick. Still, we have a lot of crops in there that we need to use quickly, and this is the perfect time of year for winter comfort food.
Root salad: Celeriac is an under-appreciated vegetable here; a relative of celery bred for its root rather than its stalks, it grows larger than most human heads and is quite nutritious. Like parsnips, it’s too tough to eat straight like a carrot, but it can be either cooked for a winter soup or shredded finely for a salad.
3 large carrots
2 red beets
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup of chives
¼ cup other garden herbs, like dill, burnet and sorrel.
Shred carrots, celeriac, beets and apples. Chop scallions. Finely chop garden herbs.
Combine vinegar and oil in a large bowl, whip into a vinaigrette sauce, stir in the herbs, then slowly mix all other ingredients into it. Let stand for an hour. If you want something more Oriental, you can mix soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil.
Borscht: This import from Russia is a great warmer on a winter day, very nutritious, filling and with lots of fibre. It can be almost too much fibre for some people’s systems, so don’t eat too much your first go.
700g beetroot, or one large one.
50ml lemon juice
10ml dark soy sauce
One large clove of garlic
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Centigrade. First peel and dice the beetroots, drizzle a little olive oil over the cubes and toss them around until they are lightly coated in oil. Stretch aluminium foil over an oven tray, spread the cubed beetroot over the tray and put it in the oven for an hour or until they are soft and darkened.
While that is roasting, take a large pot and drizzle the bottom with oil and butter. Dice the onions, put them in the pan and stir around, and then add the celery. If you like, at this point you could also add cabbage or carrots. Finely shred the garlic and mix it in right before the end.
Let them sautee until they are soft and lightly golden. Then pour in a litre of vegetable stock and add 50 ml of lemon juice, 10 ml of dark soy sauce and stir in. Finally, take the beetroots out of the oven and add them to the pot.
I blitzed the soup with a mixer, but if you don’t have one you can just mash up the chunky bits. Then pour the borscht into bowls and put a dollop of sour cream in the middle, and sprinkle a bit of dill and chervil over the top.
On the rare occasions that people here cook squash, they usually accentuate its already sweet flesh into a dessert. Personally, I find that to be going too far, and prefer to offset the sweetness with other notes – tart, spicy and especially savoury. This baked dish combines all of these.
200g butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, finely grated
30g gruyere cheese
10g chopped parsley
10 ml vegetable stock
10 ml lemon juice
10 ml spicy mustard
1 dash cayenne pepper
Peel the butternut squash, and scoop out the seeds in the middle. Dice the remaining flesh into squares about a centimeter across. Place a pat of butter and a teaspoon of oil in a pan and sautee the remaining squash flesh for 10 minutes. Add the onions and sautee 10 more minutes, and add some garlic a minute before the end.
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, the vegetable stock, the mustard, the cayenne, the parsley and the eggs. Turn off the stove and transfer the squash-onion mix into a small baking dish, and mix in everything from the bowl. Shred the gruyere cheese and sprinkle it over the top. Bake it in the oven at 200 degrees Centigrade for 20 minutes, or until done.