The festive period is over, the decorations are down and winter has a tight grip on the countryside as well as my garden. Each morning a flock of birds arrives on my patio (Sarah Raven sells a beautiful heart shaped bird feeder, if you don’t already have one), waiting for their breakfast, sitting in trees and shrubs as well as perched on plant pots waiting, looking and hoping……there is always something for them at our house however, and what I don’t buy (bird seed and fat balls) I save for them – a nice fat bacon rind to hang from a branch for the tits, seeds mixed in meat dripping for the sparrows or some apple cores for the blackbirds, it’s all saved and shared with my garden visitors.
My garden is dormant right now and slumbers under a thick layer of snow and ice; the summer vegetable plot is barren and most of my root vegetables have been pulled and are being stored in the old stable. My rhubarb was reaching for the light and its branches were becoming bigger and rosier, but, the snow and ice have flattened it, I forgot to put a cloche over it before the snow arrived. But, many of my hardy perennial herbs are thriving, as are my sprouts and cabbages who love the frosty weather, and my sage in particular is prolific – its soft downy leaves crying out to be married with onions for aromatic stuffing and casseroles.
One of the pleasures of a winter garden as well as the array of seasonal vegetables on offer at the local farm shops are the root vegetables. Mounds of rosy beetroot peeps out amongst slender pale green leeks and knobbly swedes, whilst purple topped turnips vie for position with freshly dug carrots. Sacks of onions and boxes of shallots offer up visions of steaming soups with cheesy croutons and freshly cut spouts, still on their stalks, are piled high on an old wooden wheelbarrow…….Christmas may be over, but I am still drawn to buying a stalk or two, as they keep for weeks outside and you have a constant supply of fresh nutty sprouts on tap, which is one of my favourite vegetables (how about red brussels sprouts?).
Roots make great accompaniments to family meals and Sunday roasts, as well as being the star of stews and soups, but, they are also wonderful as meals in their own right; golden baked gratins with cheesy toppings and roasted roots salad, as well as soufflés (parsnips make a great soufflé) and then there’s crunchy crudités for pre-dinner nibbles. They also add to a simple pot roast and casserole, and pad out a pie filling beautifully. My family’s favourite winter meals are Slow Cooked Brisket of Beef with a Medley of Root Vegetables, “Sunday Lunch” Chicken, Sausage and Vegetable Hotpot and A Winter’s Walk Beef and Carrot Stew with Herb Crusted Dumplings. They all have lots of root vegetables added, which makes for tasty one-pot meals.
But, roots aren’t just for stews and casseroles – I also add beetroot to my bread, as well as walnuts, for a pretty pink bread bun with an earthy taste and a nutty bite; and my recipe for Beetroot and Walnut Bread Rolls is a winner, as well as being popular with the children due to them being a “non-bread” colour! These bread rolls make fabulous sandwiches, especially when a mature vintage Cheddar is added along with a smearing of salted butter. The much maligned beetroot is also present as a “secret ingredient” in brownies and cakes too, often taking the place of processed sugars and therefore adding one of you five-a-day whilst cutting back on the sugar content (did you know you can get multi-coloured beetroot?).
The root recipe I would like to share with you today however, is a special one to brighten up your winter Sunday lunch or mid-week family supper, it’s one of my family’s favourite recipes and has just a hint of sunshine in it, in the form of saffron and honey…….. Honey-Glazed Roasted Roots with Saffron……a plate of these on the family dinner table adds colour, earthy sweetness and a hint of festivity long after the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year. These roasted root vegetables are undoubtedly very special, and they are so easy to roast as they require NO par-boiling beforehand. A simple glaze is made by adding saffron to melted honey, before sprinkling cumin and celery seeds over the top……slam them in the oven, and pour yourself a glass of wine!
I have experimented with other vegetables, but have found that this simple combination works the best for optimum flavour and colour. Sprinkle them with chopped lovage or parsley before serving. I have indicated amounts per person and not weights……please adjust the quantities to your own requirements however, and I hope that this “rootin’ tootin’ roasted roots” recipe will brighten up your midwinter dinner table. Serve them with any roasted meat or poultry, as well as with grilled meats and pies. Any vegetables left over will make a stunning “bubble and squeak” for breakfast next day, or can be added to a soup or stew. I hope you enjoy this recipe and a Very Happy New Year to you all! I will be back in February, when I will be sharing my thoughts, photos and recipes on Bread and Aromatics for Romance! See you later.
I have allowed one of each vegetable per serving, this may be too generous – please adjust the quantities to suit what else you may be serving alongside these vegetables.
Thanks for reading!