Wednesday, 31 December 2014

In a Stew

12:07:00 Posted by Sheilagh Dyson , , , , 1 comment

Winter has long been my favourite season of the year, bringing as it does, ideally, those cold, crisp, sunny days when it is a pleasure to walk in a healthy atmosphere, hot breath colliding with frosty air to form life-confirming puffs of steam. Winter also brings the enchantment of Christmas, cosy nights in, hatches batoned, cocoa, jumpers, scarves and gloves, sherry, port, football (hmm, maybe not this season), hot toddies, furry boot slippers. And root vegetables – lots of them.
Parsnips, carrots, swedes, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, celeriac, beetroots, ginger, sweet potatoes – these gnarled and unlovely jewels of the earth add depth and nutrition to our winter diet. Parsnip soup, spiced with cumin, coriander, cardamon and ginger; a melting gratin of layered potatoes, onions, garlic and cream; Jerusalem artichokes sliced into a stew to add an interesting smokiness; beetroots roasted with onions, garlic, cinnamon, allspice, olive oil; buttery celeriac mash; carrots and swedes mashed together with butter and parsley; a simple casserole of all of the above, with herbs and vegetable stock, simmered low and long to bring out the sweetness of the roots; a mellow mixture of roughly cubed vegetables roasted slowly in olive oil, basil, oregano.
I’m romanticising, of course, for we can buy sanitised, scrubbed up versions of these vegetables all the year round at the supermarket. But I hark back to my years as an allotmenteer, when the roots grew in profusion ready for harvesting in the winter months. There was something right and proper about hauling them from the ground in the winter months, ugly and filthy with soil (them and me!), to lug them home for a good scrub and transformation into something delicious.
It is New Year’s Eve and a time when we look back reflectively, as well as forward optimistically. I am thinking today with sadness, affection and gratitude, of all the people who have shaped my life and are no longer with us – my roots, in other words. Our roots are what equip us to go forward in life and I will at least start the new year in a hopeful frame of mind. I wish you all a happy, creative, satisfying year ahead.
To end, here is a poem about vegetables that amused me.

There aren’t many words
To rhyme with ‘vegetable’
That aren’t either laughable
or barely acceptable.
But finding those most suitable
Is fast becoming pretty insurmountable
(and, to be honest, a tad cerebral)
A vegetable
Is honest and dependable
Verging on the comfortable
And incontestably respectable.
Presentable in most receptacles
Never indigestible
But with all the potential to be absolutely delectable.
Its a shame there aren’t any words
To rhyme with ‘vegetable’
As this poem could really be incredible!

V. Robinson
Thank you for reading,


Adele said...

You make my mouth water Sheilagh. Lovely post - thank you for cheering up my horrible head cold.