Using the last of the winter vegetables Well! I am using the last few of my overwintered cauliflowers – six more still in the fridge and only two more to harvest from my plot. It is a shame to look on them as a chore but, it is like this every year- I await their readiness anxiously then, have too many to cope with and I do need the space for my beans( I always grow too many of every type of vegetables as I’m afraid I won’t have enough to see me through the winter- particularly. (must be the Irish famine mentality kicking in!). That said, during the last two winters, which were unusually particularly cold and hard, I have not had reliable crops of broccoli and sprouts – good heavens! I’ve had to buy them. Although I’ve had enough onions (amazingly I’m still eating my stored onions, even the red ones), and garlic(well too much!), I still have frozen peas and sweet-corn, tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, chillies and herbs from last summer. Getting near the end though! I have already lifted the last of my parsnips some time ago but, if you still have some, try freezing them: · Peel, top and tail. The cores are likely to be quite woody so take them out. · Cut into manageable roastable pieces. · Par boil for 3 mins, drain well and brush with olive oil. · Place in layers on greaseproof paper in freezer containers. Freeze · To use – take the parsnip pieces off the paper an straight into a hot roasting pan. · Roast as normal – enjoy It has been suggested that, instead of olive oil, they should be brushed with melted butter. I’m sure this would taste a bit better but I think I’ll avoid that one. I’m a big fan of TV chef James Martin and his love of terrific food- love him to bits. However, his declared love of butter on/in every dish ( much as I love butter on/in every dish), has to be a no-no for me. I wish it were not so. My daughter and I have been growing leeks for each other during the last year – I grow them early and she grows them late. We share the seedlings. For early grown leeks, I sowed in February/early March. They will need to be protected from leek moth (I use environmesh). They should be ready from late October to February. My daughter’s late sown leeks are well ready now. They have not been protected from leek moth and there is no sign of the little pests. Perhaps that is the way to go. But, then again, I'd have no leeks in the autumn - a must! The leeks are luscious! But, they must come out – I need the space for this year’s crops. They freeze well: Trim, cut into useable slices, wash well, drain and pack into freezer containers – simple! Do try this recipe: Leek, Potato and Cauliflower soup Ingredients 1 medium cauliflower 4 - 5 good sized leeks ½ Kilo ( 1 lb) potatoes (not new) 3 – 4 cloves of garlic – well chopped or crushed 1 red onion – finely chopped 1 litre (2pints) vegetable or chicken stock 1 cup white wine Salt – to taste Freshly crushed black pepper Chopped parsley to decorate ½ tsp finely chopped lemon thyme Double cream to decorate Method · Slice or shred the leeks then wash well to remove any soil or dirt ( personally, I like the green parts of leeks so, I keep in as much of this part of the leeks as possible). · Peel the potatoes and cut into fairly small pieces. · Cut the cauliflower into small florets and wash well.( make sure there are no hidden slugs) · Peel the garlic and chop finely. · Peel and slice finely or chop the onion. · Add the oil or oil and butter to a large saucepan or soup pan and heat. · Add the prepared vegetables and sweat (cook gently without browning). · Add the wine and stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat until it is just simmering, until all the vegetables are soft - about 40 mins. · If you are going to add herbs, use with discretion. This soup has a fairly delicate flavour which can be overpowered with too many herbs. I like a little lemon thyme. · Add the salt and pepper. · Put through a food processor if you have one – a hand held processor is excellent for this job. If you don’t have one, sieve the soup through a coarse sieve. · Return to the heat and correct the seasoning to taste ( salt and pepper) · Serve with chopped parsley and a swirl of cream – personally, I don’t add cream or more fat where it is not necessary. This is a simple, wholesome and cheap soup. I have added lots of ingredients which enhance the flavour but, are not necessary. Leek and potato soup is excellent – just make sure the seasoning is right. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley and a hunk of wholemeal bread. Enjoy! Next Blog on biennial herbs!