A winter dish in May? Surely, that can’t be right. It can if you live in Scotland. Our weather is bizarre and unpredictable most of the time.
I used to complain about the heat when I lived in Saudi Arabia and Cyprus. Today, I would love to be sitting on a balcony in Paphos, looking out over the Mediterranean. As I offer my face to the sun, I’m sipping a cold KEO beer and nibbling mezedhes.
But, back to reality and I’m in Edinburgh. It’s cold, wet and windy. I’m glad I don’t have to go out because it’s drizzling with the sort of rain that you can hardly see but manages to soak through to your bones.
I need comfort food. And that means mashed potatoes. But that’s only the beginning. Add mashed carrots, shredded greens, mustard and cream and you have a dish that’s warming and filling. Make extra and next day fry it in a pan on both sides, like rosti, and top with a fried egg and a couple of slices of grilled bacon. I used ruby chard for this dish as that is what I happened to have available. But, you can use Swiss chard, kale or even finely shredded cabbage.
Creamy Vegetable Mash (serves 2)
2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 large carrots, scraped or peeled and cut into slices
2 bunches ruby chard
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
125ml crème fraiche
Freshly ground black pepper
Chives or spring onions (optional)
Steam or boil the potatoes until tender.
In a separate pan, steam or boil the carrots until tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the chard. Remove the leaves from the stems and shred. Cut the stems into short pieces. Steam the stems for 5 minutes then add the shredded leaves and steam both for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Mash the potatoes then add the cooked carrots and mash them together until smooth. It doesn’t matter if you have a few small lumps of carrot but try to get the potatoes really smooth.
Mix the ruby chard in to the potatoes and carrots with the mustard and the crème fraiche.
Add a sprinkling of salt, grind in some pepper.
Taste and add more seasoning and more crème fraiche, if necessary. The mash should be smooth, creamy with little flecks of orange and red.
Serve hot with snipped chives or shredded spring onions.
Vibrant, crisp ruby chard, bright green courgettes, 2 firm red peppers, a few chestnut mushrooms and a small red cabbage. Plus the usual potatoes, carrots and onions. The salad bag is a mix of mustard leaves, dandelion, mizuna and baby chard - I usually just wash and dress the leaves with a balsamic and honey dressing or some olive oil and lemon juice. And, best of all, not a sprig of curly parsley in sight! Instead, a bunch of delicate, silky chives just right for the Greek omelette I’m going to make for tonight’s dinner, along with a few other things, of course.
As it’s Earth Day today, it seems a good opportunity to talk about my organic veg box. Every Thursday, I put the empty one outside the front door and a few hours later I open the door and, as if by magic, it’s full of fresh veg, herbs, salad greens and half a dozen free-range eggs.
I like the freshness of the veg, the fact that they have been grown only a few miles away. I like not knowing what to expect – except for carrots, lots and lots of carrots every week all year round. I don’t like washing the salad leaves. That’s fiddly and time-consuming and they never dry completely, and sometimes I find a live slug or two in one of the bags. I don’t want to kill them so I used to park the slug on a lettuce leaf or a piece of cabbage, place it on the windowsill in the kitchen and leave it until I could take it into the garden. Too impatient to wait, it would usually climb off the leaf and disappear and then I would never know where it was going to turn up next. Now, if I find one, I put it on a leaf and place it on the windowsill outside and let it find its own way down to the garden. Is that cruel – we live 3 floors up?
This week’s box has a good-sized butternut squash, 2 heads of purple green spring greens, a small cauliflower, baby beetroot, the usual carrots and potatoes, curly parsley (reminds me of a 1970′s garnish or vegetable soup) and an assortment of salad leaves. Most of the veg are filthy and need a good wash but that’s the price you pay for freshness. I don’t know how I will use them yet. Definitely not going to make vegetable soup – that’s the easy way out.