Friday, January 26, 2007

Celeriac - just in time!

Only two days left of this week to fulfil my resolution to post at least once a week!

So, before I'm off home for the weekend, I'm going to just quickly tell you about a gem of a salad we created a couple of days ago, after a wintery amble around the slightly eerie late-afternoon lit Wimbledon Common.
The humble celeriac has already been seen over at the magnificent Orangette having its praises sung, so it may be blushing with pride after I chip in my admiring two cents.

Yes it's an ugly lump of a vegetable, and sure, there are those that will screw up their faces at the very thought, but for those of us for whom neither its rooty bulbous nature or its sweet, strong celery-nut taste is a turn-off, it's quite a treat when it turns up at winter time; an interesting specimen to play with.

It just so happened that our particular celeriac was sitting there, awaiting its time to be cooked and eaten at just the same time some green beans were threatening to go off in the fridge, oranges were stacked high in the fruit bowl and chicory bulbs peeked out from the shelves. Chicory and orange is a classic combination in my family's repertoire of salads, and remembering a recipe I'd seen recently for a green bean and roasted squash salad, I imagined the celeriac playing the squash's role to perfection.

And lo! A gorgeous winter salad. Warming and refreshing. Light and filling. Adaptable to many different fridge situations. Super!

Winter Salad of Celeriac, Chicory and Orange

1/2 medium celeriac - peeled and cubed (about 1.5 cm x 1.5cm)
1 tsp each salt, black pepper, sugar
a splash of olive oil
2 heads chicory
2 oranges
a handful of green beans
juice of half a lemon
wholegrain mustard

Mix the celeriac cubes with the oil and seasoning and place in a roasting tray in a preheated oven at about 180C for about 40 minutes. At regular intervals give the tray a little shake to stop it sticking.

Meanwhile slice the chicory lengthwise or into rings, as you prefer, and segment the orange, reserving the juice for later.

Steam the beans until just tender and drain - run cold water over to keep their greenness.

Prepare the chicory, orange and beans on a plate and scatter over the roasted celeriac

Mix the orange juice, lemon juice, some olive oil and mustard to form a vinaigrette and dress.


(Suggested additions - feta cheese, walnuts, toasted seeds, parmesan, red onion - experiment... )
NB - pre-salad walk under gloomy skies, past bare trees full of big black birds - optional!...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Getting there slowly...

‘Resolutions serve to ease our conscience’, I read at the weekend. It was one of about 300 ‘truisms’ scrolling across an electronic display board, a piece by American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer in the Tate Modern (more here).*

Well, and they do for a bit, don't they. I'd been feeling quite chipper in the weeks leading up to Christmas as I thought about how much better things'd be in the brand spanking new year. Plans, lovely plans, bubbling away in my head. I am one of these people who spend so much time stuck in the lovely invented future that I leave little time for the real-world mundanities of Actually Making Things Happen. *sigh*

Anyway, my conscience is now not feeling eased, but slightly sheepish. Time's marching on and my plans and projects are following me around like people I don't want to see, tapping me on the shoulder and pulling disapproving and neglected faces at me...

So, I'm going to turn around and try to placate them. Set them out in type at least, and thrust them into cyberspace for all to see (ok, enough with the dodgy metaphor already lydia; onwards!... )

Without further ado then, my belated new food year's resolutions (always best to start resolutions in February anyway; January is such a terrible month for discipline...)

1. I will no longer cross with silver the palms of those huge multi-national coffee corporations!
Yes, I admit it, I have in the past had a bit of a weak spot for a Caffe Nero pain au raisin and macchiato, a Pret cappucino and breakfast baguette, a Starbucks tea and cookie. But every time I do it I think what a sucker I am to feed their coffers. How much better food I could buy with that money. I have found it more easy recently to stop seeing comfort and a guilty treat in these overpriced, mass-produced soulless products, and have been able instead to see myself buying an image and succumbing to the lure of instant gratification, which is all too often hollow and dissatisfying.
So from now on, I will not eat and drink that junk. I may yet spend long pleasurable hours reading the papers and drinking a latte, or writing notes on minor mishaps or pleasant surprises whilst enjoying a pot of tea. But it will be occasional and at smaller, more individual establishments. And........... I shall buy a thermos flask for my own hot drinks at my convenience and a tenth of the price!
2. I will post every week! No, really, I will. I really will try and get the momentum going and sustain it... This will be the year of lydia saucepan...
3. I will determine my position on meat! I became vegetarian once, for about 18 months. It was a general kind of misgiving that led me to take it up, but it was a vagueness about my misgivings which meant I lapsed so soon after (that, and the fact I was in Australia and enjoying the hospitality of many meat-eating relatives who I didn't want to inconvenience).
I like meat. I really do like a perfect fillet steak, a plate of good cured ham, some chorizo here and there, the occasional sausage sandwich...
But I have an issue with intensive meat production. I don't like the sound of all the antibiotics and the dinginess of living quarters. I'm not sure about abattoir conditions, I really hate the thought of those hens who can't walk because they're bred with short legs and fat bodies that grow too fast.
So I think I need to come up with a better stance on this. I'm going to do some research and then I'm only going to eat meat which comes up to my individual standards of what meat should be.
4. I will learn new skills and recipes! Yes, some kind of course, many kinds of investigations and experiments. All to be documented here of course...
So that's it. That's the aim. And now it's all here as evidence I can't just feel my conscience salved and move back into inertia; they'll be mocking me if I do. I'll let you know how it goes...