Kate Ryan, Flavour.ie
Root vegetables are the unsung heroes of our kitchens. We really don’t give them half enough credit for how delicious and versatile they are. They spend three quarters of the year underground, and when they do finally get to see the light of day we do no justice to them, boiling them to oblivion on the hob or burning them to a crisp in the oven.
It’s a travesty, and one that I am determined to put right through this months’ Insta Inspo!
Because, let’s face it, when treated with the tiniest bit of care and an ounce of creative culinary thinking, what we get in return are beautifully looking things to eat that are equally beautiful to eat. So, I’m celebrating all our root veg friends so you can start to love those gnarly knotted rooty dreamy veggies and embrace all that they can be, too!
Trust me when I say looking at a gallery of spiral veg tarts is the nearest anyone can legally get to a psychedelic trip, and I salute anyone who has the patience and presence of mind to make enough ribbons of carrot, parsnip and red onion (amongst other things) required for one of these totally instagrammable tarts.
Spiral veg tarts vary greatly, from the selection of veg used (courgette and aubergine are a favourite), to the type of pastry (puff or shortcrust). The base filling of the tarts is usually ricotta seasoned and flavoured with lemon zest and herbs, before filling with those beautiful ribbons of veg.
So many to choose from, but I really liked this tart from @lili.dragu who makes the most of all the root veggies, including leeks and red onion, carrots and parsnips. The finished pie has still retained the colours of these vibrant veggies, along with a perfectly crisp shortcrust base. Perfection!
Purple Potato Gnocchi
I love that there are so many more varieties of potatoes now available in Ireland, no longer a choice between just white or red skinned spuds, and purple potatoes have really captured the imagination.
I’ve made purple potato gnocchi several times in the past, and it’s tricky to get right. Too much contact with water and the brilliant purple fades to an insipid washed out blue-rinse kind of colour. Get it right, though, and you’ll be rewarded with vibrant looking purple potato gnocchi.
It’s a big mistake to incorporate purple potato gnocchi with a sauce – particularly a cream one, it simply looks unappetising. But this creation by @bakergirlofficial is just perfection, pairing colourful purple gnocchi with finely chopped slowly cooked mushrooms and finishing with a garnish of purple mustard microherb.
I know what you’re thinking: mushrooms grow above ground. Technically I guess your correct, but the mushroom itself is the fruiting body of a vast mycorrhizal fungal network that branches throughout huge underground areas. When mushrooms sprout, it’s just one small bit of that network emerging when it’s time to release spores into the wind to spread further still.
I find wild mushrooms fascinating, but don’t ask me to find you an edible one. To try and learn more, I went on a wild mushroom hunt one year and every mushroom I found was inedible! There are only a small number of Irish wild mushrooms that are edible, so unless you really know your mushrooms from your ‘shrooms, best to leave well alone.
In the meantime, take inspiration from Irish food writer, Susan Jane White, @susanjanekitchen that when you have an expert with you, an edible wild mushroom hunt can uncover a treasure trove of tasty treats!
Nothing says relaxed, comforting and tasty food than a traybake of hearty rooty vegetables. I’m a fan of cooking them as a batch so I can add them to anything from salad to curry to pasta, and should there be anything left, wiz them up in a blender with some stock for a delicious soup.
But when cooked slowly and with just the right amount of care, a tray of caramelised, sweet, sticky and a little bit crunchy around the edge root veg is a dream of a dinner all by its good self. @bradleyhangrybear knows the way to traybake root veg that goes straight to your heart. Slow cooked with plenty of garlic, finished with some vibrant fresh parsley perfectly described as ‘jammy’, show me someone who could resist.
Pignuts are tubers so not technical root veg, (but then neither would the potatoes be here and that cannot be justified!). They’re also technically not a nut either but are included in the general classification of wild nuts.
As you might expect from tubers, they grow in the ground sending up delicate, bright green shoots that form a light cloud of white flowers. They are hard to dig out; the green leaves will easily detach from the tuber if pulled even remotely tight. It’s a case of getting down to ground level and digging gently around with a pen knife while cosseting the leaves.
Eventually they’ll come to you, and you’ll be rewarded with a crunchy, nutty tuber about the size of a blackberry. Give them a quick scrub, and they’re ready to go. Roast them or make a pesto with wild garlic as they both sprout at the same time of year.
They’re not a popular forage food, but like @chefdarrenbroom found out, there’s a great deal of pleasure to be had in finding a new ingredient during a forage.
If ever there was a vegetable to achieve culinary rockstar status in recent years, it must be beetroot. Full of brilliant goodness, delicious and versatile, it has graced our tables and menus in so many creative forms as both sweet and savoury, and to drink as well. Golden beets and stripey Chioggia beetroots are amongst the most visually appealing, but from a flavour point of view classic purple beets never let you down.
It was hard to choose just one post for beetroots, testament to their versatility. So, I settled on two very different ways with beetroot.
@lewis.de.haas salad of golden beetroots with kale, anchovies and buckwheat is exactly the kind of dish I would choose from a menu:
While @chefjoebartlett embraces the earthy sweetness of red beetroots and their perfect pairing with chocolate in this dish of chocolate cremeux, sunflower seeds, beetroot, fennel pollen and pink peppercorn meringue, beetroot ice cream and white balsamic – a great pre-dessert dish bridging savoury and sweet:
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding just isn’t complete without a hearty spoonful of horseradish cream on the side. This fiery root grows pretty much anywhere and everywhere in the wild if you know what to look for.
A little goes a long way, too. A small amount grated into some crème fraiche with salt, pepper and parsley is all you need to light the roast beef dinner on fire! To keep it fresh for longer, grate the whole root, place in a freezer bag and freeze. Take out only what you need as you need it, the freezer keeps everything fresh as a daisy.
@ballyhouramushrooms forage wild horseradish to order for their clients, and in this post show off an impressive haul which should keep their client happy all season long!
I must pay homage to the ugliest vegetable on the planet. It’s hard to look at a celeriac and feel moved by it, but trim off it’s weird tangle of spindly roots, shave off the nobbly skin and then, as the anise/fennel/celery-like aroma begins to gently rise to greet you, notice how your taste buds become alive and begin imaging all the delicious things you could make together!
The basic premise about celeriac is that you can cook it in all the way you would cook a potato: baked into a gratin, mashed, roasted, braised, pureed and made into soup. But also, celeriac fries – especially celeriac fries topped liberally with parmesan cheese and thyme.
And, unlike the potato, celeriac is just delicious raw. I thought I knew my favourite way to eat raw celeriac – thinly julienned as part of a punchy remoulade. But then I stumbled upon this way to eat it, discovered by @urbanfoodstroll – wafer thin slices of raw celeriac dressed in a little olive oil, spritz of lemon, salt and pepper and served with Comte cheese.
Daikon (aka, Mooli)
Daikon is a type of radish, but long, white, and can grow to enormous sizes. It’s also a key ingredient in kimchi, the Korean fermented condiment beloved by funky food afficionados everywhere. Most of the time, daikon radish is imported, but down in Cork they do things differently.
Vegan foodists, @mygoodnessfood, teamed up with a local, celebrated vegetable farm, Gort na Nain and asked if they would have a go at growing daikon radish for them to turn into their kimchi. Two years on, and Lucy and Ultan of Gort na Nain farm have cracked the code to growing perfect daikon making the team at My Goodness very happy indeed, harvesting a tonne of them this year.
Not to be mistaken with globe artichokes (sometimes called sunchokes) with their big showy spikey heads, Jerusalem Artichokes live below decks in the dark murk during the coldest months of the year. They’re some of the first treasures of a new year, but not the prettiest to look at with their random protrusions, nobbles and crooked cricks.
But my oh my, their flavour is beyond compare, imbued with a natural smokiness. There’s nothing more luxurious tasting than a silky-smooth artichoke puree, but when I look at the crispy roasted edges of @yorkshiregourmet “Punched Smoked Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar Roast Jerusalem Artichokes with Rosemary and Garlic” my mouth instantly waters and I want to dive right in. Can you taste them?