The last (and first) of these periodical menus was a little bit of a catastrophy, particularly with the photos! I hope I’ll get it a bit better this time!
Since it is Autumn, and Halloween and all that, we are in the period of “special” only available for a short time articles, like “potiron” (that red/orange turnip type vegetable people think is only grown to be hollowed out for lanterns) or pumpkin.Chestnuts or “marrons” are also available at this time of year. When was the last time you smelt chestnuts, roasting or cooking?
Various types of “gourds” (same family, different tastes) and the amazing “spaghetti vegetable” ( a sort of swede which when cooked, falls apart into spaghetti-like long strands). There are many things around at this time of the year, which you will not find all the year around.
Just have a look in your local market, and what you can’t find, compensate for, by using the available vegetables like carrots,brussel sprouts, cauliflower, dark green cabbage, light green cabbages, red cabbage, potatoes,beetroot etc….. Because I propose, in this first of the colder months, a wonderful concoction, cheap, easy, nourishing, attractive to the eye, can be served with meat, fish, but needs nothing apart from your artistic eye. I propose “Le potpourri des purees des legumes d’hiver” (Mixed winter vegetable purees).
Once again the secret of this dish is having a steamer, or being able to arrange other pans into a sort of steamer. It’s quicker,easier,better,keeps the nourishing factors better, and if you use the solid style of freezer bags which support the cold to -30C and the heat to well over 100C, you won’t need to activate that enormous puree machine that takes hours to clean after use! (These freezer bags are available from Aldi and Lidl, and probably other Supermarket chains – make sure they support the heat, otherwise they will probably melt, giving your vegetables free access to the water, and the rubbish bin!)
1). Clean and peel or otherwise prepare the vegetables. For cabbage, shred it finely, carrots and cauliflower break up into pieces or florets for even cooking.Swedes, turnips, pumpkin and most root vegetables need peeling and washing, like the potatoes.
2) Once your vegetables are ready for steaming, sort them out into types that need longer or shorter cooking, and put them into the freezer bags, raw, season and add (if wished) some butter and/or milk) Seal them well with those little wire things that come with the freezer bags, having squeezed out the maximum of air.
THE IDEA IS TO HAVE AS MANY DIFFERENT COLOURS OF VEGETABLE IN PUREE FORM, SO DON’T MIX THEM ALL UP TOGETHER.
3) Start them off cooking, longer cooking vegetables on first, and then joine progressively by shorter cooking vegetables. Since they are sealed in the bags, over-cooking is not a worry, and is actually preferable, to be certain that, when cooled, one can take the freezer bags in the hand and “SQUEEZE-PUREE” them.Obviously this is only possible when dealing with normal family amounts, otherwise you’ll have to get out the monster puree machine!
4) Once you have done the above, you can freeze to keep for later, or you can use immediately. To use now, make sure the consistency is good. This is easily done by testing by hand the contents through the bag.If you feel that the puree is rather too liquid, then open the bag,(keep it for reheating later) put the contents into a pan and reduce (allow the liquid to heat-evaporate)until you’ve got the consistency you want. Don’t forget that you presentation platter will (or should have) at least 6 different colours, which should be independent and too much liquid makes runny, unappetizing purees.Put the finished product back into the bag. Got it all right? Great – onto the next stage.
5) Taste, and correct seasoning, adding maybe nutmeg to the potato puree, for example, or a little more butter here and there,but don’t over salt/pepper. Vegetables have a delicate taste,and need delicate seasonings.
FINAL STAGE: Arranging and service.Put all your vegetables, in their bags, either into the steamer, or even into the microwave, to reheat. Preheat your service dish, and if you have managed to find the spaghetti plant, arrange your spaghetti vegetable coils around the outside.Open (with scissors because of the heat) the bags, and let the puree of steamed vegetables slide into position on your service/presentation plate. Use your creativity with the colours, and if you have roasted chestnuts, leave the dark colouring skin on, and pile them in the centre of your dish. The difference in colour and texture is wonderful.
This sounds like a lot of work, but it isn’t!
In place of the chestnuts in the middle, you can, of course, put some small medaillons (little round pieces) of grilled meat or fish, or even boiled eggs cut and dressed, or some hot scampis/prawns or other shellfish!
It’s doubtful there will be any left-overs, but if so, you can use them again as simple vegetable accompanies, or as omelette fillers, or grate some cheese over the left-overs and pop it into the oven to gratinate a little.You could even use them as fillers for little pastry case, or vol-au-vents, or if you are having a few friends in – do some little toast canapés with the left-overs, pop into the oven for 5 minutes, and serve with Chippies Pastis or whatever.
Wines for this course are simple – a crispy dry white, or rose, chilled. Champagne, of course, or a Rose de Loire for those who prefer a slightly sweeter wine than dry.
On the 1st course side, I would suggest something cold, prepared in advance, and representing what you HAVEN’T served with your vegetable main course i.e. Meat or fish or egg. (Ham, Charcuterie, preserved fish, eggs mayonnaise etc……)
Cheese is obvious – let’s not talk anymore about it!
A dessert is your own choice, but preferably something natural, certainly NOT steamed pudding!
Café Expresso should be second nature by now, and if you haven’t got a machine – STOP BUYING USELESS GOLF CLUBS etc.. AND BUY AN EXPRESSO MACHINE (not lower than 15bars pressure!!!!!)
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