Winter comforts

As the days grow shorter, so too (in our off-the-grid solar-powered home) do the possible hours of computer use. For that matter, so too do our waking hours. There have been a number of days recently when our lights have shut themselves off around 9:30, sending all but the most nocturnal of us to our beds! We are working on an upgrade to our solar system, which should relieve some frustrations around limited use of our various devices and most especially the laptop. Still, I hope that we maintain the sense of dependence on the natural world around us.

All this is a roundabout way of offering a partial explanation for the lateness of this blog post. Vegetables went out nearly two weeks ago and only now am I finding a chance to write this post. I console myself with the thought that this month’s order was almost identical to last month’s (minus the garlic), so you are well familiar with the vegetables provided: potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabaga, and onions.

You may, however, be wondering what to do with some of them, and I have been wanting to share a few more recipes, including a roasted parsnip soup I tried out last month (from Spilling the Beans):

1 1/4 lbs parsnips

2 medium carrots

1 large onion

3-4 peeled garlic cloves

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 cups cooked and drained white beans

1/2 cup cream (optional)

1/4-1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/3-1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley (if available)


Preheat oven to 400.

Peel the carrots and parsnips. Shave one parsnip into strips with a vegetable peeler until you have 1 cup packed. Set this aside and cut the rest (and the carrots) into 1-inch chunks, splitting the large ends of the parsnips into halves or quarters if needed. Peel the onion and cut into 8 chunks. Place vegetables on baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and season lightly with salt. Toss to coat with oil. Roast for 20 minutes, add the garlic, stir, and roast another 15-25 minutes until everything is golden and tender. Transfer to a soup pot, add the stock and beans, and bring to a simmer. Cook gently about 25-30 minutes. Puree then reheat, adding cream and nutmeg (and some cayenne if you wish).

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a small saucepan until shimmering but not boiling. Working in 3-4 batches, transfer the reserved parsnip strips to the hot oil with a fork (protect arms with oven mitts and keep face away). Cook until lightly browned, then transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat. Serve on top of hot soup, with finely chopped parsley.

If you’re looking for some potato ideas, this morning I made delicious potato pancakes by adding a bit of grated cheddar cheese, an egg, and some dried green onions to a pot of leftover mashed potatoes and then cooking them over a hot stove. I served them with Cindy’s zucchini salsa (on the blog recipe page) and they were a big hit!

And here’s a beet recipe I haven’t tried yet, which a friend shared from The Guardian:

Beet and caraway loaf

Makes 1 x 750g loaf
300g cooked beetroot, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
100ml buttermilk or plain yoghurt
200g white spelt flour
200g wholemeal spelt flour
50g pumpkin seeds, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the beetroot (see the note if you’re roasting your own), spices and buttermilk in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Put the flours, pumpkin seeds, salt, bicarbonate of soda and pepper into a large bowl and mix well.

3 Pour the beetroot mixture into the flours and mix with a fork until well combined, then use your hands to bring the lot into a rough ball. Don’t knead it though, or it will make the finished loaf tough.

Scatter some flour over a baking sheet and put your ball of dough on top. Dust with a little more flour and a few more pumpkin seeds.

Cut a deep cross in the bread, then bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and risen. Remove from the oven and tap the bottom of the loaf. If you get a hollow sound, it’s perfect, so pop it on a wire rack to cool. This is delicious warm with salted or almond butter.

If you are roasting the beetroot yourself:

Wash the beetroot well and trim off the stalks. Place the whole beetroot in a foil parcel, wrapped really tightly so the steam doesn’t escape. Cook for around an hour (depending on the size of your beetroot) until tender. Once cooked, allow to cool in the foil parcel, this will make it really easy to remove the skins. When cool enough to handle slip the skins off and discard. Extra roasted beetroot can be used in salads or alongside dips such as hummus.

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