I love this time of year when the days are cooler and and all the signs are there that winter is coming. And just as the seasons change so do my cravings for food. I am already dreaming of the soups and stews I’m going to eat with hunks of torn ciabatta this winter.
But right now I’m in love with baby veg. Bay carrots, baby cabbages, baby carrots, baby brinjals and of course, baby marrows. Woolies has a fabulous selection of in season baby veg right now that are irresistibly cute and super healthy to boot. I love the variety of colours and textures and can rarely get it over my heart to overcook them or even chop them up!
A selection of baby vegetables
Take baby carrots. They are so deliciously crisp and sweet I often munch on them during the day. When it’s supper time and I’m all out of ideas for a side I take the entire bag of ready-to-cook baby carrots and pop them onto a roasting tray, drizzle them with butter, salt and maple syrup (or use honey, depending on what I have most of at home) and bake until they just done.
Baby cabbages make a delicious salad mixed with raisins, spring onion and homemade mayo. But they’re also great pan-fried in a couple of splashes of soya sauce, sesame oil and sprinkled with chopped chillies and a grating or two of ginger.
One thing I insist on is that life is really just too short to peel a baby potato. Rather, I’d par-cook them before placing them on a baking tray with sprinklings of sage, garlic, olive oil and seasonings. This is a great dish to serve with at a braai.
Other lovely baby veg from Woolies are baby beets, mushrooms, spinach and gem squash. Use them as you would the ‘adults’, but remember to handle with care!
One of my favourite dishes is this sugar snap pearl barley risotto to which I add sliced baby purple cabbage for delicious crunch and colour. Pearl barley has a deliciously nutty taste. Here goes.
Sugar snap and pearl barley risotto with baby purple cabbage
8 spring onions, thinly sliced
2–3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
400 g pearl barley
4 cups good-quality chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
200 g sugar snap peas, blanched
150 g broad beans or peas, blanched
2 T flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 baby purple cabbage, thinly sliced
Place a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat.
Add 2⁄3 of the spring onion, along with the garlic and olive oil.
Gently fry for a minute or so, until soft and fragrant.
Add the pearl barley and stir through until the grains become slightly glossy.
Add 1 ladle of stock at a time, and gently cook until the grains plump up and absorb the liquid.
Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the grains are tender with a slightly nutty bite, and the texture is creamy, remove from the heat and season to taste.
Fold in the blanched sugar snap peas, the broad beans or peas, parsley, the remaining spring onion and a handful of thinly sliced purple cabbage.
When ready to serve, divide between warmed bowls and serve with a crack of black pepper and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
My note: Add a splash of white wine before adding the stock, if you like. For something different, serve with crumbled goat’smilk cheese or ricotta.
PS: The Woolworths Homemade Soup Competition 2012 has just kicked off! Visit tastemag.co.za for tips on what the judges are looking for then enter your recipe. As always there is a R50 000 Woolworths gift card at stake as well as the chance to have your soup sold on Woolies’ shelves.