Rainbow and Trumpets

The ‘perfect family’ where everybody eats every last bit that is served to them at mealtimes; a figment of imaginative, wishful thinking but motivates a continual search for something a little unusual or for ideas of how to serve ’the usual’ in different and appealing ways. Frustrating at times but this can be a lot of fun and leads to all manner of discoveries though even in my wildest dreams, I can’t imagine that anybody will help to demolish the pot of Kimchi that’s sat in the fridge. Vegetables are inexpensive and versatile so perfectly lend themselves to experimentation.

Bon Appétit magazine is full of fabulous recipes and ideas though, by the time it has winged its way to Paris it’s is out of date but, oh so gratefully received, always living up to expectation. The recent edition transforms the humble spring onion by griddling, roots and all resulting in a tasty vegetable accompaniment that is miles away from any thoughts of salad. Choose big, fat onions and half lengthwise before slamming onto a hot grill pan for a couple of minutes on each side to wilt and colour.

Leafy greens and a tender pink blush, baby turnips or, navets as they are called in French are super pretty but, were never received with enthusiasm until recent success with baby turnip confit , slowly cooked in oil (or duck fat) which miraculously removes any deterring astringency. The small navels remain whole, vertically slicing any that are large, to make all about the same size; remove the leaves and reserve. Heat a small saucepan of olive oil (or duck fat), just enough to cover the turnips, adding a little garlic and thyme before leaving to infuse over a medium heat for 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, sprinkle the rinsed turnips with a little salt. Slightly increase the heat of the oil then add the turnips and cook for about 20-25 minutes until they are tender. Remove with a slotted spoon onto absorbent kitchen paper. Add the green leaves to the oil and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until tender; remove and drain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving; strain the oil and store, ready for next time.

Whatever I seem to do, courgettes retain their negative reputation though my repertoire is reasonably varied and includes grating for salads, julienne for stir fry, sauté in butter and, oven roast. But at last, some success has appeared by preparing a very different variety of this versatile vegetable; hello and welcome to the ‘trombetta’, the trumpet courgette. It is easy to see how this pale green vegetable came to be named after a curvaceous brass instrument but, it is the crisp texture and delicate sweetness that makes this a winner. The trombetta has virtually no seeds so its firmness is retained when cooked. A very easy dish is to sauté finely sliced onion or shallot in a little olive oil along with a crushed clove of garlic. When the onion is soft, add the courgette which has been pre-sliced into 5mm discs and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so or until al-dente. Season to taste and scatter over a little lemon zest and thyme.

But, how could anybody resist this colourful rainbow of radishes? They make a great accompaniment to aperitifs; leaving a tuft of green stalk and the spindly root in place, scrub clean and pat dry before serving with a tiny bowl of good quality sea salt and mayonnaise to dip.