Back to our roots…
Date: 12-09-2019 published by Nick Baines
It’s one of the most reliable food groups in the seasonal calendar, ready to bolster a great multitude of dishes and a leader when it comes to filling, nutritious veg-forward meals.
We have a strong dependency on root veg here in Britain. However, whether it’s the veg within a hearty pie, or the cornerstone of a Sunday roast, root veg almost always takes the form of big, comforting winter meals – and it doesn’t have to be that way.
If we take beetroot for example, this intensely coloured vegetable is capable of providing truly unique earthiness and weight to a salad. Whether pre-boiled and peeled, ready for use, or whole with tops, this ingredient delivers a wealth of options to the cook. The beetroot tops can be thrown into your salad leaf mix, while peeling can enrich and deepen vegetable broths and stocks.
For colour and contrast, different varieties of beetroot can work well for the kitchen too. Rainbow colours and the mottled rings in Candy beetroot make an enticing display and flecked with crumbly goats cheese and a drizzle of delicate floral honey and you are onto one of the simplest, but most attractive appetisers of the season.
The playful colour of carrots also gets a nod on plates and due to their somewhat smaller size, rainbow carrots can provide a vibrant foundation to all manner of roasted meats. Carrots lend themselves to a variety of popular cuisines right now. Whether you are making wide ribbons using a peeler to incorporate into stir-fried noodles, or dusting them in smoked paprika, roasting and using as a segment in a Buddha bowl, the carrot is a versatile ingredient and one of the best loved root vegetables out there. Pro-tip: sprinkle your roasted or raw carrot with toasted sesame seeds for incredible contrast in textures and a wow-factor flavour combination.
Pre-prepared carrot sticks have grown in popularity almost in tandem with the widespread affection for hummus. This segues into a perfect partner opportunity and a powerful take-out option for customers seeking simpler plant-based diet choices. The humble radish does well in this environment too, giving crunchiness, freshness and a bright peppery kick. We are seeing chefs moving to other varieties of radish for both colour and flavour, such as the watermelon radish that offers a bright green exterior, and pale pink inside. Additionally, it won’t be long before the ferociousness of horseradish is called for as pub menus make a swift change to autumnal dishes.
Of course, root veg plays a big part in the year-round trend of juices. Beetroot and carrot are incredibly popular bases, and while beetroot may need softening with some hedgerow berries for sweetness, the carrot carries its own sweetness straight off the bat.
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