Recipe: Vegetable Recipes by Bill Sewell

PUBLISHED: 14:50 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:02 20 February 2013



Recipes by Bill Sewell, director of Caf@All Saints, Hereford. Photography by Tom Foxall<br/><br/>Have you ever despaired of your organic veg box? Have you ever felt weighed down by a veg mountain as the heap of parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, buttern...

So, for winter and early spring my key strategies are:

  1. Creamy gratins and bakes. These are the great delight of winter root vegetables and there are two basic approaches which are illustrated in the first two recipes below. One uses thinly sliced raw vegetables cooked in double cream and the other uses cooked vegetables in a cheese sauce. I would usually serve a gratin with either a simple salad in a sharpish vinaigrette dressing or some briefly boiled cabbage tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper.

  1. Pasta with roots and greens. This method of cooking pasta was a complete revelation to me. First, dice for example potatoes and parsnips very finely (the size of peas), then either roast or fry them until golden brown. Add some finely chopped garlic (and perhaps ginger and chilli), some rosemary, thyme or sage, and perhaps some lemon zest and juice. Then when the pasta is boiling, about two minutes before it is cooked, add some finely shredded cabbage or cauliflower or purple sprouting or other greens (purple sprouting and darker greens may need longer). Drain the pasta and cabbage thoroughly and toss with the root veg mix, and a bit of extra olive oil if you think it wants additional lubrication. Season well with salt and pepper and serve with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan or whatever other cheese is lurking in your fridge.

  1. Winter salads. There are many possibilities here: diced root veg in a mustard and dill vinaigrette; grated celeriac and carrots with honey and dill; blanched cabbage with cumin and orange dressing. Making salads with a mixture of cooked and raw ingredients (see the tuna recipe below) opens up another exciting range of possibilities.

  1. Big soups. To a base of onions, garlic, pulses and tinned tomatoes add almost any root veg you can think of. Go either Mediterranean (finish the soup with a blob of fresh pesto) or oriental (chillies, ginger, coconut milk, fresh coriander). Then add finely chopped brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli) near the end.

Of course these aren't the only strategies - I haven't even mentioned stews, casseroles and risottos - but the point is to be creative and respond to whatever veg you have.

Potato, parsnip and anchovy gratin

serves 4 generously

A recipe inspired by the magnificently-named Jansson's Temptation. This version, using both parsnips and potatoes, gives a great combination of sweet and savoury. Thin slicing is essential to achieve the right result without pre-cooking the vegetables.

Serve with briefly boiled sweetheart cabbage tossed in a little olive oil with salt and pepper.

3 medium potatoes (600g) e.g. Maris Piper, sliced very thinly

2 medium onions (500g), sliced very thinly

2 medium parsnips (400g), sliced very thinly

1 x 114g tin anchovies in olive oil (2 tins if you like a strong taste of anchovies)

400 ml double cream

a little melted butter to brush over the top

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

  1. Mix the sliced veg together with some salt and pepper (go easy on the salt if you're using 2 tins of anchovies)

  1. Using a large, fairly shallow baking tray (35cm x 22cm) spread half of the veg mixture out evenly. Lay half the anchovies on top, being sure to get an even spread. Repeat with the second half of the veg and the rest of the anchovies. Pour the cream over and brush the top with melted butter.

  1. Put in the oven for 30 minutes covered and a further 30 minutes uncovered until the vegetables are tender and the top is browned.

Aromatic cauliflower and sweet potato bake

serves 4

I hadn't eaten cauliflower cheese for years when I first made this dish - I won't leave it so long again as this made a fantastically tasty lunch. Serve it with some crusty bread and a sharply dressed salad. The key, as with most simple dishes, is to take care over the details. The cauliflower must not be overcooked, the sweet potatoes must be quite well cooked (totally soft and browned at the edges) and you must use a really flavoursome Cheddar like the Montgomery's I've used for these pictures.

500g orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, cut into fat chips

1 medium cauliflower, in big florets

500ml milk

2 bay leaves, broken

2 tsp coriander seeds, roughly broken

3 cardamom pods, broken

70g butter

60ml flour

freshly ground black pepper

200g strong Cheddar, grated

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

  1. Roast the sweet potatoes in a little olive oil with salt and pepper until they are very soft and browned at the edges (about 30 minutes).

  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Put the cauliflower florets in, bring back to the boil and continue boiling for one minute only so that the cauliflower is just losing its rawness but still has plenty of texture. Drain thoroughly.

  1. Make the cheese sauce. Put the milk in a pan with the bay leaves, coriander and cardamom. Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat. Strain the milk into a fresh pan. In another pan melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux. Gradually add the hot milk, stirring constantly and vigorously to keep the sauce smooth. When all the milk has been added continue cooking for a couple of minutes (stirring all the while) to ensure the flour is thoroughly cooked. Take off the heat and stir in three-quarters of the grated cheese. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and a little salt if it needs it.

  1. Spread the cauliflower and sweet potatoes evenly over a baking dish. Pour the sauce over and sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake in a hot oven (about 210C) for 20 minutes until piping hot and browned on top. (Note that if you've prepared it earlier and it's going into the oven from the fridge then it will take longer to cook).

Seared tuna with a warm salad of purple sprouting and celeriac, sweet chilli vinaigrette

This recipe shows how a late winter/early spring veg box can just as easily give you a light and healthy feast. The dressing can be varied indefinitely depending on what delicious spicy things you've got in your cupboard.

For me there is no point buying fresh tuna unless you are going to serve it pink in the middle. If you cook it right the way through its delicious fatty richness is turned to a dry thing no better than you'd get out of a tin.

500g celeriac, peeled and grated

juice of a lemon

1 small red onion (100g) peeled and finely diced

1 x 25g bunch fresh coriander

1 small clove garlic, crushed

1 tsp crushed chillies

2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp Thai fish sauce

1 tbs white wine vinegar

5 tbs olive oil

250g purple sprouting broccoli

400g fresh tuna cut into four slices

  1. Mix everything together except the purple sprouting and the tuna.

  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and put in the purple sprouting. Cook for three to five minutes until the stalks are just tender, then drain thoroughly and toss with the celeriac mixture. Divide the salad between four plates.

  1. Heat a large frying pan until it is quite hot. Sprinkle some salt on both sides of the tuna steaks and put them in the hot pan. Fry them for no more than one minute on each side. Put one on top of each plate of salad to serve.

Copyright Bill Sewell

To find out more about Bill's cafes visit See Bill's books, Food from the Place Below and Feasts from the Place Below, for more recipes

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