New Ways With Old Veg

Image of baskets of garden produce

Summer garden produce from Portly HQ

I never tire of vegetables, raw, steamed, roasted, stir-fried or mashed. But it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

So when I say this is about new ways with old veg, I don’t mean resurrecting that wizened and blackened carrot that’s lurking at the back of the fridge. It’s well on the way to becoming a new life form anyway. “It’s a root vegetable Jim – but not as we know it.”

I want to take a fresh look – for me anyway – at cooking with vegetables and at bringing their flavours to the fore.

As a confirmed carnivore it’s usually meat that gets the star part in my cooking, with veg relegated to supporting roles.

It’s time they at least got equal billing.

Celeriac Fondant

People are always casually knocking out fondant potatoes on TV cookery programmes but I had never before had celeriac prepared this way. This is largely based on a recipe from a Waitrose magazine but as I ripped out the page I don’t know who I have to thank for it. Whoever you are, please take a bow.

These quantities are designed to serve six people but I don’t think one piece each is enough. It’s too darned tasty. We ate ours with flash-fried venison fillet and it was a marriage made in heaven – but this time around, definitely an equal partnership.

Image of celeriac roots

Celeriac from the garden


1 lemon

2 medium or 4+ small celeriac (our home-grown ones are titchy this year), about 1.5 kg total weight

75 g softened butter

Up to 500 ml vegetable stock (I used Swiss Bouillon powder)

3-4 fat cloves of garlic, unpeeled

4-6 fresh bay leaves (ours are very aromatic so four was enough)


Image of peeled celeriac rubbed with lemon juice

Peel the celeriac and rub it with lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a medium-sized bowl.

Peel the celeriac then cut the flesh hotizontally into slices 2.5-3cm thick.

Using a round pastry cutter, 6-7 cm across, stamp out six rounds. Rub each piece with lemon juice and dunk them in the bowl to stop them going brown.  Any leftover scraps can be stored in acidulated water and used in soups or a mash.

Rub an overproof frying pan or shallow casserole with the butter. Sit the celeriac rounds in the pan and pour in stock to come three-quarters of the way up the sides of the veg, avoiding the tops.

Put the pan on a high heat and bring to the boil. Simmer fast until the liquid has reduced by half.

Take the pan off the heat and carefully turn the celeriac rounds over.

Press the garlic cloves with the flat of a knife to break the skin (but don’t squish them flat). Tuck them, along with the bay leaves, around the celeriac.

Image of finished celeriac fondants

Put the pan in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve straight away. Any juices left in the pan are fabulous whisked into a sauce.

Roasted Cauliflower

I feel a bit dense including this as a “new” way with a vegetable as other cooks have apparently been doing this for an eternity.

All I can say is that I didn’t get an invitation to that party. I’ve steamed it, pickled it, blanketed it in cheese sauce and cooked it in curries but until now I’d never roasted a cauliflower. What a revelation.

There was a report recently (well, a couple of years ago) saying cauliflower sales in the UK had fallen by around a third over the previous 10 years, with growers cutting production accordingly. Newspapers carried doom-laden stories saying it could vanish as a vegetable if we don’t eat more of it.

So if cauli leaves you cold, try one or both of these. I think you might become a convert.

Save the cauli!

Two Ways With Roasted Cauliflower

  • Servings: 2-3 per recipe
  • Print

Image of cauliflower coated with smoked paprika and lemon

Version 1 ready for the oven

Ingredients for version 1:

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Juice and zest of half a lemon

Sprinkling of smoked sweet paprika (1/4 to 1/2 tspn)

Salt and pepper

Ingredients for version 2:

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1 tspn cumin seeds

1 tspn coriander seeds

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 handful of flaked almonds

Juice and zest of half a lemon

Salt and pepper


Image of cauliflower roasted with smoked paprika and lemon

Cauliflower roasted with smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6.

For version 1, put the florets in a roasting tin, sprinkle with olive oil, lemon zest and juice, paprika, salt and pepper and mix well to coat. Roast for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden and caramelising on the edges and easily pierced with a knife.

Prepping version 2

Prepping version 2

For version 2, toast the cumin and coriander in a hot dry frying pan and then grind with a pestle and mortar. Put the cauliflower florets in a roasting tin, sprinkle with olive oil, the spices, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper and mix well. Roast for 25-30 minutes, as above. While the cauliflower is cooking, toast the flaked almonds the same way you did the spices, until they’re turning golden. Be careful, they burn easily. When the cauli is cooked, toss the almonds through the florets and serve.

Image of version 2 (plus chicken jalfrezi)

Roasted cauiflower with Indian spices (and a jalfrezi)

5 thoughts on “New Ways With Old Veg

  1. Loving the look of those celeriac fondants; I have one of the beasties in the fridge at the moment so may give it a go at the weekend. I have also never roasted a cauli but it seems to be the thing at the moment – I always worried it would stay quite hard and inedible (I need to get out more clearly).

    • If in doubt, slather the cauli with more oil. I was quite sparing in the recipe but did one by eye instead of measuring (ie slugged it in) and it was more tender. In fact I think I’ll amend the quantities slightly.

      The celeriac is delicious. Let me know what you think.

  2. Pingback: National Vegetarian Week | Mrs Portly's Kitchen

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