The Winter Garden

King Henry I is said to have died from a surfeit of lampreys. I can’t eel out of the fact that I’m suffering from an overdose of Christmas. Delicious though the mince pies, clotted cream and chocolates were, I’m beginning to look like a galleon in full sail.

I’m not keen on Veganuary as a concept but still, I’m craving fresh vegetables and happily we are still cropping the kitchen garden, so all the veg here came from our own plot. The only imports were the citrus and butterbeans. Oh, ok and the wine, although I could have sourced that locally. Together they make a comforting, rainbow-coloured vegetarian spread (vegan if you replace the small amount of butter in the recipes with oil). It’s not a diet dish but it is, I think, healthy and cheering.

I served the vegetable dishes as one main course centred on the butterbean mash. Feel free to cherry-pick or substitute according to what you fancy and/or have available. If you’d like to get ahead, pre-cook the kale crisps, make the mash up to the stage where it’s decanted into a saucepan, blanch the fennel, fry the leeks and boil the carrots. Finish each dish just before you want to eat.

The Winter Garden

  • Servings: 2 as a main
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Please see intro for suggestions on pre-cooking some elements.

Ingredients for the butterbean mash:

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

I fat clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil (I like Hill Farm’s)

2 tins of butter (lima) beans, drained

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Big handful of chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

For the leeks in red wine (from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking):

6 baby leeks, trimmed almost down to the white part and thoroughly washed

Pinch of salt

2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil

50 ml red wine

2 tbsp veg stock

For the orange-glazed carrots:

Small bunch of carrots, cleaned and trimmed, cut into batons if large

Pinch each of salt and sugar

1 tbsp butter

2-3 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped

For the sautéed fennel:

1 large fennel bulb or a handful of smaller ones, trimmed and cut into slim wedges, retaining some root and keeping a few fronds aside for garnish

1 tsp oil

1 tsp butter

1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed, or caraway seeds (optional)

Salt and pepper

For the crispy kale garnish:

A small bunch of kale leaves, tough ribs discarded

1 tsp extra virgin rapeseed oil

Pinch of salt flakes

Method:

To make the mash: heat the butter and oil in a frying pan and add the onion, sprinkled with a little salt. Put on a lid and cook until nearly tender, then remove the lid and add the garlic. Continue to fry until both are soft and golden, stirring often to ensure they don’t burn.

Scrape into a food processor with all the flavoured butter/oil and add the drained butterbeans and lemon zest and juice (not the parsley, yet). Whizz to a smooth, creamy mash. You can use an immersion blender if you prefer, loosening with a small amount of hot water if it’s too thick to work. Season to taste, scrape into a saucepan and set aside.

For the carrots: cook in boiling water with a pinch each of salt and sugar until crisp-tender, and drain. Melt the butter in a frying pan, cook the carrots for a minute on a moderate to high heat (don’t burn the butter) then add the orange juice. Let it all bubble and reduce, turning the carrots to coat them evenly. Add the chopped coriander and set aside to keep warm.

Sauteeing the leeks

For the leeks: heat the oil and fry the leeks gently, sprinkled with a little salt. When one side is golden, turn and do the other side. Add the red wine (watch out for it spitting) and the veg stock and put on a lid. Cook gently until you can pierce the root end easily with a knife. Mine only took a few minutes but they were very small.

Remove the leeks to a dish and reduce the sauce until it’s thickened slightly. Pour it over the leeks and keep warm.

For the fennel: bring a pan of lightly salted water to the boil and blanch the fennel for about three minutes or until tender to a knife. Drain very thoroughly, drying in a clean tea towel. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and sauté the fennel, sprinkled with a little salt and the fennel or caraway seeds (if using), until tinged with gold. Check the seasoning and keep warm.

Crispy kale

For the crispy kale: heat the oven to 150C/130 fan/ 300F/Gas Mark 2. Dry the kale thoroughly, place in a bowl and tear any big leaves into smaller pieces. Massage in the oil, sprinkle over the salt and place on a baking tray in a single layer. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crisp but retaining their colour.

To serve: finish the various veg dishes if you partly pre-cooked them and keep warm. Put the saucepan with the mash on a gentle heat and warm through, stirring so it doesn’t catch, until piping hot. Check the seasoning and add more butter or oil, to taste.

Stir in the chopped parsley and pile in the middle of a heated serving dish. Arrange the various vegetables around it (or serve separately). Garnish with the crispy kale and a few of the reserved fronds of fennel.

11 thoughts on “The Winter Garden

  1. gorgeous, and so appealing. I did just fine throughout the pandemic, until about mid-November, and then the onslaught of cheeses didn’t stop and the breads and all of the goodies I just had to try. But, it’s like this for me every year. I should be really used to it! But I understand the galleon comment…

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