Ingredients are going retro with once shunned vegetables now the kings of cool. But what should you do with this old school produce?
Retro vegies are all the rage.
WHAT happened? Once the coolest fruits and vegetables all had exotic names and pedigrees to match – goji berries, achacha, rambutan and gai lan to name a few – but now it’s as if we’ve gone back to basics.
First kale and now cauliflower have become the vegetables of the moment, and grandpa-style greens are all the rage. Once daggy vegies – silverbeet, Brussels sprouts and beetroot – are also ready for their close-ups. The big question is how to use them at home in a sexy, modern way?
Would we be more appreciative of this robust leaf if it was called Swiss chard? Probably! That’s the case abroad, but for us, until recently, it was the poor relation to spinach. Now, we are back in love with silverbeet thanks to its bold flavour, texture and versatility.
I treat it as two vegetables. Pickle the stems, cook them with a little cream and garlic under a cheese and breadcrumb crust or just saute with garlic. I finely slice the leaves, pan-wilt them and toss through spaghetti with pancetta.
Most often I’ll fry chunks of chorizo, wilt the leaves in its fat, drain and then throw in chickpeas or leftover potatoes. Add smoked paprika, coriander seeds and a little cumin, and pop in the oven with a little sherry vinegar.
Or take it to a more summery place by dressing blanched silverbeet with lemon juice. Serve with what I call a “fake burrata” – diced mozzarella tossed with a spoon of creme fraiche. Dress the plate with a drizzle of olive oil, salt flakes, parsley and olive cheeks.
How could anyone not love these teeny cabbages? Mostly the dislike has stemmed from years of being overboiled until they are grey and stinky.
Modern dishes using Brussels sprouts see them served raw, finely sliced in a salad with mint, shaved parmesan and radish, or as a slaw with batons of red apple, finely sliced and blanched red onion and caraway seeds. To dress, splash with a mix of Greek yoghurt and apple cider vinegar. Add blue cheese and macadamias to make this lunch.
Or, double cook them. Par-cook for three minutes then finish in a hot oven with crispy bacon and crushed or toasted pecans, or toss in cream and nutmeg and bake under a breadcrumb crust.
Most decadent is to halve them and cover with brown butter. Most frugal is to serve them quartered, fried hard and with sliced roasted potatoes and caramelised onions for a take on bubble and squeak.
Once the preserve of salad sandwiches and a burger with the lot, beetroot has diversified. It partners so well with goat’s cheese, dill, mint, cumin, orange, horseradish and nuts like hazelnuts, pistachios or pecans.
The simplest thing to do is to bake unpeeled beetroots individually wrapped in silver foil. Then chop into wedges to make a salad with a combo of any of the ingredients above.
Or go root to stem. Blitz the roast beets with olive oil, feta and Greek yoghurt to make a purple sauce to go with lamb cutlets and serve the pan-wilted beet leaves on the side.
The earthiness and sweetness of roast beets goes well with the briary tang of blackberries and crunch of celery. Serve with lemony creme fraiche.
Or dice them to toss with orange juice and a diced apple, which will turn the apple purple and provide a textural surprise when paired with pork chops as a salsa. Grated beetroot can also be turned into beetroot hummus. See delicious.com.au for the recipe.