MATT PRE­STON

In­gre­di­ents are go­ing retro with once shunned veg­eta­bles now the kings of cool. But what should you do with this old school pro­duce?

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents -

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?

SIL­VER­BEET

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.

BRUS­SELS SPROUTS

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.

BEETS

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.

MATT PRE­STON

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