A fresh start to the new year
Well done, we made it! Another year of sourcing, buying and cooking our foods and learning about ingredients and cooking along the way. We give great thanks for all the foods that passed our table in 2013 and look forward to those coming in 2014. The following three major food-related areas will be on my radar over the next twelve months.
Vegetables. Definitely under-rated, and under appreciated. A diverse vegetable diet can provide a massive spectrum of nutrients, minerals, vitamins and essential building blocks for a healthy body.
In 2014, let’s open ourselves up to the under-valued possibilities of vegetables.
Just think of all the amazing flavour and texture combinations. Already many celebrity chefs have focussed exclusively on vegetables – expect more.
The cause of vegetables is done absolutely no good by recent below-cost selling of these wonderful foods in the multiples.
This food source should be sold at a fair price to the consumer after a fair price has been paid to the producer for growing them and the seller retains a fair profit.
‘Fair’ being the operative word here.
Consumers are turning away from massive warehouse shops in favour of well-run, friendly, medium-sized grocers who can add a personal touch to the foods they sell.
It may not bring back the small shops that have sadly already closed, but it may provide opportunities for people interested in returning to traditional shopping values: sourcing good products from trusted sources, promoting activities that contribute to communities, and offering producers and customers alike a fair price and personal service.
These are the choices that we alone make and we alone are responsible for. What are we, as individuals, doing to ensure fair and sustainable food practises? Can we make the time to support local produce? Can we encourage the use of fresh, clean foods instead of processed versions? Can we find the time and space to actually focus on what foods we buy and put into our bodies?
Fried leek and Irish cheese starter
Now, back to the cooking. Here is a recipe for an appealing starter that’s relevant to all of the areas I’ve just touched on.
It promises a new start, a fresh way of looking at things. It uses a delicious locally available vegetable, full of goodness, and matches it with great Irish dairy produce, which we are blessed with in this country.
The interesting combination of vegetable and protein provides roughage for your gut and protein for cell growth. Leeks are from the Allium family, which also includes garlic and onions and is famed for its benefits to the blood system and its levels of vitamins C and K.
The dish also has gorgeous flavours and texture contrasts. The sexy butteriness of cooked leek lengths contrasts beautifully with the crunchy walnuts, and is seduced by creaminess of Irish cheese melting into the dish.
What you need
- 4 leeks
- Irish Rape Seed oil
- 80g walnuts
- 150g crumbed Irish cheese (your favourite local cheese?)
- Knob Irish butter
What you do
Trim and clean up the leeks. Cut them into two-inch lengths and then slice them in half. Wash in a colander under the tap and let dry.
Cook the lengths of leek with a splash of oil and a knob of butter in a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat (this is important, as this style recipes requires a slow sauté, not a fast fry).
Cover with a lid when the leeks start to cook. You only need to move the leeks three times over ten minutes to brown the sides, while the lid retains any moisture. Ideally, you want the lengths lightly browned but soft and wet all the way through.
Crush your walnuts and stir among the leeks for one minute. Season, and add your crumbed cheese on top of the leeks just before serving (don’t stir).
Serve out onto plates for a delicious, nutritious starter! For an alternative take on this dish, warm the walnuts in a hot oven tray with paprika beforehand, or add some sexy grated raw beetroot at the last moment for earthiness and a wonderful colour contrast.
Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.