Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Adventures in new cooking - Salsify

Photo courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/salsify
One of the coolest things about living in a different country is attempting to cook with ingredients you've never seen before.  Last week the local markets had salsify on offer, also known (to whom I'm not sure) as poor man's asparagus. Here in Germany they call it Schwarzwurtzel (black root).

Salsify's an interesting vegetable, you buy it caked in dirt, and you have to be careful as you peel it because the sap is incredibly sticky.  The taste?  All the recipes I'd consulted suggested hints of oyster, and you know what?  They're right.  The predominant taste is something similar to parsnip, but there is a light and lingering oyster after taste, which is much more pleasant than it perhaps sounds.  I only bought three, which wasn't quite enough to properly cook the soup described at http://eatlikeagirl.com/2009/01/30/salsify-roast-garlic-soup/, but with a little bit of substitution I came up with this (which worked a treat):

Bastardised salsify and garlic soup

2 tbsp olive oil,
1 tbsp butter,
1 head of garlic,
200 g  yams, peeled and roughly chopped (I used a variety I'd never seen before, looked like a cross between NZ yams and turnips, and tasted about the same),
200 g salsify, washed peeled and diced and then placed in a bowl of water with half a lemon squeezed into it,
500 g potatoes, peeled and diced,
2 medium leeks, sliced,
100 g lentils
2 bay leaves,
1 tsp thyme (dried),
2 tsp chicken stock,
1.75 L hot water (if using real chicken stock, 1 L should do, with about 0.75 mL water),
Salt and pepper.

Preheat an oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Cut the top off the head of garlic and place in a roasting dish, along with the chopped up yams.  Drizzle a table spoon of olive oil over them all, and then bake for about 20-30 minutes.  Remove from the oven as soon as the cloves of garlic are soft enough to be squeezed from their skins and allow to cool.

Meanwhile (after 15 minutes or so), heat a large pot to a low-medium heat, and then add the butter and the remaining olive oil.  Once the oils are sizzling a little, add the leeks and gently fry for 5-10 minutes (the more patience the better).  Increase the temperature a touch and then add the potatoes, salsify and the slightly roasted yams.  Cook for another 5 minutes or so.  Next add the lentils, bay leaves, thyme, chicken stock, garlic and water.  Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for at least 20 minutes or until the salsify is tender.

To finish, remove the bay leaves and then mash/blitz/food-process to your preferred texture.  Add salt and pepper to taste and sever with warm crusty bread and a decent beer.  Enjoy!

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