Friday, 17 December 2010

Festive Veg

So whether you're a veggie looking for something special for Christmas lunch, or simply want your side dishes to be as interesting as your meat, chances are you'll be looking beyond the bog standard boiled method when it comes to seasonal veg. So I've been having a think about some of the best vegetable dishes in my recipe collection and hopefully some of these will come in handy. Obviously you'll need to measure serving portions to accommodate how many guests you have, but most of these guidelines will suit dishes for 6-10 people. Oven temperatures may also vary depending on what else you have cooking on the day.

Butter steamed carrots with cardamom: Because carrots contain a lot of water, you can easily slow cook them on the hob with a little butter and not much else. If you are slicing your carrots, I'd give them around 45mins on the lowest heat, but if you're using them whole it will take a little longer.

Peel your carrots and chop if preferred. Place them in a non stick pan with a generous knob of butter (or oil if you want), with around 3 cardamom pods per carrot, on the lowest setting. Secure the lid and leave to cook. Every so often stir to ensure that the carrots are well coated and if you are noticing any burning or sticking, add a touch of cold water or more butter. After 40-45 minutes, prick with a knife to ensure they are tender (leave to cook a little longer if not), remove the pods and serve drizzled with the remaining butter.

Braised Red Cabbage with Medjool Dates: The addition of sweet dates to this oven cooked cabbage means that there is no need for any additional sugars. This normally requires slower cooking on a lower heat, but if you have your oven on for other things, you can cook this on the bottom for around 1hour/90 mins.

Thinly slice your red cabbage (around one small cabbage will do, or 3/4 of a large one), stone and slice around 12 dates. Add to a oven proof dish with the rind of one orange, a large cinnamon stick (or one heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon) and one teaspoon of allspice. Finally add around 50ml of apple juice, or if you prefer apple brandy and one or two knobs or unsalted butter. Mix with your hands to ensure everything is combined, cover and place in the oven. Check after 1 hour that cabbage is soft and fragrant, remove cinnamon stick and serve if done.

Four Cheese Macaroni and Cauliflower Bake: My sister often uses Macaroni to pad out her cauliflower cheese dish when there are a lot of people to cater for, so this can do as a side, or a main. You don't have to use four different cheeses though, so long as you have one soft and one hard cheese you'll be fine. You can also cook this on the hob if you don't have space in the oven.

Cook your cauliflower (one head's worth) and around 150g of macaroni, for ten minutes in salted boiling water. Remove from the heat and drain. Melt around 50g of butter or oil in a pan on medium heat and add 100g or ricotta cheese, 100g of cream cheese and beat quickly with a spoon for a couple of minutes until blended. You may have some lumps but this doesn't matter to much. Add a tablespoon of  cornflower until mixture stiffens, then slowly add some milk (500ml, gradually) to form a roux. Continue to stir until sauce starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and add 100g of crumbly cheese such as Caerphilly or Wensleydale and still. If you find your sauce too thick at this stage add a little more milk or even single cream. Place cauliflower and macaroni in an oven proof dish, poor over sauce, then top with grated cheddar. Cook for 20 mins to half an hour until thick, gooey and bubbling on top. Additional chopped leek added at the oven stage also tastes great.

In a couple of days I'll be posting my tips for some of the best potato dishes

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