This is the point in winter when eating seasonally can become a little tiresome. While nature is gathering energy for the abundance of spring we are left with hardier plant foods – root vegetables, dense fruits like apples and traditionally a store cupboard of dry goods like beans, nuts and grains.
Of course living in the middle of a big city I don’t strictly need to adhere to such a diet. There are grapes and cherries flown in from across the world. I could swap the leathery silverbeet for greenhouse grown tender greens. Fresh tomatoes appear all year round, even if they are tasteless.
You see my choices are equally about taste as they are a tentative foray into the world of ecological consciousness. There is a nuttiness in the pumpkin roasted at this time of year. My belly feels satisfied with a serve of potato when it is cold outside. Parsnips are tender and sweet when freshly picked.
But as much as I like these foods, with a smaller amount of fresh vegetables on the menu for these weeks – familiarity begins to breed if not contempt, just a lack of excitement for things culinary.
This season’s most cooked vegetables revolve around sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, potato, parsnips, and beetroot. There is a head of cabbage or cauliflower thrown in. More silverbeet than I would usually cook with, other than times that I have grown it. The organic stall has stockpiled enough onions, they hope, to last these months and kept them at a good price even though technically they are out of season. Life without onions or garlic tends to get very dull.
The upside is that in order to avoid boredom, though the ingredients tend to remain constant, it encourages me to use old vegetables in new ways.
This week the last serve of a large pumpkin needed to be eaten. It was the end of the shopping week and the challenge was to make a tasty dinner with only onions and pumpkin as the fresh ingredients. It could have been a curry with tofu, a pumpkin soup with a dash of spice or with beans and pasta to be a cousin of minestrone. Instead it became an even more distant relative of kedgeree
I sautéed a large amount of diced onion for a long time til it was soft, then added small cubes of pumpkin plus garlic, chilli, a little fresh turmeric and some mild curry powder hiding in the spice drawer. While this slowly cooked in a lidded frypan I put on a pot of basmati rice and another with eggs to boil. When the rice was cooked I stirred it through the vegetables, adding a little butter and salt to carry the flavours. This was finished with a generous amount of parsley from the garden (a de facto green vegetable at this time of year), a large tin of red salmon and topped with the boiled eggs.
I was surprised how well it all came together. The little cubes of pumpkin lent sweetness but didn’t dominate. The salmon worked surprisingly well as a substitute for smoked fish. The combination might alarm a food-combining fascist but the protein and starch made our bellies satisfied.
Sure, I’m looking forward to the fridge brimming with variety but in the meantime I don’t mind having more rice, quinoa, beans and lentils. Salads will return soon enough.
Labels: curry, fish, pumpkin, rice, thoughts on cooking