Spontaneous Seasonal Salad

Having grown up in a household which gets a veg box delivered weekly, and grows some of it’s own, eating seasonally is ingrained into my cooking. Scraping the mud of potatoes and beetroots has become associated with unpacking the shopping; as has snapping the leafy tops off carrots and being horrified at the unearthing of an ugly, warped, dreaded celeriac. Buying vegetables that are grown close to home is beneficial in many ways, the most obvious being that, not having been flown half way across the world, they have a much smaller carbon footprint. It is also much more cost effective to buy, supermarkets often advertise seasonal fruit and often have it in greater supply. A slightly more superfluous argument is that you feel more connected when eating produce grown closer to home, although I must admit to enjoying a clean conscience when I buy English veg from local shops, or better still, when its home-grown.

Eating seasonally does require more thought and awareness for the process of cooking, which I’m aware many people don’t have the time or energy to do in the first place. However the knowledge does come naturally, and after a few times glancing at the labels in the supermarket you will get an idea of what grows in this country at this time of year. Get used to cauliflowers, kale, cabbage, carrots, leeks, sprouts and potatoes for the coming winter months! Seasonal eating also simplifies cooking and makes it easier to plan meals around a weekly shop.

I’m currently going through a tightening-of-the-belt phase (for multiple reasons). Consequently, last night’s meal was a compilation of the wilting remains  of vegetables in my fridge, but it turned out to work surprisingly well. This spontaneity is rare for me since I’m known to spend a fortune on ingredients: planning on making a complicated recipe that I’ve discovered in a cookbook. Recently I’ve had to live a more affordable lifestyle, meaning that cooking is much more challenging, yet realistic. I did have a pretty strange/lucky mixture of leftover bits and bobs; most of the ingredients can be traded in for other things, but this might give you some ideas for quick healthy and seasonal eating.

I started by peeling and chopping a red onion, a beetroot and the last of a butternut squash into 1.5cm chunks.  I roasted these for half and hour, drizzled with olive oil and well seasoned with some leftover thyme leaves and za’atar. For the protein element of the salad I covered a handful of rinsed puy lentils with an inch of cold water and boiled them for half an hour. To use up my kale I fried it with chilli flakes, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds for five minutes. I then used a potato peeler to peel thin strips off the solo carrot that I had left and combine it with finely sliced red cabbage and chopped parsley to make a vegan coleslaw. For this part of the salad I made a thick dressing out of a teaspoon of tahini, a blob of honey, a good grind of salt and pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil and a drop of lemon juice.  Finally I whizzed up some humous (see recipe on A Persian Weekend).

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