I have vegetable overload. I open the fridge and all I can see is veg on every shelf. Not the nice easy-to-use veg, but the winter root ones that give you a heavy heart. There’s a turnip, a swede and a celeriac, not to mention the ten leeks that have been piling up every week.
Tomorrow the veg box man will be arriving with a truck-load more (ok, just a box but it feels overwhelming) and I need to get through some of this old stock first. (Yes, I should have cancelled the delivery, but that would’ve required some forward planning which I’m short of at the moment.)
I start rifling through our back catalogue of Good Food magazines for a recipe I made last autumn when faced with a similar problem. As luck would have it, I find it! This never happens. So tonight’s dinner is a version of Yotom Ottolenghi’s Winter Cous Cous, except I will be using rice and I will be hiding some of the swede and celeriac in there, rather than his more attractive butternut squash.
Before you start to wonder, I will not be offering this to the kids, even I know when it’s a bridge too far. They have two friends around and are having Italian pizza bases which I spied in Poundland. They look pretty good.
I call the kids in from playing outside at just the right moment: Ollie is swinging a cricket bat wildly above his head and there’s an air of aggression. They wash their hands and set about creating their pizzas. Ollie spies the bowl of chorizo slices. And shouts: “Mum! I’m not a vegetarian any more!”
So that’s it. Five days into his journey down the path of vegetarianism and he has been turned by the dirtiest of meats. I feel a bit disappointed. I respected his views and the fact that he’d lasted longer than Daisy ( 3 days), and I hoped if anything changed his mind it would be delicious organic, free-range, corn fed, outdoor-reered, locally sourced meat, but no, it was the chorizo.
I thought he might change his mind on Monday when we had chicken noodles. I was stir-frying when I suddenly realised I was flanked on either side by a child.
“What’s that Daiz?” Asks Ollie pointing at the chicken in the pan. Bearing in mind, Daisy has been asked to tone down the brutality of her Meat is Murder message, she replies: “Oh it’s vegetarian chicken, Ol.” I asked her to tone it down a bit not to outright lie. Ollie screws up his face. “You sure Daiz? It looks like normal chicken.” He sniffs the air. “And it smells like it.” “Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely vegetarian chicken Ol. You can eat it”. She hops down off the chair, “Come on Ol, let’s go and play Secret Club.”
Ollie is not fooled though, and he painfully eats around each piece of chicken.
Back to tonight. The kids wolf down their pizzas and I force them back outside before pudding. Yes, it is pitch-black but I give them a torch and tell them to go and have an adventure. In the meantime I serve the Harissa roasted vegetables on to a bed of coconut rice (Tilda Ready Rice: buy 1 get 1 free at mo), with lots of coriander and mint and avocado on the side.
It’s delicious, but the best part is that Kerry and I get to eat in silence (apart from the occasional screams from the garden when Ollie throws a dead daddy-long-legs around). Normally it’s like feeding time at the zoo. The quiet is wonderful.
So if you fancy a meal that offers peace and calmness AND uses up those lingering root vegetables in a delicious way, have a go at this:
You won’t regret it. X