5 Winter Vegetable Winners!
by Emma Stubbs
Now that the mercury is spending more time in the single digit temperature range, I’m looking for hearty, comforting dishes for dinner. Think curries, casseroles and soups. Often these dishes can be a little meat and carbohydrate heavy, but there is plenty of room to pack them full of glorious vegetables that will soak up the flavour and keep us satisfied for longer.
Our autumn beauties such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and turnips are still at their peak, and there are some new favourites to bring into our kitchens.
Botanically a fruit, capsicums are considered a vegetable just like the tomato. They pack a great punch of vitamin C to help us fight off the winter flu. The red capsicum is coloured by the natural plant pigment, lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the risk of cancer and keep our hearts healthy.
They are also a good source of Vitamin A, and contain some Vitamin E and B6 too. Vitamin B6, aka pyroxidine, helps red blood cell production, carbohydrate metabolism and nervous system functioning.
The green capsicum contains less natural sugar than the red, and is a touch bitter. Hence why the red variety, which is left on the plant for a little longer to ripen, is the more popular variety.
Capsicums are super versatile. Enjoy raw as a snack or in salads. Chargrill or barbeque, and then add them to your antipasto platters and pastas. Add them to your grilled chicken burgers with a dash of pesto. Chuck them in a stir fry, stuff them or just chop and add to egg dishes. They team well with feta, ricotta, lamb, fish, olives, capers, tomatoes, basil, coriander and lemon, so your possibilities are endless.
This vegetable scares me a little. It is unknown territory. I knew nothing about it – taste, nutrition, cooking. But after a little bit of research, it seems that these knobby-potato-looking things taste a little bit like celery crossed with parsley.
They are good for dietary fibre, plus provide you with some of that much needed winter vitamin C and vitamin B6.
They can be served raw in salads, they can be boiled or steamed, or like other root vegetables, added to soups and casseroles.
The Eggplant, aka aubergine, is botanically classed as a berry but I (and many others) put it in the savoury, vegetable category. It has a bitter taste when raw but can become incredibly flavoursome when cooked.
Like all vegetables, eggplants can help us meet our daily fibre requirements and keep those bowels happy.
There are many uses for eggplant, and it features in many different cuisines around the world. Try stewing it in French ratatouille, or as a chicken parma (yes, parma) replacement. I have come across battered eggplant in restaurants, served with a tahini sauce or plain yoghurt. You can roast and blend it with lemon, tahini and garlic for the Arabic dip – baba ghanoush – or pretend you’re getting some sun on the Greek islands with some moussaka.
I came across fennel just over a year ago and I fell in love with its aniseed flavour. Related to the parsley and dill family, fennel resembles celery and has a bulbous rootstalk.
Fennel is a good source of Vitamin C, folate and dietary fibre, and has some iron too.
You can use all parts of the fennel plant. Simply chop the leaves and sprinkle them over salads or use them as a stuffing. Slicing the stem and bulb to add to your salads, risotto or meatballs, or just treat it like a root vegetable and bake the bulb in the oven.
Swede is another root vegetable, often confused with the turnip. As a checkout chick I often got confused between the two. The swede is purplish on the outside, and does not have the green stem. Inside, it has a sweet-tasting yellow/white flesh and you basically prepare it like a potato.
However, unlike the starchy potato, swedes are lower in carbohydrates. They are a good source of vitamin C and folate, plus help mash in some niacin, potassium and more dietary fibre into our diets.
I first used swede in this Ottolenghi recipe: Stuffed Peppers with Fondant Swede and Gruyere (though you can omit the cheese if preferred). Now, it’s as common in my shopping basket as broccoli. I just really like swede. You can simply mash, steam or roast it, you can add it to your favourite soup recipe, or you can take it to the next level and roast it in honey with chilli and cumin.
What is your favourite winter vegetable, and how do you like to cook it?