March, the hungry gap in the veg patch.


March for gardeners is a month of frustration. The weather although temptingly sunny, is often very cold and aggravated by chilly winds. And of course the ground is too cold for planting vegetables. Just when we want to get started with the vegetable gardening year we need to put on the brake with our planting out plans.

In the kitchen this is translated, if you want to cook local food, into still more winter veg. I feel now I have had enough of these winter staples. I’m longing for fresh peas and broad beans, but will have to wait. In the meantime one or two vegetables that will fill the hungry gap are carrots and cauliflower. The latter has had a real regeneration of interest lately and its recipe repertoire has grown immensely. The reinvention of whole roasted cauliflower is a real joy. The tahini sauce really makes it and is fascinating watching it thicken just with a bit of whisking. Greek style carrots with orange and black olives will cheer me up too. These recipes are good served together or separately.

Roasted Cauliflower Blanch a whole cauliflower in boiling water for 5 minutes, first having taken off the coarser outer leaves and cutting away a little of the core. Any light green leaves can be blanched alongside the head of cauliflower. Drain cauliflower and put it in an oven-to-table baking dish. Mix 2 tsp each of paprika and zaatar ( a thyme/ sesame mix) with a couple of tbs of oil. Massage this all over the vegetable. Bake for 30 minutes at 200C. Skin and coarsely grate 2 large tomatoes. Not as easy as it seems, but worth the effort. Tinned tomatoes are no substitute as they lack freshness of flavour. Make a sauce  by whisking together in a bowl ; 75g tahini, 50ml water, 1 crushed clove of garlic and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Season with salt to taste. To serve  pour the tahini sauce over the cauliflower and then top with the grated tomato. 

Greek style carrots. Peel and thickly slice some large carrots. Saute in a tablespoon or so of olive oil then add enough orange juice to barely cover. Add half the volume of black olives to carrots. Season with pepper and salt, a good amount of thyme leaves and a little preserved lemon. Simmer, with a lid on, until the carrots are cooked as you like them to be, soft or a bit crunchy and most of the liquid has evaporated. Delicious served warm or cold. Make plenty and store them in the fridge for a tasty snack.