THE COLDEST days are hopefully behind us now as we start the trek towards spring.
I love everything each season has to offer - most of the time - but occasionally I get tired of the same fruits and vegetables after a couple of months, as I try to buy only fresh produce when it's in season.
But I never tire of root vegetables, especially parsnips and sweet potatoes (kumera).
I've never had much success growing parsnips; like carrots, they prefer soil that is not high in nitrogen as that only makes them spend their growing energy in producing big leafy tops.
When I've tried to grow them, I end up with fabulous greenery and wizened little tap roots.
Sweet potatoes will grow just about anywhere; in fact I've had the vines take over vegetable plots in the past.
If you want to try growing them, plant in raised rows so you know where to look for the tubers and make sure the garden bed is well drained.
White-fleshed sweet potatoes taste the same as the gold, but tend to turn grey during the cooking process. There's nothing wrong with that but they don't look as appetising on the plate.
Today's recipe is one for the vegans and vegetarians among us, but makes a splendid side dish for carnivores.
I've added lentils to supply protein so it's a well-balanced dish in terms of nutrition.
Eat it hot or toss in some spinach leaves and serve warm as a salad; it will even reheat the next day if you have leftovers.
Warm salad of lentil and winter vegies
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 large white onions, peeled and cut into wedges
200g kumara (orange sweet potato), peeled and diced
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2/3 cup red wine
1 tblspn tomato paste
2 tsp seeded mustard
extra olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine water, lentils, a little salt and the bay leaf in a medium saucepan; bring to the boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside. Drain any excess water and discard bay leaf.
Heat olive oil in a medium cast-iron or nonstick frypan over medium-high heat.
Add the onion, kumara, parsnip, carrot and tarragon, and sauté 10 minutes or until browned, turning often. Add the crushed garlic towards the end.
Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.
Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato paste and mustard.
Add lentil mixture, and cook two minutes or until reheated.
Remove from heat and drizzle with a little extra olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve warm as a salad (you can also toss in a handful of spinach leaves) or hot as a side dish.
Serves six as a side dish or four as a main meal.
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