Sunday, 15 November 2009

Comfort vegetables

Comfort vegetables.
Eh? let me try that again.
Comfort. Vegetables.

It doesn't sound much more likely the second time around,does it? Your comfort foods tend to be sweet and fatty, or warm, rich, and the sort of thing your mother would make you when you were sick or celebrating something. A bad day at work rarely prompts the phrase "I'm feeling a bit low. Can you peel a carrot for me, love?". At best you might be able to stretch to a plate of mashed potatoes as a platter of comfort, but it can be hard to seek solace in just a plate of greens.

I returned to work at the start of October (hence this poor blog suffering lowest task on the totem pole status). I like my job as much as you can - and same can be said for the people I work with - but it was always going to be a challenge to become a Working Mother. In my first 6 weeks back, us family three have already been struck by mild colds, severe colds, teething, chest infections, feverish nights (and days), gastroenteritis, and the general disturbed sleep that comes from suddenly being left to the care of strangers all day (Baby A&N, not the adults on this one). Sometimes all three of us have been struck at once, which has led to some fairly improvised parenting ("If we drop him at day care after his nap, he'll be well rested enough to last a few hours there and we can go back to bed and get some sleep ourselves").

Eating, when you have the appetite, becomes more functional than fun (which might technically mean meals become 'ctional', but that's a tough batch of letters to pronounce). Hence comfort vegetables - defined as an attempt to bring a touch of much needed coddling to a dish that would otherwise just perpetuate the blah. A recipe in Moro East (which, if you haven't heard of it, is a fantastic seasonal cookbook perfect for the allotment/home food grower) for a beetroot, broad bean, and tarragon salad seemed the perfect antidote to our vegetable lethargy. As the newly branded Mother Who Plans Ahead, I added tarragon to our weekly shopping delivery and sat back, waiting for the beetroot to come in with our weekly veg box.

Except Mother Didn't Know Best, and for the only instance in weeks there was no beetroot waiting for us in our veg box (the world of weekly vegetable deliveries is a very cruel world). Luckily Father Dearest stepped in to stop the situation falling apart ("I need exciting vegetables! I have tarragon! There is no beetroot! THIS WASN'T IN MY WEEKLY FOOD PLAN!") and suggested twists to the original recipe: the salad became a warm dish, carrot stepped in for the beetroot, and a bit of sherry vinegar and cream became the sauce to hold it all together.

Mr A&N was stunningly pleased with the result. I at first mostly tasted defeat and disappointment in myself, though friends assure me this is a common flavor of parenthood so I best get used to it. To be fair to these vegetables, they really were rather special, with the vinegar, tarragon and cream not just giving the right tart, deep flavored, and rich balance to one another, but it all giving a bit of comforting, vegetable love to a week night spent detoxing in front of the television.

Creamy Broad Beans, Carrots and Tarragon
serves 4 as a side dish

  • 2 shallots or 1 small onion, chopped very finely
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 carrots, chopped into 1cm cubes
  • about 500g broad beans (use frozen - much easier than peeling! Do quickly boil and drain, though to take the edge off the freezing)
  • 1 bunch (about 15g) fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 Tbs good quality sherry vinegar
  • about 125ml cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Over a medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the onion. Cook until beginning to soften.
  2. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes until their hardness is taken away.
  3. Add the broad beans and tarragon, and cook a further few minutes until both vegetables are nicely softened.
  4. Add the vinegar (start with 2 Tbs since it can be strong tasting, and add more later if you think it needs it) and cook for a minute or so until it's mostly burnt off.
  5. Add in the cream and stir until everything is well coated.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste.