These vegetables deserve a little more love when it comes to the weekly shop.
Even if you aren’t attempting Veganuary or trying to go increasingly vegetarian for 2021, now is still a good time to shake up your veg drawer.
It’s easy to get used to cooking the same old vegetables. According to YouGov, we’re massively reliant on potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, peas and tomatoes – but with increased Covid restrictions meaning yet again more home cooking, a bit of variety at dinnertime can only be a good thing. And the more greenery involved, the better.
You’ll probably be aware of, or at least familiar, with this bunch, but how often do you actually pop them in your basket? Put these to the top of your shopping list now…
One of the most beautiful vegetables around, Romanesco really ought to give standard broccoli more of a run for its money. Lime green and leafy, its fractals (the pointy, swirly florets) are also, mathematically-speaking, stunning: they’re an example of nature perfectly reflecting the Fibonacci sequence. Excellent as a cauli substitute in cauliflower cheese, it will happily replace broccoli anytime you’d usually eat it.
With its trailing roots and gnarly skin, celeriac can be a little alien-like and off-putting to look at or chop up, but once peeled and slowly braised with lots of chopped garlic and as much butter as you can handle, it is quite spectacular. Sweet, nutty and ideal in a wintry stew, we’d also advise roasting it alongside carrots, parsnips and beetroot, to go with your Sunday roast.
If you love your root veg, you’ll appreciate kohlrabi. Generally spotted in delicate purple or pale green, the German ‘turnip cabbage’ tends to combine all the flavours of cabbage and broccoli, with the crunch and snap of water chestnut. Use it as the base for a grated salad (preferably with apple), and you can also roast it, steam it and stir fry it.
Shave it raw into winter salads with orange slices and lots of olive oil, or remind yourself that quite a few varieties of veg rather enjoy being doused in cream and cheese. A fennel gratin, spiked with garlic, chilli and a snowy handful of Parmesan, will be fought over when served with roast chicken. Then chuck any fennel and chicken leftovers together to make a pie the next day.
Kale can be a hard sell, especially when it comes to getting children to remotely appreciate its health benefits and slight bitterness. Kalette may fare better, what with it being so cute, frilly and purple-edged. Treat the same as its more grown-up sibling: fry in butter, stir through risotto, use to bulk out curries.
6. Shiitake mushrooms
Closed cup, chestnut and Portobello are all very well, but the world of fungi is far wider and greater than that. Either experiment with a box of ‘wild mixed mushrooms’ or go straight for the shiitake. Chewy and with bite, the East Asian mushrooms make for a substantial alternative to meat, and have a real umami hit when used dried too.
Okra – also known as ladies’ fingers – is the seedpod from the abelmoschus esculentus plant, and originates from Africa. Suitable for low, slow cooking in stews, and also deep frying in a crunchy, spicy coating, it can take a real whack of seasoning.
If you’re lucky to live on the coast, you might be in a position to go forage these tangles of salty, juicy succulents. The fronds are crunchy, moreish and slightly reminiscent of asparagus. Ideal for pairing with seafood, like scallops, clams and sea bass fillets, dressing with lemon juice. You can even use it as a garnish in a gin and tonic.