Hello from London!
I am so energized by these longer days! The winter has felt especially dark this year, perhaps because the lock-down has dragged on. The past few days, however, I’ve noticed that, in the parks, the daffodils and crocus are pushing the tips of their leaves to the surface. In the market gardens, many of the winter crops are still available – the hardy roots, for instance, which have provided warming stews and roast vegetables all winter. But suddenly, I can find chicory, young chard and spinach, spring cabbages and – oh, joy! – purple sprouting broccoli. The leeks, Brussels sprouts and kales are still going strong, but now there is a wider choice of greens. Spring really is on its way!
Charlotte has asked, ‘Which are the quickest lentils to cook?’ Split red lentils cook in about 20 minutes. You don’t need to soak them first, but you do need to wash them. They produce a lot of starchy water when they are washed and I tip away this water two or even three times, until it is fairly clear. Then, add fresh water to twice the depth of the lentils in the pan. Bring that water to a simmer, immediately reduce the heat, cover the pan and let the lentils cook, stirring once or twice.
While they cook, you have time to prepare a flavoursome spice, herb and onion saute in a small pan, ready to stir into the lentils right at the end of their cooking time. Delicious and simple!
It’s the end of the pumpkin season, but I managed to prepare two large pumpkins for the freezer. I quartered them, removed the seed pulp, peeled and cut the flesh into large cubes, which I then wrapped and popped into the freezer. Later, perhaps on a rainy day in late April, I will remember them and make Pumpkin and Parsnip Soup or a stir-fry that includes flashes of their bright orange.
The pumpkin really lets us know when its season is ending. Pumpkins can sit – rotund and invincible – in the vegetable larder for all of the early winter months, but once the month starts with ‘F’ they insist on being used. The skin hardens. That blemish becomes a soft spot. They emit a new scent, one that signals they should be used… now.
One way or another, we must pay attention to the seasons. I think the best way is to welcome them as they arrive, celebrate them while they are here and let them pass when they are ready.
Fresh food clearly signals these seasonal phases. Following the seasons is the easiest way to keep our diet varied and to ensure the foods we select are as fresh and nutritious as possible. It’s very natural; it sounds so simple. But, often, we are lured by the appeal of out-of-season foods.
Yes, such foods are visually appealing and readily available. We like their colour or the type of dish they make us think of. It’s okay to use out-of-season foods now and then. But, as I describe in my book, The Contented Vegan, often the nutrient value of out-of-season foods is negligible. There are many practices used in food production and shipping that simulate freshness and wholesomeness, but that actually reduce the quality of the food.
A solution that might work for you is to buy most of your fruit and vegetables directly from the growers. This means shopping at farmers’ markets or using a weekly box delivery subscription. I use markets when I shop for my family because I can select the food myself and, as a bonus, I get to know the growers. I find I spend about half of what I would at a supermarket and come away with a week’s supply of really fresh, in season food that often is grown organically or nearly so.
Once I get home, I have a routine that helps to preserve the nutrients I have just invested in. I wash everything but root veg – such as potatoes, carrots and parsnip – in very cold water that has a splash of white vinegar added. Any greens I buy get to lounge in their cold bath for 10-15 minutes before I spin them dry. Then I store the greens in the fridge, roots in the chill drawer, fruits, onions and garlic in baskets on the counter and one or two impossible purchases as a centre-piece on the table! A bunch of curly leafed parsley weighing in at just under one kilo did not fit in the fridge but looked gorgeous placed in a jug! It was much appreciated for its bold ‘round mound of green’ statement.
After my wash ‘n’ store routine, I am set up for the week. The fridge is packed full and I have all I need of fresh, in season foods. They provide me with the ideas for what dishes to prepare, too. With rare exceptions, I don’t plan a meal that needs mange tout, for example, when it’s snowing outside!
You may wonder who the opther person is at the top of this letter!
Well, it's an old friend - Spice Williams-Crosby... long-term vegan, Hollywood stunt woman, nutritionist and martial artist.
Spice is joining me live in conversation on Wednesday 3 March 2021 at 11.00am PST (for times in other parts of the world click here).
We'll be celebrating the launch of The Contented Vegan in the USA and I am delighted to invite you to join in! Register now at:
Hope to see you there!
Have a great day!