Eastern European Food Wisdom

When I am at farmers’ markets people often ask me what to do with that and that veg.
I find Eastern European veg most suitable for winter recipes and ideas. I also remember from my childhood in the Soviet Union that my Mother never discarded any bits of the veg, everything went to use.

For example the leaves of celeriac. They are bright green and packed with antioxidants. I chop these finely, put them in tiny portion bags and keep them in my freezer. Then add one portion the size of a spoonfull to my soups or stews for flavour and colour!

The dense white cabbage may look daunting, especially with this years crops so large in size. Don’t dispair. Chop it as fine as you can, grate a carrot and add 10g of coarse salt to every kilo of veg. Rub it well with your hands and pack it as tight as you can in a glass or enamel container, so that the juices cover the top of the veg. Cover and put it in a cool place for a week or so, checking every now and again. If you notice that the juice is sinking, put some weight on the veg, so that the juices come up. Being immersed in juice will keep the spoilage bacteria away. By the way, you can add dill seeds or caraway seeds for flavour, about 1/3 of a teaspoon for 1 kg of veg. The cabbage will ferment and can be kept then in the fridge and enjoyed with roast dinners. Home-made Sauerkraut for you. Oh, and by the way, they often stew the sauerkraut and wrap it in filo pastry and bake in the oven, like pasties, yum!

The black radish is another winter saver for me. I peel and grate it in salads. Or cut into sticks and enjoy with hummus and other dips. Somebody at the market said they slice it, sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon juice and oil and leave it for 10 minutes, then enjoy as a snack. I even tried it in curries, with various success.

Squash is mainly used in Eastern Europe for desserts. Pumpkins, actually. But large
succulent squash are just as good. They cut the flesh into chunks and bake it with honey until soft and serve it hot or cold. They may also sprinkle it with vanilla sugar or cinnamon, for extra flavour. The more sophisticated dessert is called pumpkin strudel, when grated flesh mixed with caster sugar is rolled-wrapped in puff or filo pastry and cooked in the oven for about 40 minutes, then covered with icing sugar and served hot with ice cream or cold, on the following day.

Jerusalem artichokes are so common over there, almost nobody eats them properly now, they treat it as animal fodder and sometimes it is called pig apple (obviously the smart hogs love the veg). My Mother makes a bath from steamed artichokes in which she plunges her aching legs and claims to get a therapeutic effect on her knee and ankle joints. Still, you buy them in supermarkets or at the green markets, rather expensive nowadays, and use as a veg to puree or raw grated. It is recommended to people with diabetes and they must be the ones who seek it everywhere.

Beetroot is boiled whole then sliced and pickled in apple vinegar with crushed garlic, black pepper and a bit of honey. It is then kept in the fridge until finished and made again, and so on the whole winter.

One can learn from any cuisine, from any culture, if we are ready to follow the seasons. At Tolhurst Organic we only offer veg in season and we hope you are getting creative with the roots and cabbages to come this winter.

Happy Holidays!

4 replies
  1. Helen Bennett
    Helen Bennett says:

    I use the black radish in Moroccan style tagines with other root veg and chickpeas and Moroccan spices (cinnamon, cumin, coriander and paprika). The white cabbage is lovely shredded and then stir fried with carrots, onions, tofu, ginger and soy sauce.

  2. Jane
    Jane says:

    Thank you for thus article – really interesting and useful. Lots of inspiration for using the veg in different ways from usual.

    Please could you consider writing another article on the salad leaves and the squashes – as I’m not always sure of them – I’d love to see some photographs of each variety with their names!


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