Beautiful brassicas

Anyone seen the latest series of Chef’s Table? As usual, it’s bowling me over, and making me want to take to the wind again, to foreign lands and new food-inspired adventures. If you haven’t and need a place to begin, watch episode one, Jeong Kwan. The South Korean Zen Buddhist nun, who in her words is not a chef. She is spectacular!

With food we can share and communicate our emotions. It’s that mindset of sharing that is really what you’re eating.

She totally encapsulates the idea that through cooking and sharing what we eat, food takes on entirely new meaning. Rather than pure sustenance, food is a means to connect to people, to community, to our surroundings, to our heritage. It is in understanding the base ingredients of our food, that we can reconnect with it. That we can begin to understand what our plate consists of, and how that affects ourselves and our place in the world.

Eating seasonally is at least the first step towards this awareness; towards being mindful of what we eat and where it comes from. And it just tastes better. We might live in cities or suburban sprawls, but it is possible to cut food miles, support small-scale farmers and avoid the mass-imported bland vegetables of major supermarkets. I’ve been using The Food Assembly and my local market, but even just checking the label of origin in your Sainsbury’s Local is a step in the right direction.

I’ve been staying with my mum for the last while, and we’re lucky to have a little patch of veggies, growing slowly in the corner of the garden. Purple sprouting broccoli have been coming up this past week, which has inspired me to cook this downright delicious dish, from Georgie Hayden’s book, Stirring Slowly. Charred brassicas with tahini yoghurt, which I have made using my homemade yoghurt and homemade tahini no less!

Make a flavoured salt by bashing chilli flakes with oregano, toasted sesame seeds and sea salt, then sprinkle it liberally over the brassicas before putting them in the oven. You can mix up varieties; Georgie recommends using both broccoli and romanesco cauliflower, slicing them up into even chunks. These spindly little purple sproutings were bloody gorgeous; tender, delicate stems with crunchy little heads. If using, I’d advise throwing them in halfway through the cooking time. If you’re lucky enough to have the tender leaves, add them to the medley towards the final minutes of cooking.

You want just-cooked veg, that’s lovely and charred around the edges. Serve them up on a platter with tahini yoghurt, which is itself tangy with a good squeeze of lemon juice, grated garlic, sea salt and black pepper. It’s a good dipping thing and goes amazingly well with other seasonal greens (cime di rapa, kale, cavolo nero or even delicate peas and broad beans) or this grain salad. I have leftovers, which I intend to use.

Georgie adds sumac at the end, which I replaced with za’atar, and she adds saffron into the yoghurt – both worthy ingredients if you’ve got them. Either way, it’s delicious; vibrant veg, tangy yoghurt, a hint of chilli and tahini nuttiness.

For more ways to use your season’s greens, try this recipe.
Store any leftover tahini yoghurt in the fridge, and eat it in the days to come with chargrilled veggies, dolloped into a roasted sweet potato, or as a tasty dressing for just-cooked grains.

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