Parsley Roots and The Last Survivors
The seemingly ruthless task of pulling up the remaining plants continues. My 3ft by 3ft curly parsley patch is still thriving, but it’s time for things to move on. I’ve rediscovered the joys of good old English curly after years of having been “converted” by the likes of the River Cafe gals to Italian flat leaf. I now think my own curly has a sweeter, milder flavour and delicate texture which I prefer, and the frilliness lends itself very well to deep-frying-it makes an awesome crisp garnish.
As I forked out the parsley patch, I was amazed at how thick and long the parsley roots are. Creamy white and sweet smelling, I suspected they have the same properties as coriander roots in having a concentrated flavour of the herb. Sure enough, I scrubbed them down, plucked off extraneous strings and munched - they were tasty, much like parsnip. It’s common practice on the Continent to eat parsley root; a slightly different variety is grown as a vegetable.
I’ve harvested the rest of the broccoli, but a few more tiny heads will keep coming for another week, so I’ll leave it a little longer. Same goes for the kale-I just don’t want to pull it up just yet. The brassica patch will become the root patch next year, so it doesn’t need any compost dug through it, whereas the other patches do. Kale and broccoli can stay if they’re still producing, and the rocket can stay too. But the final few leeks must come out, and the patch dug over.
Time for an impromptu leek-y dinner.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Remember the green parts of the leek, up to where the layers separate, are delicious for cooking, as long as they’re washed and not too tough. Compost the floppy leaves, or wash and use in soup stock.
Leek, Parsley and Pasta au Gratin
Cook 200g wholemeal pasta shells in boiling salted water until tender. Trim, slice and wash about 600g leeks. Steam until just tender, about 8 minutes (you can do this over the pasta pan as it cooks). Place the cooked pasta in a buttered gratin dish. Cover with leeks and season lightly with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with lots of fresh chopped parsley and a little thyme. Take whatever cheese you have to hand—I’m using some incredible Sauternes-soaked French blue cheese from La Fromagerie (www.lafromagerie.co.uk), some grated Grana Padano and Cheddar, all adding up to about 170g . Place 160ml milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir in the cheese until melted. (If the sauce seems thin, mix 2 tsp cornflour in a cup with 2 Tbsp cold water, stir in and boil until thick.) Pour sauce over the leeks. Top with a generous layer of breadcrumbs and bake in a 200 C oven until bubbly and golden, about 30 minutes. Serves 3-4
(originally published by The Times online)