How do I love thee, Purple Sprouting Broccoli?

Let me count the ways.

1. Your fragile beauty inspires haiku 

broccoli sprouts

shy purple trees –

spring breathes.


2. You look great in stir fry


What’s in it:  leeks, peas, Jerusalem artichokes, spicy red pepper, chard, bit of carrot, and purple sprouting broccoli. Soup with pumpkin, ginger & rice noodles (gluten free, bought on a whim from Persepolis in Peckham).

What to do:  stir fry the veg with fresh minced ginger + garlic in sesame oil, touch of chilli oil, add soy sauce, some veg broth, noodles.  Simmer until done.

3.  You jazz up my pasta

broc2What’s in it:  mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and purple sprouting broccoli.  Cooked in a white sauce with risoni (again, bought on a whim from Persepolis).

What to do:  Cook the risoni in veg broth to strengthen the flavor.  Thin the white sauce with the pasta water if you like.

4. Beef bourguignon loves you too

broc1What’s in it:  beef (like braised steak) in wine sauce with mushrooms and shallots, bundle of herbs (like marjoram and rosemary), whole garlic cloves.  Purple sprouting broccoli cooked separately with slivered almonds and added as an afterthought.

What to do:  Cook the beef bourguignon tenderly and slowly.  Serve with broccoli to add a touch of color.


The Parsnip that TIME FORGOT

Sal’s just picked up our veg bag from the pub and we are hovered over it, a murmur of anticipation crackling in the room.

What is inside?  What has Veg Bag Thursday brought us?

It’s a special time.

Peering inside, I see a large, muddy, missile-shaped object that is obscuring the rest of the contents.

“What is THAT?”  I give it a nudge.  We share a moment of befuddled silence.

“Maybe one of those white carrot things?” Sal shrugs.

“A parsnip?  No way.  Maybe it’s a new vegetable.  Or a behemoth swede.”

I give the thing a bath in my largest bowl.  It doesn’t fit – I have to wash one end at a time.  Sure enough – a parsnip appears from the brown water.  It sits in the bowl, chunky, proud and ruddy – like how I always picture Winston Churchill.

parsnip n carrots

The Parsnip next to two terrified carrots

I can hardly scrub it, as it’s the length of my arm.  It weights as much as a baby.  I don’t have room in my life for this much parsnip.  Maybe, I think, I could cut it in half and freeze some of it.

But I don’t have a knife big enough to cut it.

I peer down at it with a tingle of futility.  They say that when life gives you lemons, to make lemonade.

But what if life gives you impossible parsnips?



feminist bread recipe

Feminist Bread

(adapted from a zucchini bread recipe given to me by my ‘second mom’, who is a feminist.)


– 2 eggs

– 3/4 cup sugar

– 1/3 cup oil

– 1 cup grated mixture of apple and carrot

– some grated ginger

– 1 tsp vanilla

– 1 3/4 cup flour (I mix wheat and plain)

– 1/2 tsp each: baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, mixed spice

– some nuts or mixed seeds

Mix everything together.  Bake in a greased pan for 45 mins to an hour at 350 degrees F (176 C).

Delicious and liberating!

apple carrot bread

feminist bread

I’ve been thinking about feminism lately.  It’s Caitlin Moran’s fault.  She wrote a funny book about it (How to Be a Womanreviewed here by The Guardian) which we read in my book club.

Moran poses the question of why women over-extend themselves in ways that men do not.  We’re worrying over chores, errands, self-improvement crusades, planning our lives to the half hour, while the guys come home from work and relax on the couch, happy to leave the dishes in the sink.

I think she may have a point.

Take today for instance:

My Sunday so far: 

– Wake up at 8:30am.  Grill parsnips for breakfast and make coffee (from the bean, freshly ground with a hand-cranked grinder – très old skool!)

– Construct a Food Matrix – includes a food inventory incorporated into a meal plan for the week, which produces a grocery list.

– Bleach the bathroom.

– Pause for a quick tea while bleach disinfects.  Resume cleaning.

– Do stretches while feeling pings of guilt for skipping yoga class.

– Meet Sal for grocery shopping (with list derived from the Food Matrix).

– Back to the flat, bake bread from scratch ‘to relax’.

– Eat bread with a cup of tea while writing blog.

Sal’s Sunday so far:

– Wake up at 9:30 or so.

– Eat breakfast and drink coffee.

– Next several hours spent on the couch, in front of the laptop.

– On a whim, go to the gym for a good workout.

– Meet wife at the store and carry the groceries home.   Wash some dishes.

– Eat freshly baked bread on the couch, in front of the laptop.


It’s not like Sal doesn’t do chores or plan things.  He does.  But the difference between us is the level of frenzy associated with the chores and planning.

The argument we chicks always use is, “if I waited around for him to do it, it would never get done!”  Maybe.  Or maybe it would just take a lot longer.

I’m just not willing to wait for delicious baked bread to be made for me.  I tell myself that baking bread is something I enjoy doing, and besides which, it’s from a recipe given to me by a strong feminist, who also likes baking.

Feminist Bread.  This is what I will name the bread.  This makes me feel better.

Oh, my, look at the time!  Got to get that chicken in the oven…

food matrix

The Food Matrix

beetroot theory

I was plucking chunks of mud caked to the skin of a beetroot when it hit me.  This is further evidence that Rational Choice Theory is flawed!  This beetroot!

dirty beet

I don’t like beets, but they come in my weekly veg bag, so I have this problem where I end up with a pile of dirty beets and nothing to do with them.  Rational Man might try to sell these beets on ebay, or chuck them at someone they dislike, perhaps, or chuck the nasty little beasts in the food recycling, where they belong.

Rational Man would NOT, however, be standing in the kitchen on a Sunday evening, dusting off beets to make them slightly more presentable, only to bring them to work and distribute them for free to his (bizarre) colleagues who (ACTUALLY) like beets.

What utility-maximising person would do this?

THEY WOULDN’T!  Yet here I stand, cleaning dirty veg for others!  Ergo, Rational Choice Theory has a beet-shaped hole in it!

I resume my task, feeling vindicated in this small, but satisfying, jab at neo-Classical economics.


this weekend i had parsnips for breakfast

this weekend i had parsnips for breakfast

I’m part of a veg bag scheme (called Local Greens), which runs like this: you sign up with a group and pay a weekly fee, then pick up your dirty vegetables in a white plastic bag at the local pub or wherever, then spend the rest of the week trying to fit vegetables into your life. It’s a grab bag – you can’t decide what goes in there and this makes you do weird things. Like eat parsnips for breakfast.

Includes: parsnips, red pepper, potatoes, garlic, and leeks, chopped and tossed in basil oil, a little salt & pepper. Cook in skillet until tasty-looking.

It’s not the weirdest culinary thing I’ve done, but it’s up there.

The Pheasant Experiment

“I’d like a little bird,” I tell the man at the Camberwell Green Market.  “There’s just two of us eating it.”  He’s standing behind a table littered with quails and pheasants and ?pigeons, and sausages made of alternative animals, such as venison.

“I’ve never cooked any bird beyond chickens & turkeys,” I confess.  “And I’m not great at turkey.”

“Pheasant!”  He seems sure about this.  “Rub it down with loads of butter and cover the breast ridge with bacon or a strip of kitchen foil.  Then just pop it in the oven at 190 for an hour and a quarter.”  He chirps on for a few minutes with the enthusiasm of a lonely market man on a slow, rainy Saturday morning.

I balance my umbrella to pay for the bird.  Market Man repeats the instructions a few more times, ignoring another customer clearly trying to get his attention.

“Tell me how you get on!” he calls after me.

For the next several days I build up anticipation for the experiment.  “What are you doing for Christmas?” a work colleague asks at the office Christmas party.

“Oh, I’m roasting a pheasant,” I say with the casual offhandedness of one who’s roasted many a game fowl.  Swirling Merlot in my wine glass, I add, “With chutney, you know.”

Christmas mid-day, I can barely contain my excitement as I unwrap the fowl.  I glance over Market Man’s instructions and hum a little Christmas tune.

Something isn’t right.

There are tiny, black, prickly things jutting out from the bird.  Why didn’t I notice this at the market?  Is the bird defective?  I call in Sal for a second opinion.

Feather covered leg - looks like hoof

Feather covered leg – looks like hoof

We lift a tiny leg – it’s covered in them.  “Feathers!”  I gasp.  Sal leaves me to pluck the black hairy bits, muttering as I do.

“This is a little too natural, maybe.”

Glob of butter in hand, I reach in the small hollow of the bird – something red and gleamy comes out.  “They left the guts inside!”  I call to Sal, who makes a sympathetic noise from the living room.  They’re tiny.  Pheasant guts.  So tiny and strange, I’m not sure I got them all, but I am past caring.  I cover the breast lovingly with a sliver of foil and pop it in the oven.

This can't be right.

Um.  Is this how it’s supposed to look?

Cooked, the pheasant is even smaller.  One doesn’t really ‘carve’ a pheasant, though I try.  It looks like a crime scene when I’m done sawing all the odd, stringy meat from those intricate, wily bones.  Finally, we sit down to feast on our bird for two (with chutney, of course).

“What do you think?” I ask Sal anxiously.

“It’s – what’s this?”  He spits something into his hand and holds it up.  “That’s a buckshot.”

Sal finds not one, not two, but three tiny bullets in his dinner.

Buckshots!! Plus a 20 pence coin for scale.

Buckshots!! Plus a 20 pence coin for scale.

“Wow,” I say, shaking my head, “This is really, really organic.”

Later, I relay The Pheasant Experiment to my dad over the phone.  He’s sitting by his cookstove, drinking a cup of pressure cooker coffee.

“Pheasant, huh?  They good eatin’?”  He asks.  His voice is hoarse and crackly from tobacco smoke and cold mountain air.

“It was kinda sweet.  I don’t know.  I guess.”

“That’s a game bird, I reckon.  I’ve had quail.  But you gotta eat three or four of them just to get any meat.”

Hmmm.  Quail…..