Salsify: The Poor Man’s Oyster?

There was a very interesting addition in my veg box recently. Wrapped carefully in brown paper were what looked like four 10 inch branches of a tree covered in a layer of dried mud. “…” I thought, as I washed them clean and guessed at burdock. Only to discover (after ferreting out my receipt) that I’d actually received some salsify. I have never eaten salsify before although I vaguely remember reading some recipe recommending making chips out of them. How boring.

A quick search on the inter webs today informed me that the salsify root is also known as the ‘oyster plant’ as it tastes a bit like those delicious morsels of the sea. I absolutely adore oysters and after peeling a bit of root and tasting it raw and then quickly blanching and tasting another piece, I can report that these oyster allusions are pure: lies. What it does taste like however, is a cross between lotus root, water chestnuts and coconut flesh. Which instantly made me think of my Aunty Ann’s lotus root fritters and that I really must learn how to make next time I’m back in Hong Kong…anyway. Fritters. Salsify fritters. Let’s go:

Salsify Fritter Ingredients:
Approx. 300 g salsify cleaned of mud - pre peeled weight
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tbsp minced lemon grass
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or one small red chilli - diced)
3 tbsp coriander - roughly chopped (save some to garnish)
1 egg - lightly beaten
1 tbsp flour
Sea salt & ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Peel and coarsely grate your salsify, once those roots become too fragile to peel, chop them up to match the grated bits. Add a tablespoon of butter into a frying pan at medium heat and sauté the salsify until tender. Transfer into a bowl and mix well with the garlic, lemongrass, chilli, paprika, coriander, egg and flour. Basically mix every except the butter and olive oil. Generously season with the salt and pepper.

Frying pan back on the stove at medium heat and put the remaining tablespoon of butter in with the olive oil. This helps your butter reach a higher heating point without it burning.

Get a tray, coat it with some flour. Dust your hands in that flour and quickly form a fritter with your dusty hands – once moulded rest it in the flour tray. Dust. Form. Dust. Form. You should make around 5-6 fritters.

When the oil and butter mixture is hot enough to sizzle. Fry the fritters until golden brown on each side. About 5 minutes each. When done, place them on a paper towel to drain them.

Serve up and garnish with some extra coriander leaves. I served these tasty fritters with poached egg, a slice of lime, and an easy salad of romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. The salad was dressed with an Asian dressing made up of sesame oil, rice vinegar, light soy and a mix of sesame seeds. I quickly made this to taste…but if I were to guess my proportions I’d say 1 tbsp of each liquid with 1 tsp of the seeds. Squeeze that lime over your fritters and consume!

Warm Butternut Squash & Kale Salad with Tahini Yogurt Dressing

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Autumn is officially here, and after a cycle ride home through the brisk chill where I’m definitely justifying those natty leather gloves I spied in the winter sports shop (I mean, I’ll use them for cycling as well as snowboarding…totally worth it!), I’m also feeling the need for a hearty warm salad.

This is quite heavily influenced by the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi, who’s thoughts behind seasonal ingredients and saving meat eating for special occasions I greatly admire. So with the chilly weather still in mind, think of the following as an off piste Ottolenghi dish.

Salad Ingredients:
1 large butternut squash - skin on, cut into wedges
2 red onions - cut into quarters
2 ample handfuls of curly leaf kale - roughly shredded
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp raw nuts - I went with peanuts
2 pinches of dried herbs - I went with rosemary & oregano
Sea salt & black pepper - approx 1/4 tsp each
A few basil leaves to garnish

Get your oven to 220°C. While that’s heating up, toss your butternut squash and onions in a bowl with the olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper. When evenly coated, put onto an oven tray lined with some foil or parchment and whack it into the oven. Cook for 30-40 mins, the onions may cook a bit faster so keep an eye on them. Take this time to toast your nuts in a bit of olive oil and salt until nicely brown – set them aside. The kale will only take around 5 minutes to cook so make your dressing beforehand.

Yogurt & tahini dressing:
2-3 tbsp Greek yogurt
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon
1 clove garlic crushed
Salt to taste
Water for preferred consistency

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and tahini. I only had Chinese sesame paste, which let’s face it is basically tahini…only more toasted tasting. Add the lemon juice and crushed garlic. I was fresh out of garlic so opted for garlic salt instead so I omitted the ‘salt to taste’ bit. Keep whisking and add your water a little at a time until you get the right dribbly consistency for dressing. You only need a couple of tablespoons of this, keep the rest in the fridge for later.

In the last few minutes: get your kale cooked in some boiling water. Once done strain and shake out the excess water. In a bowl gently toss the kale, squash and onion with half of your toasted peanuts. Now dress on a plate and drizzle some of that creamy yogurt sesame goodness. Finish with the rest of the toasted nuts and basil leaves. I gobbled the lot, but as a side dish I’d imagine this would feed two.

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