Oh how seductive are Autumn mornings. Full of golden light, rayed so jaw-droopingly beautifully through the leaves. Plants in autumn reach up lovingly to the sun, after months of shrinking away from the heat of summer. Long tendrils holding flowers wave in the breezes and welcome your passing smile — they nod knowingly in that gentle breeze. Chives and spring onions are flowering. Geraniums as red as lipstick. Mint and lemon verbena. Bog sage. Curry leaf. Earlier, my Lemongrass flowered — the first time ever!
The gentleness of Autumn is so welcome after the grieving for summer is done.
How fitting then to find a recipe of matching gentleness, a warm salad of wine poached baby veggies, needing nothing else but the magnificent flavours of plants, leaves, wine and the very best of oils. Oh Ottolenghi, you understand Autumn.
Some notes on the dish
Ottolenghi pairs this dish with a caper mayonnaise. As I don’t use eggs in my cooking, I left out the dressing. I loved the taste of the vegetables unconfused by other tastes. As an afterthought, some capers scattered over the cooked vegetables could be a great addition.
I did add some green peppercorns to the poaching liquid, and a couple of juniper berries. These were in my kitchen at the time and complimented the flavours well. The juniper grounded it a little without overwhelming the flavours (if you add them, use only a couple of berries). And I loved the addition of green peppercorns.
You can be flexible with the vegetable mix used in the dish, but keep away from strong flavours. Hence the use of baby vegetables. In the recipe below I give the fairly standard mix. However, I did add the tiniest of Brussels Sprouts (very hesitantly as the flavours can be strong) — they were Ok as they were very small, but I might not recommend that generally. I did however, add some teeny tomatoes, halved, right at then end of cooking. Gorgeous. Oh, and some halved, small green beans.
I would almost serve this as a separate course, so the gentleness can present itself in all it’s glory. Enjoy!
Poached Baby Vegetables in Oil and Wine (a la Grecque)
Adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty
See also: Yotham’s Version
Preparation Time: 20 mins
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4 — 6, depending on serving size
these are not exact measurements
200g baby carrots, scraped but leave 2 – 3 cm of the tops
100g baby fennel
1/2 or more bunch fine asparagus
100g baby zucchini
150g baby leeks
4 or 5 baby tomatoes
2 Tblspn chopped dill to serve
600ml White wine, neither too sweet or too dry
200ml good, extra virgin olive oil, just over 2/3 cup
150ml lemon juice, about 1 ave lemon
2 bay leaves
5 green peppercorns, whole (optional, but don’t use black peppercorns or ground pepper)
2 celery sticks, cut into batons
1/2 onion, halved again
1 tspn salt
Wash the veggies but don’t trim them too much. Leave ends, and some of the stalks/leaves. Cut them longways into halves or quarters, depending on size. Aim for similar sized pieces. Thin veggies like asparagus don’t need to be cut.
Place the wine in a wide pan and boil for 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the other poaching liquor ingredients and simmer gently for a minute. Add the harder vegetables first, ie the carrots and fennel. After 3 or 4 minutes, add the other vegetables and continue to simmer for a further 3 – 4 minutes. In the last minute, add the halved tomatoes.
Now the vegetables should be cooked but still crunchy. Using tongs, lift the vegetables from the poaching liquor onto a deep plate. Spoon some liquor around the vegetables. (You can keep the remaining liquor in the fridge or freezer to use again.)
Garnish with some fronds of dill and some prepared capers.
I love to eat this as it is. If you would like an egg free dressing, join me in looking for a tangy, garlicky one. I will let you know if I find one.
The Salad Compendium
- Baked Beetroot
- Baked Chickpeas
- Carrot Sambal
- Chana Chat with Chat Masala
- Chickpea Keep It Simple Salad
- Chickpeas with Ginger Root Salad
- Cucumber, Herbs and Poppy Seed Salad
- Cucumber Salad with Sesame
- Green Olive, Walnut, Pistachio and Pomegranate Salad
- Marinated Zucchini
- Peppers Shining Salad
- Pomegranate and Banana Salad
- Raw-ish Beetroot and Carrot Salad
- Roasted Rosemary Pears
- Semi Dried Tomatoes with Pomegranate
- Simple approaches
- Stir fried Mung Bean Sprouts
- Tomato Salad
- Watermelon with Haloumi