November is not often the loveliest month to shop at the market. It can be grey and wet and miserable for days and days on end, yet it somehow the weather fits with the produce on offer: the potatoes and carrots and pumpkins, countless sorts of cabbage and all manner of knobbly rooty things covered in earth. They’d look all wrong in the sunshine, I think. Plus they taste all the better when you’ve scrubbed and cooked them whilst it’s cold and damp and dark outside. So, in my penultimate seasonal eating guide for the year, here’s what to eat in November…
Winter radishes (Radieschen)
Winter radishes come in just about any form, size and colour you can think of, from purple, carrot-shaped marvels to smooth white globes. What they all have in common are their crunchy texture, peppery flavour and bunches of bright green leaves (which, incidentally, you shouldn’t just chuck out – how about trying radish top pesto?). The roots themselves vary in their peppery intensity, but every last one is crisp and crunchy and a terrific antidote to the large plates of festive biscuits that appear with the beginning of Advent. The Germans often serve them raw and whole alongside coldcuts and bread for dinner, but there are plenty of other lovely things you could do with them, such as:
Jerusalem artichokes (Topinambure)
Not to be nominally confused with the leafy green globe artichoke, the Jerusalem artichoke, or sunchoke, is a sweet-flavoured sunflower tuber that looks a bit like a earthy chunks of ginger, and comes in shades of red as well as dirty white. If you’re new to these delicious knobbly tubers – which, be warned, are well known for having rather gusty side effects – I’d suggest trying them in:
★ Nigel Slater’s Jerusalem artichokes with leeks and black pudding
★ Diana Henry’s chicken braised with shallots and chicory with a Jerusalem artichoke purée, or
★ or Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem artichoke and goats cheese soufflé with walnuts.
Black salsify (Schwarzwurzel)
It’s hard to believe that a vegetable that looks like a dirty great stick could have such a delicate, more-ish flavour, so if you’ve never tried it, you’ll probably be surprised to hear that black salsify is so good. Once you’ve peeled it and prepared it (a deeply unpleasant, sticky mess), then braised, roasted, boiled or mashed it, you’ll find it has a subtle taste reminiscent of oysters – which is why it’s often called “oyster plant”. Because of its mild taste, I think it’s best to match it with other non-overwhelming flavours, choosing simple dishes such as:
★ Niamh Shields’ salsify and roast garlic soup,
★ Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s gratin, with roast chicken, roast potatoes and kale with bacon and chestnuts, or
★ a German veal meatball and salsify stew.
Horseradish conjures up three classic culinary images in my mind: poached salmon sandwiches with horseradish sauce stuffed between slices of fluffy white bread; a proper English roast beef with lashings of grated horseradish stirred into whipped cream; and a classic German boiled beef fillet (Tafelspitz) with horseradish sauce. I feel almost faint with joy just thinking of any of the three of those, yet there are all sorts of other wonderful things you can try with this big, white, peppery hot root. This month, I’d like to make: