Cabbage, is, to be quite frank, not one of the most loved vegetables. Much of this is due the memory of it being served overcooked during childhood. However, taste buds grow up too and when cooked properly it is a delicious accompaniment to other foods.
Very few cabbages are sold by variety; mostly it’s just white, green or red. Not so long ago greengrocers would offer spring greens, and delightful varieties such as savoy cabbage and other spring cabbages; maybe fashions will change and in a few years time there will be more variety to excite the taste buds.
As we rarely eat an entire cabbage, we tend to purchase cabbages that have been cut into quarters. One thing to check for is good crisp leaves and a good weight in the hand. Cut portions should look fresh and never be discoloured or brown.
Cabbages will keep for 3–4 days in the crisper section of the refrigerator.
To prepare cabbage for cooking, remove the tougher outer leaves and the hard stalky centre, slice finely, or as directed in your recipe.
All cabbages need only brief cooking, longer than necessary results in sulphur compounds being released which give them an unpleasant overcooked cabbage smell. Cook cabbage by placing cut cabbage in a heavy-based saucepan with just a splash of water. Cook covered over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
View our cauliflower recipes.
Jerusalem artichokes belong to the root vegetables family, which is one of the largest groups of vegetables and perhaps one of the least utilised. It also includes parsnips, swedes, turnips, celeriac, kohlrabi and of course carrots. Perfect for roasting or to complement rich stews they are perfectly timed to coincide with the hearty rib-sticking comfort foods of winter.
The Jerusalem artichoke shares only its name with artichoke. It is a small knobbly vegetable similar to ginger in appearance, with a creamy taste. Kohlrabi is a smooth-skinned purple/white vegetable with green leaves sprouting from the top.
They are best in the winter and avoid buying withered vegetables and overly large specimens, as these are often woody. Good root vegetables should have a deep, earthy aroma and be firm and appealing to the eye.
Root vegetables can be kept in a cool dark place for 2–3 days or in the crisper section of the refrigerator for 5–6 days.
Prepare vegetables by peeling skins and cutting into even sized pieces. Take care with Jerusalem artichokes as these discolour on contact with air and should be covered with acidulated water until needed.
View our jerusalem artichoke recipes.
Not so many years ago pineapple brought us a taste of the tropics, and that was just out of a tin. Actually meeting one in its natural state for the first time made us wonder just how on earth how we tackle it. A ripe pineapple, full of juice and tangy flavour, is simply stunning, but occasionally they can be dry and tasteless, having travelled too far and for too long. Pineapples come in two main varieties known as rough and smooth leaved. We prefer the flavour and sweetness of the rough leaf variety.
More recently new varieties, such as Bethonga, have been developed and these are a huge improvement in flavour, sweetness and taste. While they are expensive, usually double the price of the normal pineapples, they are outstanding to eat or cook with.
There are two things you can do when buying a pineapple to ensure it is of good quality. First, use your nose to try and detect a ripe fragrance, and second, choose a fruit that feels heavy for its size. They are sometimes cut in half so you can easily see and smell what you are buying. If a leaf pulled at the top comes out easily, it is a good sign of ripeness.
Store at room temperature for up to a week. Over ripe fruit should be eaten as soon as possible.
Prepare pineapple by cutting off the top and bottom, then stand upright and slice off the spiky skin by cutting downwards. Then cut into quarters from the top down and remove the tough core from each wedge. Pineapple acid is said to dull knife blades so rinse knives well immediately after use.
Eat fresh pineapple as it is or use in desserts, preserves, cakes or a simple fruit salad. Pineapple has a strong bromelin enzyme that breaks down protein; this can often causes mousses or anything else using gelatine not to set. If pineapple is cooked before use, the enzyme is destroyed and will be okay in desserts that use gelatine. The enzyme is very healthy and said to aid digestion, so eat raw pineapples without worry.
View our pineapple recipes.
Garlic is one of the most common members of the onion family and has been used throughout history for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Most of the plant can be eaten such as the green tinder shoots, but most commonly it is the bulb most prized for its flavour. The bulb is made up of individual cloves, covered in a thin papery skin which needs to be removed before being utilised.
When buying look for heads that are firm with plenty of dry, papery covering. Heads that are showing signs of sprouting are past their prime and were probably not dried properly.
Renowned for its lingering flavour on the breath, it's always best enjoyed between couples. A long slow cooking method turns the flesh sweet and lessens this effect. Strings of garlic are gathered and tied together to dry before selling.
View our garlic recipes.
It wasn’t so long ago that potatoes were reduced to being sold simply as washed and unwashed. Luckily for those of us who have grown up with a traditional western diet, there has been a resurgence of interest in potatoes and many varieties are again being grown and sold.
Potatoes can be split into two main groups, both with endless varieties that fall under these two headings. Potatoes high in starch are called floury and ideal for baking, mashing and frying. Waxy potatoes are best suited to boiling, as they will not collapse. New varieties of potatoes have been bred to cope with all eventualities, so ask your greengrocer for advice if you are not sure.
True new potatoes can be hard to come by, unless you grow them yourself, as retailers often label any small white potato or chat potato as 'new'.
Their best season is autumn and winter. It is best to purchase potatoes with the dirt still attached as this helps them last longer and also provides some protection against bruising. In today’s fast-moving world this practice is becoming more infrequent. If you purchased washed potatoes look for firm potatoes with no sprouts, green patches or soft spots.
Washed potatoes should be used within 4-5 days of purchase. Unwashed potatoes will keep in a cool, dark place for up to 1 month. Potatoes should be removed from plastic bags for storage. Potatoes can be peeled or left with their skins on for cooking. It is important to cut potatoes to the same size, or cook same sized potatoes to allow an even cooking time.
Most potatoes are peeled, then boiled or steamed and eaten alongside meat and vegetables of some sort. Mashed potatoes have grown in popularity as a comfort dish, and huge quantities of potatoes are roasted every day. They are also used in soups, casseroles, gnocchi and curries amongst other things.
View our potato recipes.