Unusual ways with vegetables

I think we tend to feel we’re adventurous and different in the way we cook, that our parents and grandparents ate dull food, cooked in a dull way, from dull ingredients. However, a quick glance through an old cookery books shows some most unusual ways of cooking and combing ingredients – maybe not to our taste, but there was a huge variety of suggestions for humble items such as beetroot and radishes.

Creamed beetroot is a recipe in the ninety year old Modern Practical Cookery.  Two beetroot are boiled, skinned, diced, and added to a white sauce which also has grated raw onion and chopped hard-boiled eggs. I’m not sure I want to go to all the trouble of doing that, because I rather think no-one but me would lie it, and would even I like it? Brussels sprout fritters? Sprouts in gravy? Boiled or buttered cucumber? Would mashed potato and apple sauce be a thing? What would you eat it with? “Radishes are excellent when cooked and served as a vegetable,”  the book tells me, boiled for half an hour and served in a white sauce… I think probably not!

Maybe it was how people liked their vegetables, cooked longer than we would, or maybe the varieties were such that they needed cooking for longer, but I do somehow doubt it. One vegetable for which there are three recipes which might surprise some people is aubergine; deep-fried chip-shaped slices, grilled rounds with butter served with bacon, sprinkled with chopped parsley and eaten for breakfast, and then a stuffed aubergine supper dish.

Stuffed baked aubergine

  • 1 aubergine, parboiled
  • 2 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tbsp minced onion
  • 1½ oz breadcrumbs
  • 1½ oz butter
  • finely grated cheese
  • salt and pepper
  1. split the aubergine in half and gently scrape out the inside and rub through a sieve or chop finely
  2. fry the mushrooms and then separately the onion in the butter
  3. mix the sieved/chopped aubergine, mushrooms. onions and breadcrumbs and season to taste
  4. fill the aubergine halves with the mixture and bake for about 20 mins
  5. sprinkle with the cheese before serving

I think I would swap the mushrooms for herbs as for some reason I’m not that keen on  mushrooms any more. An alternative to the cheese,  is buttered crumbs… I guess they are breadcrumbs fried in butter! Maybe both would work, especially if the aubergines were popped back in the oven to melt the cheese and crisp the crumbs.

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