The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

spicy swede oven fries

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We are living through uncertain and scary times as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread rapidly through the human population.

Whilst the pandemic has seen numerous acts of local kindness it has also seen examples of brazen selfishness and stupidity, in particular through the panic buying and stockpiling of food, hand sanitizers and – bizarrely – toilet rolls.

Some UK supermarkets are beginning to resemble their third-world counterparts, with rows of empty shelves and rationing of some essentials.

Aside from revealing the best and worst of human nature, the pandemic has also revealed just how precarious our supply food lines are.

Setting aside the panic buying, which has resembled Christmas on steroids, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that in the not-too-distant future supermarkets will really struggle to restock, through a combination of challenges bringing in food imports from countries in lockdown and drivers and other key workers succumbing to the virus.

Supermarket warehouses typically hold around two weeks’ worth of stock. For fresh foods and perishable items, the time lag is even less. Add panic buying into the mix and these fragile supply lines are likely to deplete even more quickly.

Perhaps one of the long-term lessons from this awful situation is for us to become less dependent on supermarkets and big corporations for such a fundamental, existential activity as eating.

Another lesson must be to reassess our relationship with, and exploitation of, animals.

Like the 2003 SARS virus, Covid-19 is believed to have started in a so-called wet market. In wet markets, live and dead animals are on sale, including dogs, pigs, chickens, wild cats, rats and snakes. Vendors also often slaughter animals in front of customers. All these factors make it easier for the transfer of zoonotic diseases.

But we will get through this.

Today is the first day of spring. There’s never been a better time to get in the garden or onto your balcony and start growing at least some of your own food.

It’s so much more healthy and more productive to be outside using your hands to plant and sow in the soil than it is to use them to push a trolley laden with toilet rolls in a short-tempered checkout queue of people all doing the same.

The start of the planting season means we are hitting that time of the year that was once known as “the hungry gap”, when edible plants from the old season are finished off but before the new season’s plants have grown.

The undervalued swede (known as rutabaga in the USA) is one of the last of the old season’s “tough guys”, alongside such stalwarts as leeks, kale and purple sprouting broccoli. Often steamed and mashed, swede can also make rather tasty fries, as this simple recipe demonstrates.

1 swede, peeled and cut into long chips or fries
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch chilli powder
25 ml extra virgin olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Whisk together the olive oil, turmeric, smoked paprika and chilli powder.

2. Put the fries into an oven dish. Pour in the spiced oil and toss to combine. Place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the fries are beautifully coloured and starting to crisp. Give the pan an occasional shake throughout the cooking period to ensure even roasting.

3. Serve hot!

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: ,

13 replies

  1. Love this post. Panic buying in full swing in Mumbai. Hiked veggie prices. Empty shelves. Queues. Deserted streets. And cab drivers without work. It is like watching a horror film in which we are the cast. I hope we get through this. I really hope so. PS. Thank you for yet another delicious recipe. 😊

  2. Thank you Rama. We will get through this, but it will be a long journey. I hope along the way we will reflect long and hard on the kind of world that we want to see when we emerge at the end of that journey. The challenge for us then will be to do all we can to make it happen. Steve

  3. I have seedlings started, but it was below freezing last night, so they’re not going into the garden yet… But the pandemic will be easier when I can shop in my garden. Love your recipe.

    • Thank you. My seedlings are starting to germinate but are all crammed together in my tiny greenhouse until the last frost. Growing your own vegetables has always been about investing in the future, but right now more than ever. Steve 🙂

  4. Steve – am keyboarding this to the sound emanating from old vinyl of Dame Vera Lynn encouraging us with ‘When the lights go on again all over the world’ . . . tho younger than I, you should relate. Methinks Australia actually began this pathetic toilet roll saga. Living without a motor semi-rurally I have yet to work out how to deal with the fact that now none of my supermarkets will deliver ! Have been dependant for two decades !! And refusing to be told, a few nights back the famed Bondi Beach held an impromptu all-night ‘party’ of 25,000 people, the younger generation actually hoping to get the virus and ‘be done with it’ !!! And tho’ the beaches are now officially closed . . .you should have seen the number of surfboards waiting for a wave a few hours back . . the idiocy of man who has never suffered a war . . . Love your recipe – a winter one for me and already in the kitchen . . .

  5. The whole concept of us becoming more self-reliant was illustrated yesterday at the nursery. I went to get spinach seedlings but was told they had sold out by lunchtime. I ended up getting chicory instead. (I could do with a few recipes). We are going into winter so I need crops that will be available very soon.

    • Good luck with your winter crops, John. There is at least one chicory recipe on my blog, but I’ll bear it in mind. Steve 🙂

  6. I’ve been absent for a long while as I battled with a deep, dark despair. Ironically, as I emerge blinking in the light of a new dawn and feeling stronger of psyche than I have in more moons than I care to admit to, the world has gotten itself into a most depressing pickle. I am though, thrilled to find you peddling your wise words and pithy reality and I look forward to jogging along with you again. What you have to say about the Chinese Wet Markets is spot on the nail. Novel Viruses exist in animals and pass animal to animal until they mutate and find a way to pass to a human. That is what this strain of Corona Virus did at that market. Disgusting habits brought about this pandemic. I am calling it ‘Revenge of The Pangolin’ (though the most up to date opinion seems to favour turtle as the carrier). It matters not who the host was. The fact is that dragging live animals out of their homes to slaughter in front of greedy eager humans is a disgrace. And that, by the way goes for piggies and goats and other ‘acceptable’ domestic animals. Now IS the time for us all to reassess. I am not spotless and I’ll bet no-one else is either. There are things I can do better. And maybe if we all soul search and understand that it is humans that have brought this blight on humankind then we might have a chance of emerging (and this too shall pass) somewhat more decent, wiser, kinder, more compassionate and more tolerant of those that we co-exist on this planet with. I could go on and on but fortunately I have some swede in the pantry and I can think of no better tribute to you and your fine work than to make me some of those fries! 💫

    • Oh Osyth, I am so sorry to hear that you have been in such a dark place. I’m glad you are feeling stronger now. It’s really lovely to hear from you. I agree the pandemic at least gives us an opportunity to slow down, to reflect upon our relationships with each other and the planet, and to emerge on the other side of this strange period with a resolve to change the way we live. Stay strong, Steve x

      • Not fun but SO much appreciation accompanies recovering. You are kind and I am happy to be back in the fold x

  7. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

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