It is not because Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's hair looks like salsify roots that I used one of his recipes.
Fearnley-Whittingstall is a British celebrity chef and a "real food" campaigner, known for his back-to-basics philosophy. Nothing could be more back to basics than the salsify.
Rarely found in New Zealand, salsify has been eaten for thousands of years in Europe and is making a comeback due to chefs like Fearnley-Whittingstall promoting it as a winter vegetable.
Salsify is a root vegetable – it has a flower similar to that of a dandelion and has woody brown skin that comes away more easily after boiling.
The taste has been described as similar to that of an oyster, earning it the nickname "oyster plant". It has a creamy sweet taste and a soft texture and care must be taken when cooking, as it can turn to mush quickly if overcooked. Salsify is high in fibre, which makes it ideal for aiding digestion. It also contains the essential mineral potassium and vitamin B.
I first started using salsify in Marlborough 10 years ago for special menus and even grew it myself as I could not find it anywhere. Let's just say I am better off sticking to cooking than growing.
On March 16 salsify achieved a No2 ranking on Twitter's Five Minutes – Fearnley-Whittingstall used it on his TV series River Cottage and it had all the cyber foodies tapping on their keyboards. Let's hope it does not take another 1000 years before it is mentioned again.
To try this root vegetable, you can find it at Alistair and Kathryn's Spudz and Greenz stall on Sunday mornings at the Farmers Market in Blenheim from 10am to 12.30pm, but you had better be quick, as I have already put my order in.
A great brunch or lunch dish, and perfect served alongside a few crisp rashers of bacon and a fried or poached egg. Makes six fritters
45g unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red chilli, finely diced
3 Tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
Peel and coarsely grate the salsify. Warm 20g of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and saute the salsify until softened.
Transfer to a bowl and mix with the garlic, chilli, coriander, egg and flour. Season generously, then form into six fritters.
Warm the remaining butter and the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and cook the fritters until golden, about four minutes a side.
- The Marlborough Express