Coping With The Christmas Vegetable Shortage

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Shortages of sprouts, parsnips and other winter vegetables are predicted to drive up prices at Christmas, but James Ramsden has some bright ideas to turn disaster into triumph

Christmas dinner. What’s to be surreptitiously fed to the dog if there are no sprouts?
Photograph: Peter Huggins/Alamy

Those with a nervous disposition about cooking Christmas dinner may want to look away now, for shy of a turkey apocalypse the worst could be about to happen. We are, apparently, going to be without vegetables this December. Due to this year’s torrential rain and subsequent crop failure Tesco and Sainsbury’s are predicting a shortage in home-grown potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sprouts, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower and swede. Chuck in a brandy embargo and a ban on bread sauce and we might as well cancel Christmas altogether.

“We’ve definitely noticed a downturn,” specialist grocer Andreas Georghiou tells me. “It’s not like we’re going to run out, but the cost is going to become more prohibitive. It’s very much intertwined with the broader financial situation, and now that people are so used to paying 2-for-1 for vegetables they’re reluctant to pay the correct price.”

So, in the event of a drop in vegetable availability and an increase in prices, what can we serve alongside the chosen protein this Christmas?

As a cheerleader for beetroot I would say this is always a good start – whether roasted with garlic, thyme and olive oil, pureed with a hefty wallop of horseradish, or gently spiced and served with yoghurt, it’s a fine vegetable. Leeks, chopped and sweated in butter and a little curry powder before being finished with cream are a favourite round ours, as is my mum’s particularly American scalloped corn.

A meat as, erm, subtle as turkey will always benefit from having sides with a bit of swagger about them. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem artichokes with manouri and kuman oil are delicious, as are his stuffed onions. Indeed, the humble onion should not be underestimated: it can play a lead role with aplomb – I bake them with anchovies and breadcrumbs.

Food writer and chef Anissa Helou recommends Moroccan salades variees: “Cook whatever root vegetables you have and dress them with herbs, chilli, and spices, or stew aubergines in tomato sauce. There’s lots of choice.”

Many vegetables can be bought now, prepped, and frozen, though Norwegian food writer Signe Johansen prefers pickling. “You could have pickled beets or pickled cucumber, the sort of thing that is traditionally made earlier in the year and used throughout winter”.

No cause for alarm, then. There is no need to rely on the anonymous delivery of an organic veg box from some munificent ex-skinflint to fill our bellies this Christmas, just a little diversion from the safe and familiar sphere of carrots and sprouts. And no one likes sprouts anyway, do they?


Best Restaurants in America If you eat out in the U.S.A. and want the best dining experiences possible, this guide is for you What makes a good restaurant a “best”? Food that’s better than just good, of course. A dining room and a level of service that suit the quality of what’s on the plate. A good wine list (which doesn’t always mean an encyclopedic one), good beers and/or cocktails where appropriate. And then the less easily quantifiable stuff: personality, imagination (or intelligent commitment to a lack of same), consistency. 101 Best Restaurants in America (Gallery) When we were a young website, way back in 2011, we drew up our first 101 ranking ourselves, making a list of the places where we, The Daily Meal’s editors, liked to eat. Taking into consideration our mood, our budget, and where we happened to be when we get hungry, how would we vote, we asked ourselves — not only with our critical faculties but with our mouths and our wallets? Where would we send friends? Where would we want to dine if we had one night in this city or that? By this method, we ended up with a shortlist of 150 places. Then we argued, advocated, and cajoled each other on behalf of restaurants ranging from old-fashioned to avant-garde, ultra-casual to super-fancy. Finally, we invited an illustrious panel of judges (restaurant critics, food and lifestyle writers, and bloggers) from across America to help order restaurants via an anonymous survey and tallied results to assemble a ranked list. Upstairs, the simple Scandinavian-style dining room is kitted out with tables that look like tangled tree trunks, carved by Tom senior. The ingredient-led 12-course tasting menu is constantly changing (you might spot one of the chefs picking a final herb flourish outside minutes before it hits your plate). Starters could include a mouthful of smoked eel and apple, or an exploding dumpling of ox cheek and lovage. A crapaudine beetroot slow-cooked in beef fat is meaty in texture as well as flavour, and local lamb is paired with turnip and mint. Even the bread with sour butter is sensational. Afterwards you’ll be grateful for the walk through the village to a pretty rose-covered house where some of the nine bedrooms have antique oak four-posters and copper bateau baths. Wake to the sound of cows mooing in the next field and head back to the inn for a simple breakfast of sheep’s yogurt with fresh berry compote and house granola or toasted brioche heaped with mushrooms and a duck egg. Unsurprisingly, the most talked about restaurant in Yorkshire is often full, so book it quick. By Tabitha Joyce.

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