Look. I get it. Daikon is weird looking. You’re probably looking at it without even knowing it’s daikon. Or you’ve never heard of daikon. It’s just some giant tubular white thing that you may or may not be making jokes about. There are quite a few vegetables that when I go to the supermarket to purchase, I need to tell the checkout staff what they are. So instead of keeping these weird and wonderful veggies to myself, check out the below list of vegetables that you shouldn’t be afraid of, what they taste like and some recipe ideas to get you started. Cause carrots get kinda boring.
Vegetables that you shouldn’t be afraid of.
Pictured above, daikon is a giant radish. It’s more mild tasting than it’s little red/pink relatives but can be eaten in similar ways. If you’ve ever eaten crunchy pickled yellow stuff at a Japanese restaurant – that’s daikon. It’s also served as the bed for sashimi (as pictured below). The most delicious way I’ve found daikon to be served is at Masu Restaurant in Federal Street, braised in miso. The below recipe is similar, but strangely this isn’t a recipe in the Masu Cookbook which I own.
Tip: Peel the outside and top green bits off and then either slice thinly with a mandolin or cut into matchstick pieces for a salad.
Spiralised in a salad or with sashimi
Fennel is so much easier to grow than I realised when experimenting in the garden this year. It’s also one of those veg that have a totally different taste when they’re cooked. It’s quite crunchy and when it’s raw, it tastes like aniseed. Braised, it takes on a milder flavour. It also makes your garden smell heavenly.
Tip: Don’t waste the tips, the fluffy green bits can be used exactly like dill, either in sauces or sprinkled on salads.
Celeriac taste like, well, celery. It has a totally different texture to celery however, and is a root plant of the same variety of celery, but planted specifically to eat the root. The flavour is lovely and mild and it can be used the same way as celery (salad) or as a potato (mashed, in a gratin).
Tip: Celeriac is one of those things that is hard to find unless you go to an Asian grocer or Farro. They tend to be a bit pricey, as they are charged per kg and these are heavy suckers. If you find them for less than $8.99/kg you’ve scored yourself a deal.
Kohlrabi can be purchased at the same places as celeriac, and while similar in shape, it is a totally different veg. It is not part of the root family, but is actually a brassica, tasting sort of like sweeter broccoli stems. The larger the kohlrabi, the thicker the outside skin, which you will need to peel off before getting to a whiter inside layer.
Tip: The Avondale Market, which you can read about here, is the best place to buy kohlrabi, where you can pick one up for $1.50-$2. If you buy from the shops, they are sold per kg and can be more pricey – but are so worth it!
Radicchio has a really full on flavour when raw – crunchy and bitter, and it’s a great way to jazz up a salad. It mellows in flavour as it’s cooked and is also delicious stuffed in pasta or meat. It might also be called chicory in the shops, and will be sold like above, in a tight ball or is sometimes a bit greener and looser leafed.
Tip: Radicchio is not the easiest vegetable to grow, so check out some cultivation hints here.
Stuffed Pasta with Radicchio, Ricotta and Lemon
Click the above link for the recipe and techniques to making stuffed pasta, and use the below for the filling:
- 1 cup chopped radicchio
- 1 lemon rind
- 3/4 cup ricotta
- salt and pepper to taste
Okay. You might be like, what? Leek is not scary. I cook with it all the time. But I am adding this, because when I first started cooking, leek was an excellent way for me to experiment with a vegetable that I wasn’t very familiar with. To be honest, the first time I cooked with it, I cut off the white bits and threw them away because I thought you used the tips. Oops! Leeks are delicious, and when they’re in season – are cheap. Tasting like a more savoury onion, these can be cooked and added to many different dishes for a fuller flavour. Baby leeks can be used the same way, but are slightly sweeter and are nice simply pan fried on their own.
Tip: Chopping the leeks into thin rings and then tossing them in a pan with a bit of salt and olive oil is the easiest, tastiest side dish.
I have only ever seen okra sold in Auckland at the Avondale Markets, but it’s always there. This veg is very popular in the Southern United States, and is typically fried or served in a gumbo in the region. The inside of okra have large soft edible seeds and this kind of goo-like consistency, which I like but is quite unusual. It’s really easy to cook, baked or stewed it becomes soft and tasty pretty quickly.
Tip: Pick small okra. The larger they get, the more woody and tough they become.
Ottolenghi’s Okra with Tomato, Lemon and Cilantro
I received Ottolenghi’s cookbook: “Plenty” recently, which is jam packed full of veggie mains and side dishes. One of the first recipes I cooked was this Okra recipe as I had just purchased some from the Avondale Market. The below is the actual recipe, courtesy of Ottolenghi which you can find here without my modifications. I tweaked it slightly to use less fat and avoid sugar. I also substituted a couple things. It was DELICIOUS!
4 tbsp 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 red peppers 1 red/1 green, cut in 1cm wide strips
1 mild red chilli, deseeded and chopped 1 tsp chilli flakes
6 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
30g fresh coriander leaves, chopped
400g chopped tomatoes (fresh or tinned) 2 cups homemade tomato sauce. Click for recipe.
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp caster sugar
400g okra, fresh
3 tbsp finely chopped skin of
30 pitted black olives of the dry and wrinkly variety, each cut into two (didn’t have any, will try next time!)
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp shredded mint leaves
Do you have any great recipes for the above veggies? Share below!
If you love vegetables and want to be shown new and fresh ways to cook with them, then visit my Classes page and send me a message. I can tailor cooking classes for any experience level and will come to you (Auckland wide), with all the ingredients. Happy cooking!