A pink pickle pick me up


Although Christmas has been and gone, New Year celebrated with kisses in Bridport's town square, my body is still waiting for winter to arrive. I brace myself for every trip to the compost bin and yet I have skipped there bare legged on all but a few days so far. The garden is churned muddy as a summer festival and my eyes long for a clear blue sky in which to soar.

So the usual wintry food feels out of place and I find that I want to eat pickles, salads and stir fries instead of comforting stodge. It's all possible and quite revelatory to cook up such light colourful dishes from winter veg. Shaved carrots and beets, matchsticks of parsnip and celeriac, deep purple cabbage shreds and rose pink chicory leaves. The garlicky, ginger hot flavours feel like piquant medicine against bugs that have lingered on without a proper frost to see them off.

I've been making instant pickles too, from finely chopped or shaved veg doused in lemon juice and left overnight with some
garlic squashed in its skin. Sour, salty, savoury and sweet from the roots, these pickles add punch to the simplest rice bowl supper, or bubble and squeak breakfast.


I give you my current favourite, turnip and beet pickle. It makes a virtue of the watery crunch of raw turnip and takes on a heart warming fuchsia tone from the beets - use more or less beet according to the shade of pink you crave most on your plate. Then spoon into anything you can think of, from roast beef sandwiches to quinoa salads, or even alongside a wintry shepherds pie. I guarantee it will perk you up no end.

Instant pink pickle

Choose smaller turnips and beets for this as they will be juicier and sweeter than larger woody specimens. Adjust the seasoning according to the sharpness of your lemon and use proper chefs pinches - a hefty pinch.

6 small turnips
2-3 small beetroots
3-4 cloves of garlic
3-4 large pinches of salt
4-6 pinches sugar - or spoonful of honey
1 1/2 -2 lemons

Peel turnips and beetroots - I use latex gloves to avoid bright pink hands. Slice thinly and then pile up a few slices at a time and slice these into matchsticks. This takes time, but it's worth it to have lovely thin strips and grating produces too much juice and bruises the flesh of the roots. Crush the garlic under the heel of your hand and peel off the loose skin.

Place the strips into a bowl and add garlic, salt, sugar (or honey) and the juice of one lemon. Turn it all over to cover and taste a little bit - it should taste very sharp, but with the edge taken off a little by the sugar. The garlicky flavour will develop overnight. Add more lemon juice only if there doesn't seem like much liquid, or the taste isn't sharp enough. you can add more later if needed. Stir a couple of times during that period to intensify the pink colour.

Put the pickle into a clean jar, non reactive lidded box or covered bowl and let it sit for 6-24 hours before tucking in. It will keep in the fridge for at least 3 days.