Resolution: don't diet

Nicholas Clee is determined to shop better and eat more brassicas (probably)

I have made a few New Year resolutions. None of them involves dieting.

Shop locally. This is quite an easy one to follow. I do not drive, so I cannot do big supermarket shops even if I want to. A good butcher, several delis and a greengrocer are all within walking distance, as are plenty of Turkish and North African shops. Supporting them is not just a matter of principle: I'd be stuck without them. But perhaps I should also admit that the recently opened branch of Lidl - a German budget chain - will be handy from time to time.

Think about air miles. I was tempted by a bag of tomatoes at Lidl this morning. They were from Spain, and likely to be a lot nicer than the otherwise ubiquitous Dutch ones. But no: tomatoes are for warmer months. I shall probably carry on buying aubergines, and perhaps the odd courgette; and my organic vegetable box occasionally has produce from Italy. But my greengrocer has enough English produce, which has neither been transported long distances nor subjected to the chilling that the supermarkets inflict on fruit and veg, to keep us going.

If I run out of things to do with roots and brassicas (see below), I shall console myself with the thought that it is only five months until the asparagus arrives.

Be more adventurous. I spouted piously in this column that organic vegetable boxes compel one to try new things. So, up to a point, they do. But, after thinking a bit about how I might prepare my beetroot or red cabbage or cauliflower, I usually end up braising the beetroot and the cabbage, and pouring cheese sauce over the cauliflower, as I have done many times before. My excuse might be that my daughters are fussy. But they will not eat beetroot or red cabbage or cauliflower, no matter how the vegetables are prepared. We might as well experiment.

Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book is full of things that we ought to sample. Some of them have appealingly artistic associations. For instance, there is Mrs Conrad's Beetroot and Potatoes - Mrs Conrad being the wife of Joseph. You stir cooked beetroot into a kind of sweet-and-sour béchamel, flavoured with vinegar and sugar and with a base of onions. This concoction is served inside a ring of mashed potato. What is the worst that can happen? Perhaps we won't like it. But we'll probably eat it anyway. It will certainly be filling.

Pumpkins and squashes arrive in the box from time to time. I usually make soup with them; I have also stirred them into a risotto. I really must try Toulouse-Lautrec's Pumpkin Gratin. You flour slices of pumpkin, fry them, layer with stewed onions and tomatoes, dot with breadcrumbs, and bake.

The only drawback of these recipes is that we might have to go on a diet afterwards.

Nicholas Clee's food blog is at

Nicholas Clee, the NS food columnist, is the author of Don’t Sweat the Aubergine: What Works in the Kitchen and Why (Short Books). He is a former editor of The Bookseller, and writes about books for papers including the Times, Guardian, and Times Literary Supplement.