Hodge-podge is a maritime tradition that evolved in an era when most homes had a kitchen garden from which the very first or last of the summer’s vegetables were harvested then cooked together adding cream and a few simple herbs like chives or dill to create a sweet and delicious vegetable stew.
The term hodge-podge is derived from the French hochepot, a compound word comprised of hochier – to shake, and pot – a pot , which could either mean that the stew-pot was gently shaken during cooking or that the variable ingredients, harvested together into a basket, were shaken- out into the pot.
The contents of this ‘whatever shakes out’ dish are as variable as its names. For example, in Lancashire, England it’s called hot-pot and incorporates mutton, kidneys, or oysters under a hefty covering of potatoes, much like a shepherd’s pie; in Holland they make hutspot with beef and root vegetables; in France and Belgium it includes pig’s ears and hocks; in the Caribbean you will encounter pot-au-feu, a spicy stew of vegetables like plantain, dashee and pumpkin alongside anything from land or sea the cook fancies; finally there’s Italy, where nothing is ever wasted and the home garden is plundered for the weekly minestra, which includes anything that’s ripe for picking, like peppers, tomatoes and zucchini, in season, crowned with a healthy dollop of pesto.
The tradition of hodge-podge is really derived from a people’s regard for whatever the season and their land gives them, it’s up to the cook’s skill and creativity to make it tasty and interesting, perhaps taking the same elements and combining them in a new way; tradition should never stifle innovation. It is in the spirit of innovation that I offer you an autumn hodge-podge which uses pumpkin from the many heritage varieties now locally available, such as the grey-white Casper, the texture of its string- less flesh reminiscent of honey dew melon with taste as sweet, the equally delicious yellow ‘cheese’ pumpkin, or the tasty small, deeply ribbed, orange Cinderella pumpkin; all superior choices to the ubiquitous large starchy, stringy orange Howden’s, bred for decorative use.
Level of Difficulty: easy
•6 pearl onions or shallots, peeled and halved
•2 large: parsnips and carrots peeled and thinly sliced
•6 large Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved or florets from ½ medium head of broccoli or cauliflower
•1 cup diced cooked pumpkin or other winter squash
•2 tbsp. butter
•2 tbsp. flour
•1 tbsp. maple syrup
•1 ½ cups 10% cream
•1 tsp. mild curry powder or paste
•salt & pepper to taste
•3 tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley
•Cook vegetables until tender in just enough water to cover
•drain , reserve 1 ½ cups of vegetable stock
•in a large pot, melt butter, whisk-in flour and curry to form a roux
•gradually whisk-in reserved stock, syrup and cream, forming a smooth béchamel sauce
•simmer, stirring for 2 mins.
•remove from heat , stir-in vegetables, herbs and seasonings, serve.
Complementary Wines: Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel
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