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Lipsmacking Backpacking

12 13 As for all staples, the main way of cooking roots is in water, normally lightly salted but do try adding a pinch of sugar, if often helps bring out the flavour. Cooking times, for all of the talk you might have heard about precise measurements, will always vary. Size, texture, quantity, the type of staple youre cooking, whether youre an al dente person all these affect the cooking time. All youre really doing is letting the water penetrate the staple the longer you leave it, the more water gets absorbed. The basic point is to have a go have a look around the market, see whats there, talk to people, buy something, clean it, cook it, taste it to see if it is ready and just eat it. You can always identify roots in the market as they tend to be hard and muddy. All have different flavours, lots of carbohydrate and low fat forget faddish diets, these are perfect for a hienergy backpacker. The way to prepare them is to peel or scrub them, cutting out any bad bits or eyes. Beware of green or soft parts cut them out, or best of all, discard the entire root. Just under the skin is where most of the nutrients are so peel them as closely as you can. Rinse them then place them in cold water, bring it to the boil and keep them boiling for about twenty minutes. If they arent done after that, just pop them back on the heat for a while its always better to undercook something and then heat it a bit longer than overcook it and eat a soggy mess. One school of thought says that you dont need to do anything to roots when serving them save for giving them a quick sprinkling of salt. That is true its worked well for the British for centuries Roots absorb some of the water you cook them in so you can add flavour to them by flavouring the water. Try adding bay leaves, lemongrass, or a smashed fennel root to your water. The other alternative is to flavour root directly by sprinkling some herbs or spices on it after it is cooked. The key thing is to use your imagination. Serve them boiled or mashed, to the side of plate, or use the mash as a base onto which to put your other ingredients. Try chopping the boiled root into pieces about a couple of centimetres thick, putting one piece in the middle of your plate, stacking a couple of slices of vegetables on top, and then stacking another smaller slice of root on the top. If youve made a sauce, pour this around the side of the plate thats all there is to the artistic heaps that you see the TV chefs creating IMPORTANT some roots contain amydalen, a cyanide compound, and need to be specially prepared first if you dont want Ms Marple snooping around. Always ask, never take a risk. SLIGHTLY LESS IMPORTANT If you go to a market in Australia, dont ask them for a root, as it means something slightly different over there. Root, Water, Salt and pepper Prepare the root. If the roots are large, cut them in half or quarters say the size of an egg. The smaller the chunk the quicker it cooks. Rinse them. Drop them in a pot of salted water and bring it to the boil making sure that the roots are always totally submerged. Boil them for about twenty minutes. The time basically depends on how big the pieces are, so the best thing is to taste them or prod them with your fork and when you can break them, theyre done. Drain, serve and season with salt and pepper. If youve only got one heat source, boil them for about 15 minutes, then take them off the heat and put a lid on the pot. Theyll keep cooking in the water whilst you make the rest of your meal, and then you can pop them back on the heat at the end for a quick blast.
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