A few things from my kitchen - oca tarts and artichokes

Have you had oca before? If you have, you're totally one step ahead of me.

First time I heard of it, a friend's mum told me they were growing some in their garden. "I've got lots of oca, I don't know what to do with it!" Okra? I said, like the green stuff? "No, it's definitely oca," she said. Not okra? I said. Definitely not okra? It went on like this for a while (think Who's On First, but with vegetables) but when I got home, I realised I was the dunce.

It wasn't okra she meant, it was oca - the Andean tuber.  (You have to imagine me nodding sagely, and tapping my nose at this point.) It's a fibrous, delightfully pinky-purple knobbly veg, that you can eat raw or cooked. Raw, it's a bit like a water chestnut, cooked, more like a more fibrous potato. It's mild in flavour, but very pleasing.

Here's what I did with the bunch I picked up - a little oca tart.

Under the layers of oca, there's some rosemary and red onions underneath, for more pinky purple goodness (and there was me saying I don't eat enough purple food). Also, obligatory cashew cheese on top. Because, you know, everything is better with cashew cheese.

Talking of cashew cheese - well, cashew queso - I thought I'd take a picture of this lunchbox that I made up from the leftovers of a Mexican bowl meal. Roasted chipotle pumpkin, black beans, lime and coriander rice, pepitas, and piquillo peppers. It was a good dinner - cooked for a friend who was down from Manchester for the night - and it made an even better lunch.

Actually, looking at that, I kind of want to eat it all over again.

From an elaborate dinner, to the simplest of lunches - some roasted brussel sprouts and jerusalem artichokes. I think this is the sort of thing that non-vegans think that vegans eat - just a bowl of plain veggies, filled with sadness and self-flagellation. 

There was no sadness and self-flagellation in this bowl of veggies - the tastiest veg of the season, cooked simply. It was oddly just what I was craving right then and it didn't disappoint in the slightest.

Having had to take some time away from cooking and blogging thanks to the terror of a new round of exams, it was such a relief to get back into the kitchen, even if it was just to turn on the oven and roast some veggies. Sometimes, simple cooking is just the balm an study battered brain needs.

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  1. Oca is a totally new ingredient to me, which is pretty thrilling! I just wish I could get my hands on some now. It sounds wonderful, especially all dressed up in your pizza creation here.

  2. Also new to me! It's amazing how many types of produce are in the world, many I might not even know! It does look nice on your pizza! Cashew quest sounds amazing!

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  4. I haven't heard of oca either! It is very pretty. Actually, when I first saw them on yr tart i thought they were jerusalem artichokes. Or radishes, maybe. Sounds very good with the fresh herbs, onions, and cashew cheese, but then, what isn't?
    As for the real jerusalem chokes, i am not a fan, and i've tried! Brussels sprouts, yes, though. making it all worse is that my oven hasn't been working so I can't even roast all the delicious winter root vegetables these days! so sad.

  5. I'd never heard of oca! Thanks for enlightening me.

  6. As a veg gardener, the reason I began my blog - I do know what oca is and know many fellow veg growing bloggers who grow it, but sadly I have never grown it,let alone eaten it. How lucky are you to be bestowed some to try. I would love to try some, so will keep my eyes out in grocers. Your tart looks very pretty, like pink hued petals!

  7. Glad you survived the exams to cook and blog again - I have lunch envy when I see your mexican meal - and I am curious about oca - never come across it but will now be that little more knowledgeable

  8. I've never heard of oca, and don't know if I've ever tasted it unknowingly or not. I wish you had posted a photo of the whole, raw oca so I could see if it looked familiar! Probably not. I like the idea of making it into a tart.

    Your Mexican meal looks wonderful, but I don't feel the least bit sorry for you eating a simple plate of delicious roasted veggies. I would do the same. :)

  9. Don't think i have ever seen heard of or eaten oca- sound really interesting, i certainly love radishes and waterchestnuts.
    Taking a study break to cook is much needed! Can't think straight without a nutritious meal!

  10. I'm glad you're getting some cooking in alongside your studying, even if just for selfish reasons. I love all the unusual ingredients I discover because of you! Oca? I've never even heard of it! I wonder if you can buy that sort of thing in the shops? Btw, are you going to VegFest in Brighton? I'll be back for it and am REALLY looking forward to trying out Purezza pizza!! Vegan stuffed crust? Yes please!

  11. Another person who has never heard of oca, looks and sounds delicious though. I would love to try it some day. Roasted veggies are the best, if that's all I could eat as a vegan, I would be one happy vegan. :-)


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