|photo by L. Gatto-White|
Summer is the time for barefeet, serendipitous travel and the enjoyment of simple pleasures like the shimmer of a dragonfly’s gossamer wings as it darts across a lily pond, the cozy refuge of a wicker lounge on a shady porch, the staccato chorus of invisible cicadas at dusk, and the creamy, sweet goodness of a warm bowl of hodge-podge, brimming with the tenderest of summer vegetables.
Hodge-podge is an enduring 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, sometimes salt pork 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. Ultimately, hodge-podge is 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 preparing them in a new way.
I find that oven-steaming all the vegetables in a tightly lidded casserole dish together in a little water and butter, then adding the cream to finish their cooking, retains all of the tasty vegetable juices and flavours as well as their nutrients. Before serving, I add a sprig of mint and a little dollop of chive butter which is stirred into the warm dish adding a freshness that lifts and highlights the flavours of the vegetables.
Serve hodge-podge with a plate of warm, buttered home-made biscuits and you’ll be comforted and satisfied with this wholesome and simple seasonal pleasure. Bon appétit !
Hodge-Podge with Herb Butter
· 8-10 baby carrots
· raw kernels from 2 corn cobs (optional)
· 1 cup of fresh shelled peas
· 2 medium bunch- onions (white bulbs only) or leeks
· 12 very small new potatoes
· ¼ lb. each of small green beans and yellow beans
· 4 sprigs of dill
· 1 cup water
· 1 small bunch of watercress or mint
· small bunch of chives
· 8 tbsp. butter
· 3 tsp. cornstarch
· 2 ½ cups 18% cream
· Peel the carrots and potatoes, cut carrots diagonally in ½” pieces and quarter the potatoes
· remove blossom end and string from the beans, cut each diagonally in half
· Trim the onions, cut them into eighths
· Preheat oven to 400
· Add the water, vegetables and dill to a medium-sized, deep- sided casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid, sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt and pepper, cut 4 tablespoons butter in small pieces and distribute over the vegetables. Cover tightly and cook on middle rack for approx. 20 mins.
· Meanwhile, reserve 4 tbsp. cream and simmer the rest in a small saucepan, do not boil, dissolve the cornstarch in the reserved cream, whisk it into the warm cream to thicken. Remove from heat and cover
· Remove vegetables from oven and stir-in thickened cream, cover and continue to cook until vegetables are just tender, approx. 10 mins.
· Cut chives in small pieces and combine, with a fork, into remaining butter
· ladle into serving bowls and garnish with a little dollop of chive butter and sprig of mint