Sunday Books and Radishes

We often keep a book in the side pocket of the car door. The book is chosen for its suitability for long road trips. It could be a novel with self-contained, non sequential chapters but more often it’s a travel diary or humourous journal, a book that can resumed at any chapter when we’re in the mood. Mr Tranquillo drives while I read a chapter or two aloud to break up the journey. One book that amused us for years was ‘Everything but the Squeal: a year of pigging out in Northern Spain,’ by John Barlow. The author/ narrator travels through Galicia, Spain, while trying to eat every part of the pig. It’s a journey with entertaining diversions and detours, where the quest for eating various parts of the pig often segues into insanely funny anecdotes, amusing passages on foreign language usage and grammar, historic and literary references, vivid descriptions of the Galician people, its villages and festivals, as well as an occasional recipe based on pork. The ingredients ( all pork unless stated) of Galicia’s famous Lalín Cocido ( pork stew) are listed:

“1/2 head, 2 lb cured foreleg ham, 3 lb backbone, 2 tails, 1 1/2 lb streaky bacon, 1 side of ribs, 3 snouts, 5 ears, 5 trotters, 10 chorizo from Lalín, 5 onion chorizo, 4 tongues, 1 free range hen, 2 lb veal ( hock or skirt), 1/2 lb pork lard, 2 lb chickpeas, 1 lb dried broad beans, 12 lb grelos, 3 lb potatoes.”

After 11 months or by page 270, the author lists all the parts he has consumed, and then ponders those bits not yet eaten, including the pig’s unmentionables:

” Male pigs are generally very well endowed, with penises up to eighteen inches in length, which, relative to body size, makes those pork swords among the most impressive in the animal kingdom. In Galicia’s distant past, the pig’s penis used to be stretch-dried and used as a donkey whip. There’s no longer much call for donkey whips. Carlos, our organic butcher, says there’s no call for pig testicles either. No one eats them. And with an eighteen incher, a substantial set of testicles would probably come as standard, so that’s a goodly plate of meat going to waste.”

I’m returning this book to the car door pocket. It will need a future trip up the Hume Highway to find out if John ticked off those parts of the pig. In the meantime, as a ‘mostly’ vegetarian, let me introduce you to eating more parts of the humble radish. After a recent thinning of radishes from the garden, I recalled that the tops of radishes taste very similar to cima di rape or turnip tops ( grelos in Spanish). Radishes grow quickly in most seasons and with continuous sowing, are always plentiful in my garden. As cold salad season has passed by, I’ve just started using radishes and their tops in roasts and stir fries.

Roast radishes with stir fried radish tops

Ingredients.

  • a generous bunch of radishes and their tops, preferably just picked.
  • EV Olive oil
  • garlic
  • anchovy fillets ( optional)

Heat the oven to 180 c.

Clean the radishes and their tops thoroughly, then separate the leaves and roots, discarding any yellowing or damaged leaves. Cut the radishes in half. Add to roasting tin along with some olive oil. Roast for around 20 minutes.

Roasted Radishes with Radish tops, garlic and anchovy

Meanwhile, chop the garlic and anchovies ( if using). Add some olive oil to a small wok or frying pan, then add the garlic and anchovies, breaking up the anchovies with the back of a spoon. Stir fry quickly then add the radish tops and stir fry until they are wilted. A large bunch of greens will reduce to a small amount. Add ground pepper. Add some salt only if you haven’t added the anchovies. Plate nicely and enjoy as a starter or side dish.

The dish that cost nothing except for the oil.

Sunday Notes

  • This post was going to be called Eats, Roots, and Leaves after that well known Australian joke.
  • Roots in Italian are radici while radishes are ravanelli. 
  • I have eaten some great vegetarian food in Santiago de Compostella, Galicia, that beautiful, wet and Celtic area of Spain which serves up more than just pig.
  • Everything but the Squeal: a year of pigging out in Northern Spain. John Barlow, Wakefield Press, 2009.

    Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. In search of good Comida.

31 thoughts on “Sunday Books and Radishes”

  1. Francesca, That was a great read! Love the way you’ve put it together. I have never been a radish fan but i have never tried them roasted your beautiful photo of them makes me want to try, Love the wet street shot at the end and I like the idea of the book in car, will have to remember that one. Louise

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    1. Thanks Louise, the radishes lose their spiciness when roasted and so taste more like a root vegetable, perhaps more like a turnip. Road books work well when someone prefers to drive and the other one doesn’t get car sick when reading. ( that’s me). I’m thinking of making ‘Sunday Books’ a regular category, especially over Melbourne winter.

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  2. Radishes with anchovies and garlic have a definite appeal: wish I had some at home at the moment! But the book and some of its contents have brought forth a definite loud Sunday laugh . . . now I DO have some fab friends who grow pigs . . . wonder how much they will relate . . .

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  3. Barlow’s book sounds great and will now have to look it up and probably order. My book buying has increased since blogging! We tend to listen to audio books or radio when travelling as queasiness will strike when reading in a moving vehicle. Love how you’ve used the radish tops. Will need to try this and definitely with the anchovy.

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        1. I too have bought – but I always buy second hand through AbeBooks as taught by the wellknown blogger Roger Stowell: $US1 for the book and less than $US4 postage to Australia – I have purchased over 20 during the past year and all have been in near perfect condition . . . they had a few more left at that price 🙂 !

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          1. I also buy second hand books when available and find that they are close to mint condition. My beloved copy came from Savers, a second hand emporium that provides most of my reading matter.
            I think you’ll enjoy this one Eha.

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    1. I know, I thought about it Signorina. But in the end, common sense prevailed. Only Australians would relate to this wonderful saying. After all, rooting in American English means means barracking. They wouldn’t get it. Just as I don’t get it when Americans say ‘I am rooting for’ a particular team or side. I used to think that was an extreme way of demonstrating one’s support. Haha.

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  4. I have never cooked radishes, I wasn’t even aware one could, which is of course quite stupid of me, but now I have a new idea, thank you, perfect as I am just off to the Sunday market here! Radishes are on the menu! I am however, very jealous that you can read in the car, sadly it makes me feel quite horrendous and more than a little green around the gills! Hope you have had a great weekend xx

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    1. Thanks Susan, the weekend was so relaxing with catch ups and a slow Sunday. Some of the Chinese recipes for cooked radishes are superb. This one has an Italian slant, ( in keeping with my general theme) but I recommend Fuschia Dunlop’s approach to stir fried radishes.

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  5. My eyes widened when i was reading that recipe – phew, i thought, thank goodness it’s gluten free:) i never leave home without a book, i clutch them as if i can absorb them by osmosis – which would be handy. Your radishes look lovely and i’ll look forward to trying them like that. I particularly like the photo of the wet and lonely street.

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    1. Gluten free- hahha- now that is funny Jan. A good book is a life support in so many ways.I now use kindle books for travel and night time reading but never find a kindle book as comforting as a print copy. I love going up to the shelves and extracting a little gem, maybe thumbing through a book I have already read, or a poem or a reference book.

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  6. Gorgeous images Francesca .. and a great idea having a book in the glove box, although I can only read for a bit … or I get car sick! Your radishes look divine .. anchovies would have Andrew’s hand up! Oh my I’m still thinking about that pig ..

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  7. I’m afraid I’m one of those who get too sick to read in the car, audio books for us, but sounds like a great read! I should buy more second hand books too, I always have a look through any shops I come across but need to do it more on line…
    I’ve just planted some more radishes, so should be able to make this in about a month. Radish leaf pesto is also fabulous if you’re looking for other ideas (I have a recipe posted if you don’t already have one).

    Liked by 1 person

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