Chilli Roasted Oca with Hedgerow Pesto – Two Recipes for the Price of One
CT has been interested in The Lost Crops of the Incas for a very long time. One he’s been growing over the years is oca (Oxalis tuberosa). I was recently gifted a kilo of beautifully coloured oca tubers from The Guild of Oca Breeders. This was a rare treat as I hardly ever get to try any of CT’s precious tubers. You can prepare them in pretty much anyway you’d cook a potato, but I like them best roasted. Here I give you my recipe for a quick and simple dish of chilli roasted oca with hedgerow pesto.
People often ask me what oca taste like. My best description, in fact my only one, is that they are sort of like a slightly lemony potato. They come in a variety of colours and some taste more lemony than others. Like potatoes some have a waxy texture and some are floury. They are all delicious. In my experience, the white ones seem to be the flouriest and have virtually no tang at all and the bright pink ones, the most lemony. In the batch I cooked for the chilli roasted oca, it was the orange ones that were the sharpest.
Oca has been grown in the Andes for thousands of years. It’s important there for enhancing food security with its high nutritional content. It also helps control pests and diseases by improving crop rotations. It’s second only to the potato in the number of tubers grown. Oca is a good source of Vitamins A, B and C as well as iron, zinc flavanoids and fibre. In New Zealand, tubers are also widely available but are known as yams.
We’ve already got potatoes, so why do we need oca you may well ask? Variety is the spice of life and it’s always good to have some alternatives. They are a valued crop back in Peru and Bolivia, even though they have plenty of potatoes. But the key to oca is that, unlike potatoes, they don’t get blight.
A couple of years ago CT and a group of like minded oca enthusiasts decided that trying to grow bigger oca that tuberised in the UK growing season was more than one person could cope with on their own. The Guild of Oca Breeders was born. Their mission? ” To breed a variety of oca that responds much better to European variations in day length and climate”. Oca’s are daylight sensitive, as was the original potato. Left to their own devices, they don’t start to tuberise until the days and nights are of equal length, i.e. in September and October. By then, it’s too late in our season for them to grow to a decent size. The Guild are breeding new varieties and selecting the best producers in an attempt to recify this problem.
Ocas aren’t easy to find, but they are becoming more widely available in the UK these days. Look out for them at farmer’s markets. I even saw some for sale in a small Cornish shop a couple of months ago. If you’d like to try growing some of your own, you can buy carefully selected tubers from The Guild of Oca Breeders. You’re unlikely to be able to source such good specimens from anywhere else. If you’re a keen grower and would like to get involved in breeding ocas, the Guild are always looking for new members.
So back to the recipe for chilli roasted oca tubers. They make a delicious and easy meal with wild garlic and hazelnut pesto and some sort of green on the side. We accompanied them with a few Brussels sprouts that were loitering in the fridge. I made the pesto with roasted hazelnuts and the first foraged wild garlic of the year. The slight sharpness from the chilli roasted oca cuts through the richness of the pesto and makes a perfect accompaniment.
I used my Optimum G2.3 induction blender to make the pesto. It made quick work of blending the wild garlic and hazelnuts. I roasted the ocas in my Optimum HealthyFry, but they can be done just as well in the oven. The oca’s bright colours fade a little during roasting, but they still look attractive and appetising, though I do say so myself.
- 100 g wild garlic - well washed and dried
- 100 g hazelnuts - roasted
- 75 g Parmesan or vegetarian equivalent
- 75 ml olive oil
- pinch of sea salt
- 500 g oca tubers - well scrubbed
- 1 tsp rapeseed oil
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- pinch of sea salt
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender until just combined. I used my Optimum G2.3 induction blender.
Spoon into clean jars and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Mix the oil, chilli flakes and salt together in a bowl then add the tubers and stir until all are coated.
Roast the oca in an air fryer at or an oven at 180℃ for 15-18 minutes, depending on size. You may need a little longer if using a conventional oven. I used my Optimum HealthyFry. They should be soft all the way through when pierced with a knife.
Spoon a little of the pesto over the ocas and enjoy with some greens on the side.
The hedgerow pesto recipe makes enough for 2 small jars.
I’m sending this recipe for chilli roasted oca with hedgerow pesto to Jac at Tinned Tomatoes for Meat Free Mondays.
This is really the end of Brussels sprout season and mine were only just hanging on in there. I had to take an extra layer or two off them, but they were saved from the compost heap. So I’m sending this post to Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary for No Food Waste Challenge.
Other recipes for pesto you might like
- Basil & pistachio pesto via Greedy Gourmet
- Carrot top pesto via Fuss Free Flavours
- Cavolo nero & hazelnut pesto via Family Friends Food
- Fat hen & chickweed pesto via Tin and Thyme
- Hemp seed pesto via Rough Measures
- Parsley & almond pesto via Tin and Thyme
- Spinach and pea pesto via Tinned Tomatoes
- Wild garlic pesto two ways via Tin and Thyme
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