These vegetarian recipes are from Valentine Warner’s most recent book ‘The Good Table’.
The chef and BBC presenter of ‘What to Eat Now’ and ‘ ‘What to Eat Now – More Please’ shows that eating better for the planet can not only be healthier for people, but also super tasty too!
- 100g short-grain rice
- 450ml cold water
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 6 large beef tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 1 large white onion, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small glass dry white wine (about 125ml)
- 75g Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf or curly-leaf parsley
- Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 50g pine nuts
- 25g sultanas
- Flaked sea salt and black pepper
It’s not vegetarian food I have a problem with, it’s the English concept of vegetarianism. A huge percentage of the world’s great dishes exclude meat or fish whilst remaining delicious. There is no reason to suffer bad risotto or endless butternut squash. Here is something Greek. Try to buy the tasty long pine nuts you find imported from Italy and Turkey rather than certain stubby Chinese ones that leave a bitter taste on the back of the tongue, sometimes lasting days.
Pour the rice into a saucepan and cover with the water. Drop the saffron and the cinnamon stick into the pan. Bring the rice up to a healthy simmer and cover. Cook for 15–20 minutes until the rice is tender. Drain the rice, remove the cinnamon stick, spread the rice on a large dinner plate and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190°C fan/210°C/Gas 6½.
While the rice cooks, cut a lid from the top of each tomato, preferably keeping the stalk attached, and reserve. With a teaspoon, scoop the little pockets of seeds out of the tomatoes into a sieve over a bowl and push down to get the juice from the seeds. Discard the seeds and the hard part of the core. Chop the flesh from the core and add to the juice.
Pour the oil into a good-sized saucepan. Over a medium heat, fry the onion, cumin, caraway seeds and oregano until the onion is golden, adding the garlic for the last 2 minutes so as not to burn it. Pour in 150ml of the tomato pulp and the wine and simmer briskly to cook away any obvious watery element. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped olives, parsley and lemon zest.
Into a small frying pan, tip the pine nuts and dry-fry them over a medium heat, swirling them continuously so that they don’t burn. After about 5 minutes they should be a rich golden colour. Tip them into the onions and add the sultanas.
Turn the rice into the onion mix and stir everything together, adding a good grinding of black pepper and seasoning well with salt (a lot of food is under-seasoned). Stuff the tomatoes so that they look generous with the filling bursting out of the top a little. Place the lids on top. Line an oven dish with baking paper and place the tomatoes in two little rows within.
Pass over with one final drizzle of oil and a little salt for the outside of the tomatoes.
Bake the tomatoes for 35–40 minutes. The skins should be brown and in certain places starting to blacken. The tomatoes should be totally soft, but not completely collapsed. This is definitely something for eating al fresco, maybe with a glass of really cold retsina (although it can make certain people a little bit loopy – ahem!).
Potato gnocchi with wild garlic & Parmesan cheese
- 250g floury potatoes, such as King Edward or Maris Piper, skins left on, quartered
- 3 teaspoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
- Flaked sea salt and black pepper
- 100g ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 large free-range egg yolk
- Wild garlic sauce
- A couple of ice cubes
- 100g wild garlic leaves
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Flaked sea salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste
When the smell of wild garlic invades the woods and lanes, I’ll be out ramming the stuff into plastic bags. It is delicious in many forms, whether cooked like spinach, tossed in salads, included in soups or lightly battered and deep-fried.
I was taught to make gnocchi by a shy and charming Italian chef, with his confident brother, the maître d’, translating. (Oddly, the brother turned out to be as animated about the town of Teddington as he was about food.)
Once the potato is cooled, forming the gnocchi is surprisingly quick and easy. If all goes well, they can be ready to eat 15 minutes later. Gnocchi are better made to be cooked straight away, using freshly cooked potatoes and not last night’s boilers.
Heat a saucepan of water and boil the potatoes until soft throughout but not collapsing. Drain them thoroughly and allow to cool completely.
For the sauce, heat a large saucepan one-third full of water, bringing it to a simmer. Fill a bowl with water and put to one side with a couple of ice cubes clicking around within. Drop the garlic leaves into the simmering water for 30 seconds, submerging any leaves that stick up. With a slotted spoon, scoop out the leaves. Plunge them into the ice bath to immediately stop them cooking so that they keep their colour.
Lift the leaves out, ball them up in your hands and wring as much water out as possible, then chop incredibly finely. (It is worth noting that once the leaves have cooked they will lose a lot of their pungent garlicyness, so if this will be missed, then chop two or three raw leaves in with the cooked ones to return a little punch.)
Put the garlic leaves in a small bowl with the oil and enough salt to know they are seasoned. Squeeze in some lemon juice – just enough to give it an edge – and put to one side. Refill the pan to halfway and bring to the boil.
Pass the boiled potatoes, skins off, through a ricer or use a grater on the setting you would do children’s cheddar on. Mix the Parmesan with a pinch of salt and the flour. Put the flour mix in a mound on a flat work surface and make a little crater in the centre. Surround the outside of the mound with little piles of the potato.
Break the yolk into the crater. Pinch the flour together with the potato, as you would if making crumble topping. When it is roughly combined, head for the egg and keep on lightly fingering it into the mixture. Over a minute or so, pinch all together until only just combined. Gather up the loose ball, just lightly pressing it together and slightly rolling it to pick up any stray pieces.
Do not knead the dough or it will be overworked, making the eating heavy. Cut the ball into four. Dust the work surface lightly with flour, then roll each piece into a long sausage as thin as a chipolata. With a knife, cut pieces of dough from the sausage to the width of a sugar lump. Pick each piece up and press in the sides with thumb and forefingers. Dust them lightly with flour.
Gather up the gnocchi and drop them in the rolling water. Cook them for 2–3 minutes. They should all rise to the surface, then they need another 30 seconds. Drain in a colander and divide among the plates. Dress with spoonfuls of the wild garlic sauce and grate over some Parmesan followed by a grinding of black pepper.
- 300ml elderflower cordial
- 300ml water
- A large bunch of mint (about 80g)
- 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
This is cooling and icy for a hot summer’s day – and curiously pink. I am not a molecular cook and can’t for the life of me work out why it goes this beautiful colour. Any thoughts, Heston?
Put the cordial and water in a saucepan. Put the mint on a board and shred through the whole bunch roughly. Chop the stalks as well, save for the ends.
Put the mint in the pan and then stir in the lemon juice and sugar. Heat together until certainly warm, but not hot. The sugar needs to melt, but don’t bring it up to even a simmer; make the water too hot and the mint flavour will become unpleasant.
Turn off the heat and leave the mint to infuse for 2 hours. Strain through a fine sieve into a freezerproof container. Attach a lid and freeze for 2 hours.
Remove and distress the partially frozen mixture by scraping it with a fork. Return it to the freezer. Repeat every 1–2 hours until the mixture takes on a snow-like consistency.
Spoon into low glasses or teacups.
Note: All recipes are taken from Valentine Warner’s new book ‘The Good Table’ and are courtesy of Mitchell Beazley.