Books to cook up edgy vegies
Author | Alecia Wood
For those jumping on the Meat Free Mondays bandwagon, chances are you might need a few fresh ideas to jazz up your vegetarian cooking repertoire.
Luckily, well-known chefs are helping to shift the focus from protein with cookbooks filled with earthly delights. Here are a few editions offering a range of methods and cuisines to inspire vegetable-based dishes well past the start of the week.
Plenty | Yotam Ottolenghi
With a collection of minimalist restaurant spaces offering up colourful buffets of salads, savouries and dainty pastries, Ottolenghi’s second cookbook Plenty shares all the secrets of his popular London kitchens. Born in Israel to European parents, the chef’s mixed heritage forms the foundation for recipes from the greater Mediterranean region, ranging from French-style mushroom ragout with poached duck egg to a spicy Moroccan carrot salad.
The use of pulses and grains – think cous cous, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa and freekah – make for hearty meals, while creative dressings and sauces, often featuring tahini, yoghurt and pomegranate molasses, coupled with robust spices and fragrant herbs elevate simple vegetal flavours. Featured ingredients are largely accessible and the relaxed presentation of dishes is ideal for sharing over dinner.
The Art Of Cooking With Vegetables | Alain Passard
Once renowned for exquisitely prepared meats at his three-Michelin-starred Paris restaurant, l’Arpège, Alain Passard’s move to a meat-free menu some years ago was controversial. Using produce from his vegetable garden, the restaurant now turns out creative vegetarian dishes driven by the seasons.
The slim spine of the newly released The Art Of Cooking With Vegetables belies a lengthy list of elegant vegetarian meals, with recipes flanked by the image of a collage created by Passard himself – the poetic cookbook preface describes “the influence of colour in my cooking” and the chef’s “passion for collage and painting”. Cooks up for a challenge can try out his surprising flavour combinations, such as red beetroot with lavender and crushed blackberries, and tomatoes and mozzarella with vanilla and mint.
Mr. Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables | Matt Wilkinson
Hailing from the UK, chef Matt Wilkinson gives nods to his British heritage in Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables with ‘me Nan’s Yorkshire Puddings’ and shepherd’s pie croquettes. That said, the book offers up a range of largely modern European, imaginative meals from the chef of Melbourne’s Pope Joan restaurant.
While not strictly a vegetarian cookbook, its index according to asparagus, carrot, pumpkin, and so on places the vegetable first for meals where seasonality is key – there’s raw, pickled and roasted cauliflower; parsnip skordalia; and cold cucumber and yoghurt soup. Wilkinson’s personal vegetable memories lace the pages – “I’ve always had a soft spot for corn” – adding a charming touch to each recipe.
Simon Bryant’s Vegies | Simon Bryant
He’s the chef best known as Maggie Beer’s comrade in the hugely popular ABC series The Cook and the Chef. As on screen, Bryant’s interest in Asian cuisines carries through to this collection of vegetarian recipes, alongside a range of European-style dishes – here’s an opportunity to get familiar with some lesser-known ingredients like ghee and besan (chickpea) flour.
Sections arranged according to the seasons means easy recipe searching throughout the year – try out spinach sambal tempeh with baby shiso in spring; summer’s cucumber and gin soup with tomato and avocado; pomegranate, yellow chard and wild rice salad for autumn; and sweet potato, peanut and mandarin curry come winter. There’s also a helpful section on ingredients with tips on where to buy the best, so there’s no excuse not to source some native warrigal greens and desert limes to make page 100’s all-Aussie pesto.
Alecia Wood is a Sydney-based freelance food and sustainability writer, with work published in ABC Radio National Online, ABC Organic Gardener online, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food and Broadsheet Sydney. Passionate about encouraging consumers to support and shape a more sustainable, secure food system, she is also a co-leader of the Youth Food Movement’s Sydney chapter and in 2013 completed the Centre for Sustainability Leadership’s annual fellowship program.