The plant-based diet movement is in full force — but creating delicious, wholesome meals out of veggies can be a challenge if you’re used to having meat as your building block. Where do you begin?
In River Cottage Much More Veg, the highly-anticipated follow up cookbook to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Every Day!, each recipe is dominated by delicious, mouth-watering plant-based food — and they’re easier to make than you might think.
Fuelled by his passionate belief that plant foods should be the dominant force in our kitchens, Hugh has put dairy, eggs and refined flour and sugar firmly to one side. Instead, he uses veg, fruit, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, spices and cold-pressed oils to explore the length and breadth of what can be achieved with natural, unprocessed plant foods.
In typical River Cottage style, the recipes are foolproof and delicious, and most require 20 minutes or less to create.
“What’s the central aim? To make vegetables delicious, to make them irresistible, to come up with a whole bunch of recipes that are easy, family-friendly, and just make it that much easier to put a load of veg into your diet every single day,” Hugh says.
To tease you tastebuds, here are three of Hugh’s fabulous recipes from River Cottage Much More Veg.
Lunchtime rooty Bircher
Bircher muesli, traditionally, means oats soaked with fruit juice and grated apple so they soften into a sort of raw porridge. It’s one of my favourite breakfasts and I see no reason to confine it to the morning. This lunchtime version includes raw celeriac, lemon juice and olive oil to give it a more savoury slant, but retains a delicious sweetness from the apple. You can make it in the morning and leave it soaking until lunchtime.
- 100g chunk of celeriac
- 1 medium eating apple
- 100g jumbo oats
- 50g raisins or sultanas
- 50g whole, skin-on almonds
- 50g mixed seeds, such as sunflower, pumpkin and sesame (or just one type if you prefer)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 200ml cloudy apple juice
- Sea salt and black pepper
Slice the knobbly, grubby outer layer off the celeriac, revealing the creamy-white interior. Grate this coarsely into a large bowl.
Grate the apple into the bowl too. There’s no need to peel or cut the apple, just grate it on one side down to the core then turn it and grate the other side, and so on. Mix with the celeriac.
Add all the remaining ingredients, including a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper. Mix together well, making sure the grated fruit and veg is well distributed.
If you’re going to be eating the Bircher at home, cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour, up to 6 or 7. Stir once or twice during that time if you can and let it come up to room temperature before eating. If you’re taking the muesli to work, divide it between a couple of plastic tubs, snap the lids on and it’s good to go – keep it cool until you’re ready to eat.
- Roots: Try grated carrot or parsnip in place of celeriac – or beetroot, for a splendidly colourful Bircher!
- Dried fruit: Choose your favourite dried fruit here — chopped apricots, dried cherries, sliced dates and prunes are all good.
- Nuts: Replace the almonds with whole or roughly chopped hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts.
Celeriac, kale, barley and apple broth
A lovely soup, this is nice and chunky with a sweet, aromatic note from the apples.
- 50g pearl barley or pearled spelt
- 2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- ½ small celeriac (about 250g), peeled and cut into roughly 1cm cubes
- 1 litre hot veg stock
- 150g curly kale or cavolo nero, leaves stripped off the stalks and roughly shredded
- 5–6 sage leaves, sliced into fine ribbons
- 2 medium eating apples, quartered, cored and chopped into roughly 1cm cubes
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil, to finish
Put the pearl barley or spelt to soak in cold water while you prepare the vegetables.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or small stockpot over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic with some salt and pepper. When everything is sizzling, turn the heat down low, cover the pan and let the veg sweat, stirring once or twice, for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse the barley or spelt well.
Add the barley or spelt to the pan with the celeriac. Sauté, stirring, for 2–3 minutes, then pour in the hot stock. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the grain is almost tender (about 15 minutes for spelt, 25 minutes for barley).
Stir in the shredded kale and sage and bring back to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, then add the cubed apple and cook for a further 2 minutes only. Remove from the heat, taste the soup and add more seasoning if needed.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and finish with a trickle of extra virgin oil and a grinding of black pepper, then serve.
- Roots: Replace the celeriac with parsnips, turnips, beetroot or carrots.
- Greens: Swap shredded chard or spring greens for the kale.
- Fruit: Use firm, slightly under-ripe pears instead of apples.
Two-tray spicy roast veg
Jam-packed with goodness, this is a great dish to slam in the oven while you get on with something else. One tray of roast veg forms the ‘bulk’ of the curry; a second tray of sweet, roasted tomatoes forms the saucy element. Mix the two together and dinner’s done.
- 1kg flavoursome tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
- 3cm piece of ginger, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 2 medium eggplants (about 500g in total), trimmed
- 500g pumpkin, such as ½ medium butternut or a chunk of Crown Prince, peeled and deseeded
- 2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
- 1 medium-hot red chilli, deseeded (for less heat, if preferred) and sliced
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 6 cardamom pods, bashed to split open
- 1 tsp nigella (black onion/kalonji) seeds
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- About 200g chard, leaves separated from stems
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Coriander leaves, chopped
- 1 lemon or lime, halved, to spritz
Preheat the oven to 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5.
Halve the tomatoes and place in a single layer in a large roasting tray. Scatter the garlic and ginger on top of the tomatoes (not onto the tray, where it would burn), trickle over 1 tbsp oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside while you prepare the other veg.
Cut the eggplants into 2–3cm cubes and the pumpkin into bite-sized chunks. Put both veg into a second large roasting tray with the onions, chilli, cinnamon, cardamom pods and nigella seeds. Using a pestle and mortar, bash the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds roughly (they needn’t be finely ground) then add to the tray, along with some salt and pepper and 2 tbsp oil. Stir well to mix everything together.
Put both trays into the oven, placing the veg tray on a higher shelf than the tomatoes, and roast for 30 minutes. Roughly chop the chard stems and add to the veg tray. Give this tray a good stir (there is no need to stir the tomatoes) and roast for a further 30 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the chard leaves.
After the full hour, take the tomatoes out of the oven; they should be blistered, wrinkled, juicy and browned in places. The tray of veg should be tender and nicely coloured. Add the prepared chard leaves to the veg, give it a stir and return this tray to the oven, with the heat turned off, for 5–10 minutes to wilt the leaves.
Take the tray of hot veg from the oven, add the tomatoes to it, scraping in all the lovely pan juices, and mix well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Scatter with coriander and add a spritz of lemon or lime juice. Serve with rice and dhal for a really sustaining meal.
- Spices: To save time, replace the chilli, cinnamon, cardamom, nigella, fennel, cumin and coriander seeds with 2–3 tbsp good ready-made curry paste.
- Eggplants: Use zucchinis in place of the eggplants.
- Pumpkin: Try bite-sized chunks of root veg, such as carrots, potatoes and parsnips instead.
- Leaves: Replace the chard with spinach (no need to separate leaves from stems), adding it for the last 5 minutes.
River Cottage Much More Veg! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is published by Bloomsbury ($45.00). Out now!