Cooking The Flexible Vegetarian way

Cooking The Flexible Vegetarian way


Posted 19th Sep 2017

Lead image: Flexible Vegetarian by Susan Bell

If you're after well-balanced and tasty recipes that are ideal for cutting down on meat, or that can be served as completely vegetarian dishes, The Flexible Vegetarian, by Jo Pratt, could be for you

Creamy Mushroom, Leek and Chestnut Pie

The combination of mushrooms, leeks, chestnuts and thyme are bound together in a silky smooth sauce using fortified Madeira wine, porcini mushroom stock and my wildcard… tofu. Not only does the tofu keep the fat content lower than if you used cream, it also gives a big hit of protein too.

Serves 4

You will need

20g dried porcini mushrooms
300g silken tofu
40g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
250g chestnut mushrooms, halved
250g portabella mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 large leeks, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
200g ready-to-eat chestnuts, roughly chopped
Approx. 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp cornflour
80ml cup Madeira wine
2 tsp sherry vinegar
375g all-butter puff pastry block
Flour, for dusting
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp milk (egg wash)
Pinch poppy seeds (optional)
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions 

1 Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

2 Place the porcini mushrooms in 400ml/14 fl oz/12⁄3 cups of boiling water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the liquid.

3 Put the tofu and reserved porcini liquid into a blender or food processor and blitz until completely smooth and creamy. Set aside.

4 Melt half of the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan over a high heat and fry the chestnut mushrooms and portabella mushrooms until they have browned and softened.

5 Remove from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium–low, add the remaining butter and sauté the leeks for a few minutes until softened and just starting to colour.

6 Stir in the porcini mushrooms, fried mushrooms, garlic, chestnuts and thyme. Cook for about 1 minute. Mix the cornflour into the Madeira wine to make a loose paste, then add to the pan along with the tofu and porcini ‘cream’. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3–4 minutes for the sauce to thicken. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a pie dish or individual dishes and leave to cool slightly.

7 Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until just a little bigger than the dish/dishes. Brush a little egg wash over the rim of the dish/dishes and sit the pastry on top, pressing the edges to seal. Brush the top with the egg wash and scatter with poppy seeds (if using). Pierce a hole in the centre to allow steam to escape when cooking and sit on a baking tray.

8 Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is puffed up and nicely golden. Rest for 5–10 minutes before serving.

Flexible

This is too good to mess with really, but if you have leftover roast chicken, turkey or diced ham you want to use up, reduce the mushroom quantity accordingly and stir the cooked meat through the sauce at the end.

Roast Fennel and Aubergine Paella

I am a massive fan of Spanish food, and paella is my all-time favourite Spanish dish. I love the fact that there are so many regional variations, and like an Italian risotto, you can tweak it to suit your taste or mood. Make it vegetarian one day or add meat or seafood another time. For me, the best part is the layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan – it’s called ‘socarrat’ in Spanish, and is considered a delicacy.

Serves 4

You will need

4 (approx. 200g) baby fennel, quartered lengthways
6–8 (approx. 200g) baby aubergines (eggplant), halved
1 red or yellow (bell) pepper, cut into 2–3cm wedges
1 medium courgette (zucchini), thickly sliced
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
300g paella rice
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
Decent-sized pinch saffron
200ml white wine
800ml hot vegetable stock
100g frozen peas, defrosted
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Handful chopped parsley
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1 Put the fennel, aubergine, pepper and courgette in a roasting tray. Add a glug of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss around to coat the veggies in the oil. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, turning a couple of times until the veg are pretty much cooked through and turning golden.

2 Meanwhile, heat a paella pan or large frying pan over a low– medium heat and add a glug of olive oil. Sauté the onion for 8–10 minutes until softened. Increase the heat to medium and stir in the rice, paprika and saffron. Cook for around 1 minute to start toasting the rice, then add the white wine. Reduce by about half before stirring in two-thirds of the stock. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes without a lid, stirring a couple of times.

3 Stir in the peas, add some seasoning, then gently mix in the roasted veg. Pour over the remaining stock, arrange the lemon wedges on top and cover with a lid or some aluminium foil. Cook for a further 10 minutes.

4 To ensure you get the classic layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan, increase the heat to high until you hear a slight crackle. Remove from the heat and sit for 5 minutes before sprinkling over the parsley and serving.

Flexible

Turn this into a seafood paella by omitting the roasted veg. When you add the peas, add around 350g mussels and/or clams, 150g peeled raw prawns and some squid rings. Alternatively, for paella mixta, add a big handful of diced chorizo and 2–3 diced chicken thighs in with the onions.

Aubergine and Quinoa ‘Meatballs’ with Tomato Sauce

These look and (almost) taste like traditional meatballs – they will surprise anyone who eats them when they realise they are completely meat free. I like to serve these with a homemade tomato pasta sauce, plenty of spaghetti and shavings of parmesan, but they also work as a canapé (skewered with a cocktail stick and with a tomato sauce to dip into), or wrapped in flatbread with salad and garlic mayo.

You will need

100g quinoa
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium–large aubergines (eggplants) (approx. 650g), chopped into small dice (approx. 5mm)
75g breadcrumbs
50g parmesan cheese or vegetarian equivalent, plus extra to serve
50g pitted black olives, finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tbsp chia seeds
Small handful basil leaves
Cooked spaghetti or other pasta, to serve
Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce 

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
185ml cup red wine
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar

Directions

1 To cook the quinoa, heat a medium saucepan over a high heat. Add the quinoa and shake around in the pan for about 30 seconds to start to toast it. Pour in 250ml/9 fl oz/1 cup of water and allow to boil for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low. Cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes. After this time, turn off the heat and leave for 5 minutes before taking off the lid and running a fork through the quinoa to separate the grains.

2 Heat a glug of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until it is starting to soften but not colour. Add the garlic and aubergine. Sauté for about 10–12 minutes until the aubergine is completely softened. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.

3 Put the aubergine and onion mixture, quinoa, breadcrumbs, parmesan, olives, egg, chia seeds and basil into a food processor.

4 Season with salt and pepper, then pulse until the mixture holds together. Firmly shape into golf ball-sized balls, making approximately 30 in total. Sit on a parchment or cling film lined tray or plate and chill in the fridge for about 1 hour.

5To make the sauce, put all of the ingredients in a saucepan, season and bring to a simmer. Cook over a low heat for 20–30 minutes until the tomatoes have thickened (the time w ill depend on the brand of tomatoes as some are thicker than others to start with).

6 Heat a glug of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the ‘meatballs’ and cook over a medium–high heat, gently turning/ rolling frequently, until lightly golden. You may need to do a couple of batches depending on the size of your pan.

7 Gently stir in the tomato sauce, spoon over cooked spaghetti and scatter with parmesan.

Flexible

The aubergine can be swapped for 500g/1 lb 2 oz minced beef, chicken, pork or lamb. Sauté the onion and leave to cool before mixing with the raw mince and remaining meatball ingredients. Roll into balls and chill as above. Fry the meatballs as above on a medium heat for 12–15 minutes, turning as they become golden and cooked through. Pour over the sauce, heat through and serve with spaghetti.

Recipes courtesy of The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt. Out now, published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group.





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