I like food.

I’m not vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t like meat for every bloody meal. Possibly a throwback when when I was a vegetarian and then briefly a vegan. I’ve since switched to being a happy meat eater believing the argument is not so much about eating dead flesh, rather how the animal lived and died. Where possible, I liked to know the provenance of pretty much everything I eat and I like to cook as much for myself as possible.

Even now I find most veggie cookbooks are so horribly *worthy* and joyless; they seem to be more about ramming a point home than showing you the absolute delight that a vegetarian diet can offer. Yotam Ottolenghi’s book ‘Plenty’ isn’t one of those books. It’s an absolute joy. I’ve had the book a short while now and made a few things out of it; the Surprise Tatin being the favourite; the leek fritters and black pepper tofu (both recommended by my good chum Tru) were a spicy treat.

Now, I’m not going to give you any recipes from that book here; instead, I’d urge you to buy it. Your tastebuds will love you forever. Instead, I’m going to give a couple of slightly adapted recipes, one from Ottolenghis “New Vegetarian’ column in the Guardian and another from Waitrose Magazine. Further veggie Treats, with notes.

With the first one, you’re supposed to use butternut squash but we forgot to buy it and substituted sweet potato. We then did it was half and half and eventually with all squash. All variants work really well, but I think the half and half is best. Also, we used canned corn once and that was just as good as fresh. The recipe is for four people but halves really easily.

Baked Squash, corn and goat cheese with pumpkin seed dressing.

1kg Squash/sweet potato
Olive oil
3 corn cobs (or two cans)
2 big garlic cloves, chopped
2 chillis, finely chopped
200g goats cheese, crumbled
Juice of one lime
Chopped coriander

80g pumpkin seeds
2 cloves of garlic
2 green toms if you can get them, if not red are fine
2 crunchy lettuce leaves (romaine or cos)
1 tsp coriander leaves
2 green chilli
2 tbspn olive oil
salt and pepper

Chop up squash in two 1-2cm chunks. Put it on a roasting tray and mix in oil and salt a pepper. Roast at 190C/375F Gas 5 for about 30 minutes until the bits are just going brown..

Shuck corn cobs and boil for 10 minutes (or open cans and heat up)
Mix corn, squash, garlic, chilli in an oven proof dish and put back in the oven while you make the dressing.

Toast seeds, add all dressing ingredients into a liquidizer or goblet of one of those whizzy wand things. Add a bit of water and re whiz if it’s too thick. It should be fairly thick, but pourable.

Take stuff from oven and fold the goats cheese through it. Whack it back in the over for about 10-15 mins until the cheese oozes. We like it to cook ntil the cheese just starts going brown, but it’s not essential.

Sprinkle lime juice over, drizzle the dressing over and sprinkle with coriander leaves.


Roasted Vegetable salad

2 red peppers cut into chunks
I large Sweet Potato cut into chunks (we did batons)
1 Aubergine cut into chunks
Olive oil
1 Lemon Juice and zest
2 tablespoons pesto
2 cans of lentils
100g spinach.

Roast veg for 30 mins at 200C/gas 6 with oil, lemon juice and Seasoning.

Heat Lentils.

When the vegs are ready, stir drained lentils into veggies. Add the pesto and zest and stir well.

Fold in the spinach leaves so that they just begin to wilt. Serve NOW!!

We did this a couple of times with different lentils. We liked it best with puy, but brown works well. Red go mushy and unpleasant. You could used dried lentils but I wouldn’t know the ‘conversion’ rates. Experiment!

Also, it makes enough for 4, so we successfully reheated it for lunch the day after. We also stuck some grated cheese on top and put it under the grill for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese.


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