Mar 27

Cookbook 70: Vegetable Bible

This week I cooked from Vegetable Bible: From the Earth to the table (now out of print – link not recommended for purchases).  The recipes were tasty, but required a knowledge of cooking to work successfully.  There were a few times in the recipes I made where I wondered why an ingredient was listed (turned out to be an error), and other times when no exact measurement was provided, so I really didn’t know what sized portion I was supposed to be using.  Also the portion recommendations have no basis with reality, which is odd.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone with little experience in cooking.  I’d really only recommend it to someone who knows what they are doing in the kitchen and who is willing to look at a recipe and say, “no, that’s not going to work, let’s do this instead”.  So, with that in mind, I give this 2 out of 5 stars.

Polenta with Tomatoes and Garlic Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 700ml vegetable stock or water
  • 175g quick-cook polenta
  • 25g butter
  • 3 tbsp snipped fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 4 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • salt and pepper

Garlic sauce:

  • 2 thick slices of French bread, crusts removed
  • 175g quick-cook polenta
  • 25g butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 115g walnut pieces
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 7tbsp olive oil

Method:

  1. Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan.  Add the polenta and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, until it starts to come away from the sides of the pan.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the butter, chives and parsley and season to taste with pepper.  Pour the polenta into an oiled dish and spread out evenly.  Leave to cool and set.
  3. To make the garlic sauce, tear the bread into pieces and place in a bowl.  Cover with cold water and leave to soak for 10 minutes.  Pound the garlic cloves with the salt to make a paste.  Work in the walnuts.  Squeeze out the bread, work it into the paste, then add the lemon juice.  Stir in the oil until the sauce is thick and creamy.  Transfer to a bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside.
  4. Brush a ridged griddle with oil and preheat.  Cut the set polenta into wedges or rounds.  Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.  When the griddle is hot, add the polenta and tomatoes, and cook 4 – 5 minutes.
  5. Divide the polenta and tomatoes among warmed plates and spoon over the garlic sauce.  Serve immediately.

Notes on this recipe:

  • There is a rogue addition of polenta in the garlic sauce recipe ingredients.  I have struck this out as it is rogue and does not belong.
  • This recipe really needs to specify how much bread, by weight or size.  “2 thick slices of French bread” is incredibly unhelpful.  I used the inside soft bread of a French stick.  That worked well
  • To make the sauce, I recommend crushing the walnuts in a plastic bag with a rolling pin before adding them to the garlic paste mixture.  The sauce itself is very strongly garlic flavoured, and although it looks all wrong, it is very tasty with the polenta and tomatoes.

Pasta all’Arrabbiata

Ingredients:

  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato puree
  • 2 fresh red chillies
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 350g dried tortiglioni (penne)
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • pecorino cheese shavings, to garnish

sugocasa:

  • 5tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 450g plum tomatoes, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. For the sugocasa, heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring frequently for 2 – 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and cook gently for 20 minutes, or until very soft.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Using a wooden spoon, press through a non-metallic sieve into a saucepan.
  2. Add the wine, sun-dried tomato puree, whole chillies and garlic to the sugocasa and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite.
  4. Remove the chillies and taste the sauce.  If you prefer a hotter flavour, chop some or all the chillies and return to the saucepan.  Check and adjust the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed, then stir in half the parsley.
  5. Drain the pasta and transfer to a warmed serving bowl.  Add the sauce and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with the remaining parsley, garnish with the pecorino cheese shavings and serve immediately.

Notes on this recipe:

  • This was pretty boring.  It probably required (for us) for both chillies to be sliced up and left in the dish.  The sauce is also quite sweet, which was unexpected.
  • As you can see from the photo I forgot the parsley.  I don’t think that would have changed the flavour so much that I would now be raving about it.

Potato Fritters with Onion and Tomato Relish

Ingredients:

  • 55g wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 350g potatoes
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 55g sweetcorn
  • vegetable oil, for shallow frying

onion & tomato relish

  • 1 onion
  • 225 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of cayenne pepper

Method:

  1. First make the relish.  Cut the onion and tomatoes into small dice and place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients.  Mix together well and leave to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to blend.
  2. Place the flour in a bowl, stir in the spices and salt and make a well in the centre.  Add the egg and milk and mix to form a fairly thick batter.
  3. Coarsely grate the potatoes, place them in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water.  Drain and squeeze dry, then stir them into the batter with the garlic, spring onions and sweetcorn and mix to combine thoroughly.
  4. Heat about 5mm of oil in a large frying pan and add a few tablespoons of the mixture at a time, flattening each to form a thin cake.  Fry over low heat, turning frequently for 2 – 3 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Drain the fritters on kitchen paper and keep them hot while frying the remaining mixture in the same way.  Serve the potato fritters hot with the relish.

Notes on this recipe:

  • The book claims that these fritters will feed 8 people.  It is lying
  • Relish is typically cooked, what we have here instead is salsa, with far too much onion for my liking.
  • 5mm of oil really does mean that the fritters are shallow fried, which is great if that’s what you want, but you really can fry them in less oil.
  • They’re tasty, and were very popular.
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