Plants Taste Better – from Root to Fruit

Plants Taste Better by Richard Buckley.

Plants Taste Better – from Root to Fruit 

I don’t know about you, but I try to make sure that (even though we are meat eaters) we have one or two days a week when we avoid meat altogether. And I think I might have found the definitive reference book for anyone who, like me, is trying to increase their vegetable intake and reduce their meat consumption. This beautiful book Plants Taste Better, is by Richard Buckley, chef-proprietor of the award-winning Acorn Restaurant in Bath, held in great esteem by vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

According to Richard: “Cooking plants is a uniquely different art from cooking meat or fish – it requires not only a solid grounding in traditional cooking techniques but also a deeper understanding of new techniques specific to plant-based cookery. Current plant-based cookbooks rarely, if ever, delve into the type of sophisticated cuisine that is available in cookbooks with meat and fish dishes.” But in Plants Taste Better he addresses this twofold: by introducing the reader to seventy top-notch recipes that take vegetable cooking to a new level, and sharing with them an understanding of how to cook –highlighting specific techniques in each recipe that will enhance their cooking prowess across the board.

It certainly took this foodie on a veritable flavour journey where vegetables and fruit are concerned. There are recipe suggestions for all manner of different vegetable stocks with their own subtle nuances (as opposed to the standard vegetable stock cubes or Marigold powder I confess I tend to have in my cupboard!) Other suggestions include caramelizing or pickling different nuts and herbs, as well as some of the traditional accompaniments for vegetables such as tapenade and aioli, plus some more unusual ones.

Vegetable patés, salads and soups all feature, as well as a section on pasta and bread. Desserts also have the Buckley magic and no aspect of the plant is overlooked, with Richard extolling the virtues of using every part to enhance taste experience and uphold a zero-waste policy.

I love cauliflower, and often create my own version of a hot roast cauli salad (which varies depending on what I have in the fridge). To give you a taster from the book, this recipe for Pan Fried Cauliflower Salad with caper, pine nut and chilli dressing looks fab and relatively easy to prepare.

PAN-FRIED CAULIFLOWER SALAD with a caper pine nut and chilli dressing.

Pan-frying the cauliflower in this dish means that you don’t need to heat a lot of oil. It also means that the cauliflower fries unevenly, which in this case is a good thing, leading to charred tasty areas and softer sweeter ones.
Serves: 4

FOR THE CAULIFLOWER

2 large cauliflowers
20g (3⁄4oz/scant 3 tbsp) gram flour
5g (1/8oz/2 tsp) paprika
60ml (21⁄4fl oz/1⁄4 cup) extra virgin olive oil, for frying

FOR THE DRESSING

40g (11⁄2oz/1⁄4 cup) small capers in salt 25g (1oz/3 tbsp) pine nuts
80ml (3fl oz/1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil 2 cloves of garlic, puréed

2 red chillies (not too hot), cut in half, deseeded and finely sliced
zest of 2 lemons
40ml (11⁄2fl oz/8 tsp) lemon juice

20g (3⁄4oz/1/3 cup) parsley leaves, finely chopped 20g (3⁄4oz/3⁄4 cup) mint leaves, finely sliced
4g (3⁄4 tsp) sea salt

Put 4 litres (7 pints/16 cups) of water and 60g (2oz/31⁄2 tbsp) of salt into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Separate the cauliflower into florets and peel off any woody skin on the stem. Add the florets to the boiling water and simmer gently for 4–6 minutes until cooked but still al dente (a knife will just pass through the stem). Shock (plunge) in ice-cold water, then drain and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to (fan) 160°C/180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Make the dressing. Place the capers in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Drain and re-cover with water, then leave to soak for 1 hour. Put the pine nuts on a small baking tray (sheet) and bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Leave to cool slightly, then crush gently using a pestle and mortar, so they are just broken with some whole pieces. Remove the capers from the water (leaving the salt) and dry on kitchen (paper) towel.
Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan and add the capers. Fry gently until they begin to go crispy, then add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, stir in the chillies and pine nuts and allow to cool. Add the lemon zest and juice, parsley, mint and salt to the saucepan. Mix well. Mix the gram flour and paprika together in a small bowl. Lightly sprinkle it over the cauliflower florets, making sure there is a light coating with no lumps, then rub it on.
Turn the cauliflower over and do the same on the other side. Heat the olive oil in a large, wide-based frying pan (skillet), place the cauliflower in the pan and fry until a deep golden brown. Turn over and repeat on the other side. You may need to cook it in batches, adding more oil if necessary, keeping the cooked cauliflower warm.
Serve the cauliflower with the dressing drizzled generously over the top.

Taken from Plants Taste Better by Richard Buckley.

Alison Jee

Twickenham Tribune