How to make vegetables sing with recipes from Great British Chefs

Personally I tend to use cook books more for inspiration than for following the recipes to the letter. My favourite book as a child was Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine, which was all about experimenting, and I like to think that I have learnt a lot through my own trial and error process when it comes to cooking.

This book is a fabulous and highly practical source of inspiration for anyone looking to cook more plant-based, seasonal dishes. It is the much needed anti-dote to supermarket shopping and the wide-spread assumption that vegetables are boring and not filling. One of the things that maddens me about the anti-meat campaign is that it is exactly that, rather than a pro-veg campaign. The result is it misses much of the nuances of different farming methods and does nothing for improving the nutritional value of people’s diets. Unfortunately there’s more money in marketing processed alternative meat products than vegetables straight out of the ground. Yet, one of the best and healthiest ways of reducing your meat consumption is to start cooking vegetable first and make them taste wonderful.

Cucumber and rhubarb aguachile by Nud Dudhia
There are recipes to impress dinner party guests,
Hazelnut fettuccine with broccoli
recipes for quick comfort food

It was when I switched my grocery shopping to a weekly veg box from Oddbox that I really noticed a difference. Oddbox source surplus vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. This completely changed my approach to cooking in a number of different ways:

  • Suddenly it became a fun challenge to make sure that I used up all the vegetables in the box before I received the next box so the vegetables became the starting point of everything I cooked.
  • I never knew which vegetables I would receive, so I learnt to make do with what was available rather than assuming that I could always have what I wanted. I guess it helps that I eat pretty much everything, but I found that not having to choose my vegetables each week was a real luxury. I love the lucky dip effect and I’ve probably eaten a greater range of vegetables as a result. It’s easy in the supermarket to hone into vegetables you already know and love rather than experimenting with the more unusual options.
  • I started to notice when particular vegetables were in season because there was often a surplus of them. This has made me much more conscious of seasonal flavours that go together rather than combining whatever flavours take my fancy. I’ve also noticed that I get excited or nostalgic now for certain vegetables that I know I’ll only receive at particular times of the year.

Being more in tune with local British vegetables has made both cooking and eating much more exciting and pleasurable for me as well as almost certainly more healthy and environmental. The problem with supermarkets and their unending abundance of consistent products is that it turns food into a soulless commodity, there to serve our every whim.

Whether you are the lucky recipient of a veg box or not, the Great British Chefs Vegetable Cook Book is a great way of getting started with seasonal, plant-based cooking. All you need do is browse the recipes in the section for the relevant season and familiarise yourself with the vegetables that take centre stage before you go to the shop. You can either follow the recipes to the letter or use them as a guide. For each season there is a good range of different vegetables, so you won’t get bored. Alternatively if you have vegetables that need using up, you can look them up in the index at the back to find suggested recipes.

But this isn’t just a practical guide to veg-centric, seasonal cooking. The vegetables aren’t the only stars of this book. It’s a real celebration of what multiculturalism has contributed to British food. From what I can tell, seven out of the twenty chefs who contributed to the book originate from outside the UK and there are influences drawn directly from Indian, Spanish, Polish, Chinese and Mexican cuisine as well as more indirectly from Japanese, Italian, Middle Eastern and French cuisine as well as probably many more. Our soggy, tasteless British vegetables of school dinners past, have been brilliantly brought to life in the melting pot of global culinary fusion and really made to sing.

If you want to taste how the chefs themselves make these dishes, they are handily listed at the beginning of the book together with the name and location of their restaurant. It’s great to see such a good representation of chefs cooking outside London.

For tips on how to reduce your food waste, click here.

Lettuce Soup by Anna Tobias
and real surprises like this lettuce soup.

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