“Who’s For Dinner?” recently received a copy of Jo Pratt’s The Flexible Vegetarian as a gift to take browse through and enjoy. It is a gorgeous book with stunning photography and really simple, easy to follow recipes for those of us who want to learn more veggie based recipes even though we still like meat. Whether you’re an occasional meat-eater, a vegetarian who needs to cook for meat-eaters, or even a dedicated veggie, you’ll find this very flexible book filled with delicious and practical recipes for every lifestyle. You can add a simple meat or fish option to the vegetarian recipe and you have a book that caters for both parties – this actually sounds like the type of cookbook that lots of contestants on “Come Dine With Me” need!
Here are a couple of recipes for you to try at home before you buy the cookbook available online and in bookstores.
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.
Time taken 1 hour 15 minutes + 30 minutes soaking / Serves 4
- 20g/¾ oz dried porcini mushrooms
- 300g/10½ oz silken tofu
- 40g/1½ oz butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 250g/7 oz chestnut mushrooms, halved
- 250g/7 oz portabella mushrooms, thickly sliced
- 2 large leeks, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 200g/7 oz ready-to-eat chestnuts, roughly chopped
- approx. 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 80ml/2½ fl oz/1/3 cup Madeira wine
- 2 tsp sherry vinegar
- 375g/13 oz 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
Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.
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.
Put the tofu and reserved porcini liquid into a blender or food processor and blitz until completely smooth and creamy. Set aside.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Turkish Pide with spinach and aubergine
Pide (pronounced pee-day) is much like a pizza, but has no tomato sauce and a colourful, aromatic Turkish flair. Traditionally, this boat-shaped ‘pizza’ is filled with vegetables, spices, cheese and/or meat, most commonly lamb. I’ve made this one into an exceptionally tasty vegetarian version using spinach, aubergine and feta, but you can be as creative as you like by using a selection of ingredients to top the dough, as you would a pizza.
Time taken 1 hour + 30 minutes rising / Serves 4
- 7g/¼ oz sachet fast action dried yeast
- 1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
- 300g/10½ oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 tsp salt
- olive oil
- 2 medium aubergines, thinly sliced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 250g/9 oz baby spinach leaves
- 150g/5½ oz feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp nigella seeds
- flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- small handful mint leaves
Put the yeast and caster sugar in a small bowl with 2 tablespoons of warm water. Mix and set aside for a few minutes until the mixture starts to show some bubbles on the surface.
Put the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Add the bubbly yeast mixture and slowly add 170ml/5¾ fl oz/2⁄3 cup of warm water while bringing everything together with your other hand. If you feel it needs it, add extra water but take care not to make the dough too wet. Once the dough starts to stick together, tip onto a floured surface and knead for 6–7 minutes until you have a smooth, stretchy dough. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover loosely with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the grill to high. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil. Set on a baking sheet and grill for a few minutes each side until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion for around 8 minutes until softened and golden. Add the garlic and cumin. Cook for around 1 minute before stirring in the spinach allowing it to wilt. Season with salt and pepper, remove from the heat.
Heat your oven to its highest setting. Divide the risen dough into four pieces. Shape each piece into an oval, dust with flour and thinly roll out. Transfer to a couple of baking sheets and prick the surface of the dough several times with a fork.
Divide the spinach mixture and aubergines between the dough, leaving a border around the edges. Pinch the ends of the dough and roll the edges of the border over the filling, to form a boat shape. Scatter with the feta cheese, sesame seeds and nigella seeds, drizzle with olive oil and season. Put in the oven and cook for 10 minutes until the dough is golden. Garnish with mint leaves to serve.
Flexible: For a meaty twist on this recipe, omit the aubergine, and sauté around 200g/7 oz minced lamb with the onion, continue to cook as above. Alternatively, to make this into a seafood pide, omit the aubergine and mix 200g/7 oz cooked prawns into the cooked onion and spinach before spooning onto the dough.
A TV cook and author of five books, Jo Pratt is a regular contributor to BBC Good Food and Waitrose magazines and often appears on shows such as Channel 4 ‘What’s Cooking?’. She has worked with Marcus Waring, Gary Rhodes and many more high profile chefs and brands. She is also the executive chef of award-winning restaurant The Gorgeous Kitchen.