Tag Archives: winter

The Right Way to Cook a Vegetable

27 Feb

As I’ve been attempting to eat more healthily, I’ve been exploring different vegetarian cookbooks, and seeing what they have to offer. So far, I can make out that there have been two different schools of thought about vegetarianism in the past few decades.

The Moosewood Restaurant and their ilk from the 1970s exemplified the first school. They were determined to prove that “vegetarian” did not have to mean “bearing strong resemblance to wood chippings.” Dairy was their not-so-secret weapon; the Moosewood Cookbook has enough milk, cream, and cheese in its recipes to make a dairyman Solomon blush.

In the past few years, as cooks have become both more internationally-minded and health-conscious, dairy has taken a back seat in vegetarian dishes. Instead, chefs draw from a plethora of ingredients from around the world to build layers of umami flavour. The leading practitioner of this method is Yotam Ottolenghi, who runs several restaurants here in London and wrote an excellent cookbook called Plenty, which I would recommend to anyone who likes to eat well, not just meat-avoiders.

Following on this trend, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall published his own vegetarian cookbook last year. I find at times I get halfway through an Ottolenghi recipe and start doing a very good impression of a 5-year-old on a road trip, though with more profanity. But Hugh’s recipes are straightforward and relatively quick to put together.

His parsnip soup uses a little milk to bring out the vegetable’s creaminess, but the dish’s focus is its pepperiness, a flavour which is amplified by the cardamom and cumin. If you are of the vegan persuasion, I imagine almond milk would work just as well in place of the dairy.

The original recipe also calls for half the liquid, but I found that left me with a thick puree, rather than soup. I also left out the butter and simply sautéed the onion in sunflower oil, figuring that things would taste rich enough without it.

Parsnip and Ginger Soup (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday)

Serves 2

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2cm/1-inch chunk ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed (or 0.125 teaspoon ground cardamom)
0.125 teaspoon ground cumin
0.125 teaspoon ground cayenne
250g/9 oz parsnip (equals one medium-sized vegetable), peeled and cut into 2cm/1-inch chunks
800ml/3.5 cups vegetable stock
200ml/1 cup milk (The recipe calls for full-fat, but I used semi-skimmed and the world didn’t end.)
salt and pepper

Warm the oil in a saucepan over a medium flame. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices and stir for a minute. Add the parsnips and mix well.

Pour in the stock, then simmer the soup until the parsnips are quite soft, about 15 minutes.

Take the soup off the heat, and blitz it with an immersion blender or in a food processor until velvety-smooth. Add the milk to the soup, then put the pot back on the stove over a gentle flame until the soup is just starting to simmer.

Ladle into bowls, and garnish with a spoonful of thick natural yogurt.