We asked vegetarian Great British Chefs’ guest blogger Monica Shaw to review Michelin starred chef, Angela Hartnett’s cookery book “A Taste of Home” (Ebury Press, 2011). It’s not a vegetarian cookbook, but we figured if it had 200 recipes in it, surely some would be “OK for veggies”. How did Monica fare?
Photography by Monica Shaw
A Taste of Home’s subtitle, “200 Quick and Easy Recipes” belies what this book is all about: beautiful, simple, honest food, cooked well, with quality British ingredients, many of which turn out to be vegetables. Swiss chard, artichokes, broad beans, peas, beetroot, squash… the index reads like an encyclopedia of the best of British produce, and the recipes she creates with them are inviting in their straightforwardness. And, well, they just sound good.
Pear, chicory and blue cheese salad. Fusilli with sprouting broccoli, chilli and garlic. Polenta with poached egg and mushrooms. Onion tart with rocket and cheddar. But the pictures, oh the pictures: that’s what really makes you want to put on your apron. Good photography is paramount to a cookbook, and one look at Angela’s braised fennel makes you think two things: one, “I want that” and two, “I could make that.”
Of course, the proof is in the pudding, or the salad in the vegetarian’s case. I made Angela’s puy lentils, spinach and goats’ curd salad, lightly dressed with her “classic” vinaigrette, fragrant with the scent of chopped tarragon. I loved this: beautiful, filling, and much-needed proof that a salad can be so much more satisfying than a pile of lettuce.
As I said, this is not a vegetarian cookbook, so alongside courgette and carrot fritters, you’ll also find roast pork with spinach and spring onions, sweet potato and chorizo salad, and grilled salmon with pak choi and ginger.
But here the book is another vegetable win, by demonstrating dishes and techniques that make meat less of a main event, and more of a faithful compliment to gorgeous vegetables. Might eating more veg be more appealing and inspiring if served alongside a beautifully prepared piece of meat or fish?
As a vegetarian, I can’t say. But I do know that I’m far more likely to braise a fennel bulb or roast some squash if I’m given a clear, simple recipe with readily available ingredients and drool-worthy photos that demand I make the dish. In that way, “A Taste of Home” might be one of the best non-vegetarian vegetarian cookbooks to come out this year.