“Peace and Parsnips”

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707.pngLongtime vegan Lee Watson works as a vegan chef at a retreat center in Snowdonia National Park, Wales. In “Peace and Parsnips,” he collects 200 of his favorite recipes for smoothies, salads, nibbles, big plates, curries, burgers, desserts and more to prove that vegan food doesn’t have to be limited to spongy tofu and rubber-like nut cutlets. Inspired by his travels to Mexico, Turkish bazaars, Europe, Indian spice markets, and beyond, with minimal fuss and plenty of accessible ingredients he creates delicious meals that even carnivores will appreciate. With an emphasis on seasonality and mindful eating, you’ll find a well-rounded guide to the vegan pantry, including homemade nut milks (soy, cashew, almond, sprouted green lentil), spice blends, sauces and pestos, and even vegan feta that will allow you to create beautiful, healthful dishes that everyone can enjoy (in addition to being vegan, many of the recipes are also gluten-free).

Lee includes many international influences in his recipes from Latin America (tostadas with salsa verde, the Middle East (couscous, hummus, tabbouleh, mujaddara, falafel, muhammara), Europe (borscht, filo pie, eggplant involtini, pastas, tempeh chorizo), India (curries, koftas, pulao) and Asia (udon, lumpia, fried rice). You’ll also find a chapter devoted exclusively to “meaty” burgers from Portobello pecan to beet quarter-pounders, spinach bhaji burgers, chickpea, butternut, and apricot burgers, and puy lentil and walnut burgers.

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Kasha with rosemary, apricots and walnuts (Photo by Bundt Lust)

The first recipe I tried was the kasha with rosemary, apricots, and walnuts. My Polish grandmother would frequently fix kasha when I was growing up; I have fond memories of the smell of kasha toasting in the pan before she would add mushrooms or turn it into pieróg lubelski (buckwheat pie in a pastry crust). I also love all things apricots and walnuts, so was interested to see how this flavor combination would work out. It was an incredibly satisfying combination of crunch (from the walnuts), toothsome buckwheat, and sweet notes from the apricots, plus it freezes well. This may be my new favorite way to serve kasha, and will definitely be going on my lunchtime rotation again soon!

The maple and orange-glazed tempeh with bok choy and soba noodles is another winner; I used green tea (matcha) soba as that is what I had on hand, and shimadofu (Okinawan tofu) as tofu is suggested as a possible variation. The beautifully citrus-infused tofu contrasts with the savory soy-based broth (I left out the cilantro as it is not commonly used with noodle dishes here in Japan).

I also loved Lee’s stuffed dishes, like the leek and wild mushroom-stuffed potato skins with lemon and chive yogurt, and his many ideas for millet. Although I regularly cook with whole grains, millet is new to me, and I loved the idea of using it as a filling for chard leaves (beet, millet, and raisin-stuffed ruby chard bundles with brazil nut and rosemary cream).

Here are two recipes to whet your appetite:

Pappardelle with Artichoke and Almond Sauce, Purple Kale, and White Asparagus
Photo by Alistair Richardson

Pappardelle with Artichoke & Almond Sauce, Purple Kale & White Asparagus

 This dish is a delight! So many shades of green, all bursting with flavor and nutrition. Artichokes make a surprisingly creamy purée. Throw a few almonds into the mix and you’re well on your way to deliciousness. In Spain, I buy fresh artichokes for pennies – pounds of the things are piled around our small kitchen and it can be difficult to know what to do with them. However, I recommend using high-quality jarred artichokes here. In this dish I tend to use white asparagus, but in autumn and winter I’d try to seek out some salsify. It’s a rich root vegetable, perfect with this tangy sauce.

Gluten-free option: use GF pasta.

For 4

THE BITS

  • 14 ounces (400g) purple kale, stalks removed, thickly chopped
  • 8–10 white asparagus spears
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) nice white wine (vegan)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 ounces (400g) pappardelle (or similar egg-free pasta)

For the artichoke & almond sauce

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • a handful of almonds, soaked for 2 hours, skins removed if you have time
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 4 big handfuls of watercress leaves
  • 14 ounces (390g) artichoke hearts
  • juice of ½ a lemon

For the topping

  • a small handful of toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • a handful of watercress

DO IT

To make the sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the almonds. Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes more. Add the watercress leaves, cover the pan, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the contents of the frying pan in a food processor with the artichokes, lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and blend to a smooth purée. The sauce should be thick and shiny. Add water to thin it out if necessary.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium and add the asparagus. Panfry for 6–8 minutes, until nicely caramelized. Add a glug of white wine, and when the liquid has evaporated, season and cover. Leave to sit.

Bring a big pan of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta for roughly 8 minutes, until al dente. Add the kale halfway through the cooking time. Drain well, keeping aside a little of the pasta water. Add the drained pasta and kale to the artichoke sauce and toss together, adding some of the pasta water if it is looking a bit dry.

Spoon into warm shallow bowls and top with criss-crosses of asparagus and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and parsley. Garnish with the watercress and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Recipe from Peace & Parsnips: Adventurous Vegan Cooking For Everyone © Lee Watson, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.  theexperimentpublishing.com

Leek and Mushroom-Stuffed Potato Skins with Lemon and Chive Yogurt
Photo by Alistair Richardson

Leek & Wild Mushroom–Stuffed Potato Skins with Lemon & Chive Yogurt

This is really just a blinged-up baked potato. Hardly any more trouble than the standard, but the simple flavors knock your socks clean off! You can use any mushrooms here, but the wilder and more intense in flavor, the better.

For 4

THE BITS

  • 4 large baking potatoes
  • 2–3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, finely sliced, green parts included
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small head of broccoli, florets and stems finely diced
  • 10½ ounces (300g) wild mushrooms of your choice, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons mixed herbs instead of the previous three)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup (75ml) almond milk or soy milk
  • a big handful of toasted sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

For the lemon & chive yogurt

  • a handful of fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 1¼ cups (300ml) unsweetened soy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon lemon zest
  • a large pinch of sea salt

DO IT

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and rub them with oil. Bake for 1¼ hours, until golden and soft, turning them over once during that time. Cut them in half and leave to cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium and sauté your leeks for 6 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, broccoli and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Pop in the dried herbs, stir and season, then remove from the heat and cover.

The potatoes should now be cool enough to handle. Carefully scoop out the insides and put them into a bowl, leaving the crispy skins intact. These will be our stuffing vessels! Mash the insides with the milk, then stir in the vegetables, seeds, nutritional yeast flakes and mustard, adding a little more salt as needed. Spoon the mash back into the waiting skins, packing them full to bursting, and place them on an oiled baking tray. Pop the potatoes back into the oven for 10–15 minutes, until piping hot.

To make the lemon and chive yogurt, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Serve the stuffed potato skins with a good dollop of lemon and chive yogurt on the side.

Recipe from Peace & Parsnips: Adventurous Vegan Cooking For Everyone © Lee Watson, 2016. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold.  theexperimentpublishing.com

Along the way, gorgeous photographs by Alistair Richardson on matte pages (which makes it MUCH easier to cook from) makes for an attractive presentation, and I appreciated that both the metric and US measurements are listed (many times when books are adapted for the US market, the metric measurements are left out, but I prefer to cook in metric if that’s how the book was written / tested). I also appreciate that unlike many vegan cookbooks, Lee avoids the heavily processed soy meat and cheese/dairy analogs (faux chick’n nuggets, ground “beef,” soy “cheese,” etc.) in favor of tempeh, tofu, or homemade alternatives.

Whether you’re a longtime vegan, a transitioning vegan, or simply someone who appreciates good food and is looking for healthy and delicious weeknight meals, “Peace and Parsnips” deserves a spot on your shelf!

(Review copy courtesy of my friends at The Experiment)

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