I want to make vegetables delicious – irresistibly, satisfyingly so. I want to do this so that you eat more of them; more of the ones you already love, and more of those you’re not quite sure about yet. My mission is to increase your veg consumption, and expand your veg horizons, to the absolute maximum.
I think it should be fairly obvious why this is a good idea. But I do like an opportunity to be vocal on the topic, so here goes…
If I were to choose just one thing we could all do in order to be healthier and feel more energised, to have a better relationship with food and with our environment, it would be this: eat more veg. This is true for all of us, whoever we are and however we choose to eat, it is without doubt a very good idea to make vibrant, nutritious plant foods the basis of our diets.
A savoury twist on the brekkie classic: lunchtime rooty Bircher from Hugh's new book.
These foods are incontrovertibly beneficial to our health: full of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and complex carbs that genuinely nourish us. Just as importantly, the more lovely fresh veg we eat – in both quantity and variety – the less space there is in our diets for other foods which are, shall we say, of more questionable value – or certainly less unequivocally virtuous! In particular, we can start to ‘nudge out’ some of those knee-jerk ‘empty carbs’ – the gap-filling bread and biccies that so often get us through the day.
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More veg is good for the planet too: simple and inexpensive to produce, and vastly less demanding of energy and resources than animal-based foods. And if we eat more veg, we can also eat less meat and fish – or none.
Make your own spice mix for this flavour-packed red cabbage and cashew biryani
I’ve been making a conscious effort for some years now to shift towards a veg-centric way of eating. For much of my (semi-) professional cooking career, I also put veg mainly ‘on the side’, allowing well chosen meat and fish to dominate my culinary thinking. I certainly wasn’t a veg-dodger. But I had my favourites – raw peas from the pod, simply buttered greens, roast parsnips, barbecued courgettes and spring onions – and I didn’t seek to ring the changes with any great conviction.
But as I began to grow more veg of my own at River Cottage, and dabble in a more worldly (often Asian-inspired) way with vegetables, I began to realise that I was hugely underestimating the power of veg to deliver pleasure as well as goodness to me and my family. That was when I decided that a stint as ‘vegetarian’ might do me – and my kitchen repertoire – some good. It was transformative.
There's no need for boring veg: Hugh's carrots with dukkah and preserved lemon
River Cottage Veg Every Day – the book and the TV series – was the result of that experiment. And in many ways my new book, River Cottage: Much More Veg, is too. The way that I cook has been recalibrated, forever. Vegetables are now the major force in my kitchen. They are my first port of call when tummies are rumbling. And I’ve taught myself a fair bit about how to make veg taste great, without too much kitchen faff. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
In the end, when it comes to upping the veg in your life, my only rule is: have no rules. Fix it your way. Eat your gorgeous veg curry with a simple scoop of brown rice, or make it part of a spread with spicy potato rösti and dhal. Feast on a tray of roast veg just as it comes, or offer it up with a big green salad and a dish of herby spelt. Eat a raw soup for breakfast if you want to, or Bircher muesli for your supper. Eat your veg any way you like – just eat much more of it!
Recipes and edited extract from River Cottage: Much More Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, hb, $45, out now).
This is a simplified version of a classic Claudia Roden recipe, and I really don’t think it’s lost any of its charm in my adaptation. The lemon cuts the intense sweetness of the condensed milk perfectly and the crushed biscuits on top give a sort of upside-down-cheesecake effect. A delicious comfort food that makes a perfect side (or a meal in its own right!), the curry spices add a burst of flavour to the roasted potatoes and parsnip.
This is a simplified version of a classic Claudia Roden recipe, and I really don’t think it’s lost any of its charm in my adaptation.
The lemon cuts the intense sweetness of the condensed milk perfectly and the crushed biscuits on top give a sort of upside-down-cheesecake effect.
A delicious comfort food that makes a perfect side (or a meal in its own right!), the curry spices add a burst of flavour to the roasted potatoes and parsnip.