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The following guest blog post is by Maeve O'Meara, TV Food Presenter and best-selling food and cooking author
Here are my 4 best vegetarian recipes, one for each season.
- Lentil Salad (Autumn)
- Spanokopita (Winter)
- Minestrone (Spring)
- Ratatouille (Summer)
AUTUMN - Lentil Salad
This salad is so easy anyone can do it; so good you'll make it over and over. You dice the vegetables roughly to the size of the lentils and boil them all together, then dress them with a vinaigrette that is bright with the aniseed flavour and aroma of fresh tarragon.
-500 g puy lentils
-5 French shallots, finely diced
-4 celery stalks, finely diced
-2 carrots, finely diced
-a few thyme sprigs
-1 bunch tarragon,
-leaves picked and chopped
-3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
-2 tablespoons cabernet sauvignon vinegar
-sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
-pale celery leaves picked from the inside of a bunch, to garnish
Put the lentils, shallots, celery, carrot and thyme in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
Drain and transfer to a bowl. Combine the tarragon, oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Mix well and season to taste.
Fold the vinaigrette through the lentils and vegetables and taste for seasoning. Garnish with celery leaves to serve.
Such a fabulous combination of flavours – spinach, dill and spring onions with a creamy mix of cheeses. My daughter is always cooking this at home. The spinach can be prepared a day ahead – it must be as dry as possible to ensure the spanakopita doesn't become soggy.
-1 bunch spinach or silverbeet
-300 g fetta
-100 g ricotta
-40 g (1/2 cup) finely grated hard cheese such as kefalograviera, parmesan or pecorino
-2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-2 dill sprigs, chopped
-4 spring onions, chopped
-375 g fresh (not frozen) filo pastry
-125 g butter, melted
Trim the roots from the spinach or if using silver beet, cut out the stems. Wash leaves and drain well. Coarsely shred and set aside.
Place the fetta in a large bowl and roughly mash with a fork. Add the ricotta, hard cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, pepper, oil, dill and spring onions. Mix with the fork to combine. Place the spinach or silverbeet on top.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly oil or butter a 20 x 30 x 5 cm baking dish.
Lay the filo out on a work surface. Line the dish with a sheet of filo and brush it with butter. Top with another sheet of filo brushed with butter and continue until about half the filo is used. When not using the filo, cover it with a dry tea towel and then a damp one to keep it from drying out.
Use your hand or a large metal spoon to gently mix the spinach filling until thoroughly combined. Tip into the filo base and spread out evenly. Layer with the remaining sheets of filo brushed with butter, ensuring the final sheet is
well buttered. Trim off any overhanging pastry and tuck in the sides. Use a sharp knife to score the pastry into diamonds. Pierce the pastry once or twice to allow air to escape during baking. Sprinkle lightly with water and bake in the oven for 45–60 minutes or until well browned. Gently shake the baking dish; the spanakopita should slide easily when it is cooked. Cover with foil if it is over-browning.
Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before cutting to serve.
SPRING - Minestrone
This fabulous touch-your-heart soup full of fresh vegetables was eaten at least once a week as Stefano was growing up. The use of parmesan rind to deepen the flavour is very clever. Minestrone is a soup that gets better with age, so while it's good the day you make it, it's even better the day after.
-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
-2 onions, diced
-8 garlic cloves, each cut into 3–4 pieces
-1 celery heart including the pale, tender leaves, sliced
-2 large or 4–5 smaller carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
-2 cups roughly chopped savoy cabbage
-2 bay leaves
-1 cup fresh flageolet beans, or other fresh (or cooked dried) beans
-350 g waxy potatoes such as desiree, peeled and diced
-200 g tinned Italian tomatoes, crushed
-100 g carnaroli rice
-150 g spinach, roughly chopped
-1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
-60 g parmesan rind, cut into 1 cm cubes
-freshly ground black pepper
-freshly grated parmesan to serve
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pot and add the onion, garlic, celery heart, carrot, cabbage and bay leaves. Lightly fry the vegetables for 2–3 minutes without letting them colour. Stir in the beans, potato and tomato, then cover the ingredients with water. Once the soup comes to the boil, add the rice and turn down to a simmer. Add a few good pinches of salt and simmer for 20–25 minutes.
Add the spinach, parsley and parmesan rind and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding extra salt if needed, and pepper. Serve with plenty of grated parmesan and crusty bread.
SUMMER - Ratatouille
From Provence in the south of France, this simple dish sings with summer vegetables – eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and tomato. Guillaume likes to cook the vegetables separately first, then combine them to cook to a glorious creamy stew that reminds him of childhood summers spent in Provence. Ratatouille was made before the family went to the beach and the flavours were perfectly melded by the time they arrived home.
-extra-virgin olive oil
-2 eggplants, diced
-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
-sea salt and freshly
-ground black pepper
-4 zucchini, diced
-½ bunch thyme, leaves picked
-1 onion, diced
-2 red capsicums, diced
-1 kg tomatoes, seeded and diced
-500 ml tomato juice
-1 bunch basil, chopped
Heat a generous splash of oil in a frying pan over low heat and add the eggplant and a third of the garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until tender. Tip into a large bowl.
Return the pan to the heat and add more oil. Add the zucchini, another third of the garlic, half the thyme and some salt and pepper. Sauté until tender, then add to the bowl with the eggplant.
Add more oil to the pan and sauté the onion, capsicum and remaining garlic and thyme until tender.
Combine all the cooked vegetables in a pot. Add the tomatoes and juice and simmer gently for 1½ hours. Remove from the heat, taste for seasoning and stir in the basil.
About the Author : Maeve O'Meara is an award-winning food and cooking author, journalist, broadcaster, television producer and presenter who has spent 20 years travelling the world discovering food. She is the co-author of 12 books on food and co-created, presented and produced all five series of the acclaimed Food Lovers' Guide to Australia.