British food writer Nigel Slater has made a career out of convincing us that cooking and eating well don’t have to involve a big fuss. Grab what you picked up at the market, a few quality pantry staples, and sit down to a satisfying dinner. His latest book, Greenfeast: autumn, winter (4th Estate; $36.99) is full of the same casual, off-the-cuff dishes, focusing on seasonal, veggie-forward eating. Recipes are no more than a small page with an average of ten ingredients, and most can be on the table in around 30 minutes. While the book’s sister volume, Greenfeast: spring, summer (released earlier this year) celebrated the more glamorous warm-weather produce, this book makes the most of hardier vegetables, grains and dried beans. That’s not to say that the recipes are austere—dishes such as Red Cabbage, Carrots, Smoked Almonds or Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Cream could easily grace a holiday table.
The need for a quick and tasty Sunday dinner before heading out seemed like a good excuse to try Slater’s recipe for Mushrooms, Chickpeas, Tahini—stuffed and baked Portobello mushroom caps. The filling is made by grinding together garlic, chickpeas, olive oil, salt, lemon juice and sumac, then stirring through tahini, thyme and sesame seeds. The caps are filled with this, topped with more chickpeas and sesame seeds and baked for 30 minutes. My mushrooms deflated, leading to some of the filling cascading onto the tray around it, but there’s no denying that this was a delicious, low-effort dinner.
On the face of it, Slater’s “handful-of-this, bake-’til-golden” style is best suited to sure-footed cooks with experience to make those judgment calls in the kitchen, but this casualness also takes the pressure off a new cook to get everything perfect. But perhaps the best reason to get Greenfeast: autumn, winter is that it might actually get you excited for our cold-weather harvest.
Wendy Underwood tests out cookbooks weekly on Instagram at @kitchenvscookbook.
Excerpted from Greenfeast: autumn, winter © 2019 by Nigel Slater. Photos © Jonathan Lovekin. Reproduced with permission of 4th Estate. All rights reserved.
MUSHROOMS, CHICKPEAS, TAHINI
A mushroom as thick as beefsteak. A silky puree.
large ‘portobello’ mushrooms 2
olive oil 8 tablespoons
garlic 2 cloves, peeled
ground sumac 2 teaspoons
juice of half a lemon
chickpeas x 400g can
tahini 2 tablespoons
thyme leaves tablespoon
black sesame seeds tablespoon
white sesame seeds tablespoon
Set the oven at 200°C/Gas 6. Cut out the stalks from the mushrooms, then place the mushrooms gill side up on a baking tray. Score the inside of each mushroom with the tip of a knife—it will allow the oil to penetrate—then pour one tablespoon of olive oil into each.
Use a pestle and mortar to crush the garlic, then pound in four tablespoons of the olive oil, the sumac, lemon juice and a little salt. Drain the chickpeas, then mash half into the oil and garlic paste. Stir in the tahini, thyme leaves and half of both the sesame seeds.
Fill the mushrooms with the chickpea paste, then cover each with the reserved whole chickpeas. Finally, trickle over the last of the olive oil and scatter with the reserved sesame seeds. Bake for about 30 minutes.
The best mushrooms for these are the very large portobello mushrooms with upturned edges to hold the filling.
RED CABBAGE, CARROTS, SMOKED ALMONDS
Crisp, crunchy, sour and smoky. A cabbage salad for a winter’s day.
a red onion
malt vinegar 50ml
cider vinegar 75ml
yellow mustard seeds teaspoon
red cabbage 450g
smoked almonds a handful or two
For the dressing:
soured cream 150ml
pickling liquor from the onion 4 tablespoons
Dijon mustard teaspoon
grain mustard teaspoon
poppy seeds tablespoon
Peel the onion and finely slice into rings. Warm the vinegars, 120ml of water and the mustard seeds in a small saucepan, add half a teaspoon of salt and the onion. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat, cover and leave for 35 minutes.
Finely shred the red cabbage. Peel the carrots, then slice them into long shavings with a vegetable peeler. Halve, core and slice the pear. Toss the cabbage, carrots and pear with a little of the onion pickling liquid.
Make the dressing: Lightly beat the soured cream, onion pickling liquor, mustards and poppy seeds. Fold the dressing into the shredded cabbage, carrots and pear. Finally, add the smoked almonds and the pickled onions, drained of their remaining pickling liquor.
Should smoked almonds prove elusive, make your own by mixing smoked salt with a little paprika and groundnut oil, then toast in a dry pan, before adding the whole almonds.
PEARL BARLEY, KALE, GOAT’S CHEESE
Nutty grains, melting cheese, tender greens.
vegetable stock 800ml
pearl barley 200g
smoked garlic head
curly kale 150g
olive oil 4 tablespoons
goat’s cheese 200g
Heat the stock in a deep pan and tip in the pearl barley. Cut the smoked garlic in half horizontally, slicing through the skin and cloves, drop into the stock and simmer for 35 minutes until the barley is tender.
Cut the stems from the kale, setting the leaves aside. Roughly chop the stems. Pile the leaves on top of each other and finely shred into ribbons. Remove the smoked garlic, scoop out the flesh with a knife and crush to a paste. Discard the skins. (Any cloves that have fallen in the barley during cooking can be left in.)
Heat the olive oil in a large, shallow pan, add the chopped kale stems and cook for a few minutes until tender and bright. Stir in the crushed smoked garlic, then add the shredded kale leaves. Sizzle for a couple of minutes, then fold into the pearl barley, together with crumbled goat’s cheese.
I have suggested kale because of its stridency against the soft, smoky grain, but almost any brassica is applicable here.
Mozzarella would add strings of cheesy joy to the barley, as would Fontina.
I like the nutty quality of pearl barley, but this recipe could also be made with orzo pasta for a softer consistency.