Chef’s love letter to veggies

Richard Leong

BRITISH chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says vegetables shouldn’t get second billing to meat and fish and plays up their versatility, flavours and health benefits in his book, River Cottage Veg.

The best-selling cookbook is full of vegetarian and vegan recipes for salads, soups and entrees that he promises will satisfy any meat-eater’s palate, as you would expect from a 48-year-old celebrity chef with a passion for vegetables.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: As a younger chef, I was more gung-ho about meat and wrote very passionately about meat.

If we eat a little less of it, then we could concentrate on the quality of it and take an approach to make sure we don’t waste any of it. It’s a very precious food.

One of the ways we value eating meat is to eat more vegetables. Then we will have a daily cooking vernacular that makes meat and fish extra special when we wheel them out.

Of course, many of these dishes go great as a serving besides meat. But they don’t have to be the also-rans. They could have equal billing. They could have top billing or have sole billing.

Q: So people should eat more vegetables regardless whether or not they are vegetarians?

A: We know it’s good for our health. It’s not only good for us. It’s good for the planet. We just have to make vegetables delicious. We can’t wag our fingers and stand on our soapbox. We just have to make them lovely to eat.

With the farmers’ market movement and farm-to-table restaurants, there is a certain amount of trickle down … We just need to make them really accessible to the home cooks as well.

Eating good fish, eating good meats, that’s great, but we have to get people as excited, if not more excited, about vegetables. They should underpin all our cooking.

Q: What are your tips for making vegetables more exciting?

A: For the regular cooking sessions, just put the meat and fish on one side and concentrate on maximising what you get from the veg … Then, do things like grilling, braaing and caramelising to get the flavours going and to get the contrast going.

We do these things as second nature when we cook meat and fish. It should be something we should be doing for vegetables, too.

Q: Any advice about feeding more vegetables to children?

A: The tip is a little bit of garlic. It’s like catnip for children. Maybe a little bit of butter. Maybe a dash of olive oil. It works for carrots, peas and beans. It gives that savoury edge that everyone loves and works with the natural sweetness of the greens.

The thing we do with meat is that we spice it a lot. We use herbs. We want to aromatise it. We want to make it sophisticated. All that we could do with veg, too. – Reuters

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