I was beyond thrilled when I opened this cookbook from my dog on Christmas Day – yes folks, my dog buys me cookbooks for Christmas. She has fabulous taste. So what if the purchase is on my credit card and I wrap it up and put it under the tree, the name on the card is from her.
I’ve long been a fan of Alice – or @aliceinframes as she is on Instagram – since she appeared on our screens in season 4 of MasterChef way back in 2012. Back then she was a school teacher with zany glasses and an upbeat attitude.
Since then she’s done loads – all of it good stuff and most of it around promoting fresh produce and what you can do with it.
This book is all about, wait for it, veg – but it’s not about vegetarian or vegan food, even if many, ok most, recipes are vegetarian. Instead this is about moving vegetables into the starring role on the plate – a more flexitarian approach. (As an aside, I love that word and that idea.)
It’s also massive (weighing in at 2kgs) and as vibrantly coloured and exuberant as the veg inside it is.
Each vegetable is organised into a colour family: white, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown, dark green, light green – the page colours tell you which section you’re in. There’s a handy matrix up front with cooking tips for each veg and a quick guide to cooking methods.
Once you get into the veg itself, for each veg there are tips on buying and storing, what other veg this one goes with and even how to use up the scraps.
Anyways, In Praise of Veg is my cookbook of the month for February so I’ll be trying a few recipes from it – the biggest decision will be what to choose!
From the purple section, I have Blender Beetroot Brownie, Radicchio and Sausage Pasta, and Sichuan Sticky Eggplant marked. Moving into brown I have bookmarked The ‘Any’ Kind of Onion Tarte Tatin, No Tears Onion Soup, and Onion and Pea Bhaji Bites. Back in orange, I’m considering Indian-style Butter Carrot and Darl’s Daal, and over in dark green, there’s the Sesame Cucumber Whack Salad. And that’s just for starters – I have marked so much to try!
If you want to cook along with me but don’t have the book, here are the links to a few recipes to try:
- The Any Kind of Onion Tarte Tatin
- Keralan Fried Cauliflower with Coconut Chutney, Saffron Orzo with Charred Deli Artichokes, Tau’s Vegetables With Fresh Ginger, Golden Bundt Cake
- Blender Beetroot Brownie
- Parsnip Latkes and more
- Broccoli Steaks with Tkemali (a spicy plum sauce)
The recipe I’m featuring though is this one – her Summer Slice, which is really a zucchini (or courgette) slice by any other name.
This is a good chuck it all into the bowl and stir it about a bit recipe. The only real palaver is getting all the liquid out of the zucchini. The best way to do this is to grate the zucchini directly onto a clean tea towel, sprinkle with the salt and mix it about with your hands. Then bring the ends of the tea towel together and twist it into a garrotte and squeeze – preferably over the sink or into another bowl. You’ll be amazed at just how much water does come out of these and it will take more squeezing than you’d think.
I’ve been making my Auntie Gloria’s zucchini slice since I was a teenager. Of course, we didn’t bother getting all the liquid out of the zucchini then – instead the amount of flour was increased to compensate. That recipe also had half a cup of oil in it. This doesn’t. Instead it’s packed full of good stuff and (sorry Aunty Glor) is the recipe I’ll be making going forward.
This can be served warm or fridge cold – as a light lunch with some salad, to take on a picnic, or to sneak straight from the fridge as a snack.
Summer Slice (Zucchini Slice)
What you need
- 2 medium-sized zucchini, coarsely grated with all the liquid wrung out
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 bacon rashers, cut into thin strips
- ½ cup (75g) self-raising flour (use gluten-free if you like)
- ½ cup (100g) fresh (or frozen) corn kernels
- ½ cup (75g) frozen peas
- 5 eggs, beaten
- ½ cup (125ml) milk
- 1 cup (100g) grated cheddar cheese
- 4 tomatoes thinly sliced
- A baking dish – about 20cm x25cm, lined with baking paper so it overhangs the sides a little
What you do with it
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Pop the grated, squeezed zucchini, onion, and bacon into a large bowl, add the flour and stir it all through.
- Put the peas and corn into a small heatproof bowl, boil the kettle, and, when it’s done, pour some boiling water over them. Let them stand for a few minutes, then drain. You may as well make yourself a cup of tea while the kettle is freshly boiled.
- Beat the eggs and milk together – with a fork is fine – and pour the mixture over the zucchini and mix together. Fold in half the cheese, as well as the peas and corn.
- Pour the mixture into your lined baking dish (don’t worry if it seems too runny), sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and arrange the tomatoes on top.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the egg is set and the top has a slight golden colour.