Nigel Slater's 20 best Observer recipes: veg dishes

 ,  |  Updated: October 31, 2013 11:44 IST

Nigel Slater's 20 best Observer recipes: veg dishes

Artichoke tortillas, aubergine curry and more in part 3 of Observer Food Monthly's celebration of Nigel Slater's first 20 years with the Observer.

• Part 4 appears tomorrow

Grilled halloumi with beetroot

Serves 4 as a light lunch with sesame bread
beetroot 8 small, no larger than a tennis ball
halloumi cheese 250g
chopped chives a tbsp or so

For the dressing
lemon the juice of ½
balsamic vinegar 1 tsp
olive oil 2 tbsp
walnut oil 2 tbsp
coriander seeds 1 tsp
warm sesame bread to serve

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Trim the beetroot of any leaves, taking care not to cut or tear the skin. Rinse the beets well under running water, then put them in a roasting tin or baking dish. Season with salt and black pepper then cover the tin tightly with foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until you can insert a metal skewer with little pressure. Remove and set aside.

To make the dressing, squeeze the lemon juice into a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and stir to dissolve. Trickle in the balsamic vinegar and then the olive and walnut oils, beating as you go. Grind in a little black pepper.

Toast the coriander seeds in a dry frying pan for 3 or 4 minutes till fragrant. Crush them lightly in a pestle and mortar or with the back of a heavy spoon, then stir into the dressing and set aside.


Skin the beets by pushing at the skin with your thumbs till the skin slides cleanly off. Cut the cooked beetroot into thick segments, six or eight per beet, then add to the dressing. Toss gently, then pile in the centre of a serving plate, leaving a little dressing behind in the bowl.

Cut the halloumi into thick slices and fry or grill it, without oil, until it starts to slightly soften. Lay the beetroot on the warm cheese and trickle over the last few drops of dressing. Scatter with chopped chives and serve with warm sesame bread.

Artichoke and rosemary tortilla

Other tortilla-friendly possibilities are grilled green or red peppers and slim slices of chorizo. Marinated artichokes are often sold loose at deli counters, but are also available in jars.

Serves 4 as a light main course
new potatoes 150g
butter a thin slice
olive oil 1 tbsp
rosemary 2 or 3 stalks
onion 1, medium sized
marinated artichokes 350g
parsley leaves from 3 or 4 stems
eggs 6

Cut the potatoes into thick coins. Warm the butter and oil in a frying pan, add the sliced potatoes and leave to cook over a low to moderate heat for 15-20 minutes or so until the potatoes have softened and coloured nicely. Keep an eye on them, tossing them from time to time so they colour evenly.

Pick the rosemary needles from their stalks, chop them up roughly and then stir into the potatoes. Peel the onion, slice it into fine rings, then add to the softening potatoes. Leave the mixture to cook for 10 minutes or so.

Drain the artichokes, slice each one in half, and add to the cooked potatoes and onion. Season generously. Remove the parsley leaves from their stems, roughly chop and stir into the artichokes and onion, still over the heat. Warm an overhead grill.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and briefly whisk with a fork. Pour into the pan, stir once or twice to mix the eggs with all the cooked ingredients then leave to cook for 10 minutes or so until the egg is partially set. The mixture should quiver in the middle when you shake the pan.

Slide the pan under the grill and leave for 3 or 4 minutes until the surface is golden and lightly firm. Leave the tortilla for a few minutes to settle, covered with a lid if you wish, then loosen it round the edges with a palette knife and slide on to a warm plate or chopping board. Slice into six and serve.

Cheese and chive puddings

A soft, tender savoury pudding - a flourless souffle if you like - with a crisp top and a creamy, almost liquid centre. I use a shallow pasta bowl to bake these in, but a soup plate works well, too.

Partnered with a crisp green salad, it makes a light yet rich lunch for two. I suggest you use a very mature farmhouse cheese for this. If you use plastic-wrapped "supermarket" cheese then your pudding will lack any real clout.

Serves 2
butter a little
parmesan 70g, freshly grated
mature farmhouse Caerphilly 200g
eggs 3 large
chives 12
double cream 4 tbsp

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6.

Lightly butter two shallow dishes or soup plates, then sprinkle them lightly with grated Parmesan.

Remove the rind from the Caerphilly, put the cheese in a bowl and mash it with a fork. Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a bowl and the yolks in with the Caerphilly. Mash the yolks and cheese together. Season with black pepper, then finely chop the chives, stir them in, and then add the double cream.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fluffy. Gently but firmly fold them into the cheese and egg yolk mixture using a metal spoon. Try to mix thoroughly without knocking the air out. Fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the grated parmesan.

Divide the mixture quickly and tenderly between the two buttered bowls or soup plates. Scatter over the remaining 2 tablespoons of parmesan, put the dishes on a baking sheet and bake for 12-16 minutes, until they are puffed and golden, the top lightly crisp and the inside creamy.

I test simply by inserting a spoon gently into the centre of the puddings. If there is any sign of liquid I return it to the oven for a few minutes longer. Remove from the oven and eat immediately.

Red aubergine curry

A bowl of steamed white or brown rice is the perfect accompaniment for this spicy, fragrant little curry.

Serves 4
For the spice paste
lemon grass 3 stalks
lime leaves 6, fresh or dried
garlic 2 cloves, peeled
coriander leaves 40g
tomatoes 3 small to medium
red chillies 2, small hot
ginger a 3cm lump
aubergines 3 medium or 12 baby-sized
olive oil
coconut milk 2 x 400ml cans
nam pla (Thai fish sauce) 2 tsp
sesame oil 1 tsp
light soy sauce 1 tbsp
lime juice to taste

Make the spice paste: trim the lemon grass, discarding the root end and any less than tender outer leaves. Put them into a food processor with the lime leaves, peeled garlic, 25g of the coriander, the tomatoes and the chillies, seeded if you like a cooler curry.

Peel and roughly chop the ginger then add to the lemon grass. Blitz to a rough paste, scraping the paste down occasionally with a rubber spatula.

Cut the aubergines in half lengthways then cut each half into thin slices. Pour a thin layer of olive oil into a heavy-based casserole, add the aubergines and fry till pale gold.

Stir in the spice paste and leave to cook, over a moderate heat, for a couple of minutes till the paste darkens very slightly in colour. Pour in the coconut milk, the nam pla, the sesame oil and the light soy sauce, stir and leave to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.

To serve, scatter over the leaves from the remaining coriander, and correct the seasoning with salt and a little lime juice.

Photo: Grilled halloumi with beetroot. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin

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