The veges move centre stage

Week Light, by Donna Hay, is published by HarperCollins.
Week Light, by Donna Hay, is published by HarperCollins.
No longer the side dishes, the back-up dancers or the understudies, vegetables have earned their place front and centre on the plate, Australian cook and author Donna Hay says.

Her latest cookbook, Weeklight, concentrates on putting vegetables in the spotlight.

''Let's begin by reinventing some of the vegetables we know so well, let's take a look at them with fresh eyes. In this book cabbage becomes a caramelised crispy pancake,'' she says.

Hay urges people to be adventurous and explore ingredients and recipes outside their comfort zone.

''You can cook broccoli on the barbecue or blitz it in a pizza base; you can caramelise nutrient-rich Brussels sprouts, cover them in creamy tahini lemon dressing and top with honeyed walnuts - yum.''

Her focus on vegetables is not to the exclusion of meat. There are recipes involving beef, chicken and fish but they are not the heroes of the dish.

Being prepared helps, as do a few handy tools. Hay rates her top three as a julienne peeler for shredding carrots and zuchinis, a mandolin for sharp, zero-fuss slicing and a food processor to chop the cauliflower and broccoli in a flash.

''Once you're cooking, think ahead a little and make extra of some things to save time - like a big batch of brown rice, freekeh or quinoa - then freeze what's left into individual portions.''

But she does not expect people to jump right in and change their lifestyle in one go.

''Try to integrate one small step at a time, one meat-free dinner a week or one new recipe that will push the boundaries.

''Be realistic and do what works for you.''

The book is divided into modern makeovers (quinoa schnitzels, cauliflower tacos), bowls of goodness (chilli, cashew, chilli tofu larb, raw pad thai), fields of green (rainbow chard rolls, vegetable hash browns), out of time (fritters, soup), basics to brilliance (broccoli dough, crispy pancakes), there is always room for sweets (popsicles, peach and coconut tart) and finishes up with a section of handy dressings and pickles.

 

Photos: Con Poulos
Photos: Con Poulos
Broccoli Margherita pizzas

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 x quantity broccoli dough (see basic recipe)
⅔ cup (50g) finely grated parmesan

300g cherry tomatoes, torn in half and squeezed to remove the seeds
¼ cup (4g) oregano leaves
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
2 x 125g fresh mozzarella balls, torn
basil leaves, to serve
finely grated parmesan, extra, to serve (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 200degC. Line 2 x 30cm round oven trays with non-stick baking paper.

Divide the dough in half and press on to each tray to make 2 x 28cm round pizza bases. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm and slightly golden.

Sprinkle the bases with parmesan and top with the tomatoes and oregano. Drizzle with a little oil. Return the pizzas to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes or until golden.

Top warm pizzas with the mozzarella and sprinkle with basil and extra parmesan to serve.

Cook's notes: You can add your favourite toppings to this pizza. Just avoid anything that might make the broccoli base turn soft (such as tomato puree). It's best to stick to fresh tomatoes with the seeds and some of the juice squeezed out.

Try sprinkling over pre-roasted pumpkin, eggplant (aubergine) or zucchini (courgette). To have these pizza bases on standby for busy days, bake them for the first 20 minutes, then cool, wrap and freeze for later use.

Broccoli dough

Ingredients
600g broccoli florets (about 2 heads), roughly chopped (see cooks notes)
¾ cup (90g) almond meal (ground almonds)
½ cup (25g) finely grated parmesan
3 eggs
sea salt and cracked black pepper

In small batches, place the broccoli in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the almond meal, parmesan, eggs, salt and pepper to the broccoli and mix well to combine. Makes 1 quantity.

Cook's notes: It's best if you don't add too much of the broccoli stem to this dough. A floret with roughly 6-8cm of stem is great. Adding extra can make the dough watery. You can swap half, or all, of the broccoli for cauliflower if you prefer. Again, just don't use too much of the stem.


Choc-chunk tahini cookies

Makes 1 quantity

Ingredients
1 cup (280g) hulled tahini (see cooks notes)
1 cup (220g) raw caster (superfine) sugar
⅓ cup (80ml) maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups (280g) wholemeal (whole-wheat) spelt flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of (baking) soda
¼ tsp baking powder
200g chopped dark chocolate

Method
Preheat oven to 160degC. Line 2 large baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Place the tahini, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and egg in a large bowl and mix well to combine.

Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Sift the flour mixture into the tahini mixture and mix well to combine. Add the chocolate and fold to combine.

Roll heaped tablespoons of the dough into 24 balls and place on the trays. Flatten the cookies slightly and bake for 12-14 minutes or until light golden. Allow to cool on the trays.

Cook's notes: This recipe works best when a smooth, thick, hulled tahini is used. Avoid those jars that have fully settled on the shelf (with a large layer of oil at the top and dried-out tahini underneath).

Look for a fresh, good-quality, blended variety. You can swap the spelt flour for buckwheat flour to make these cookies gluten free. Just double check your baking powder is gluten free too!


Miso brown rice and broccoli balls

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 cup (240g) fresh ricotta
2 Tbsp white miso paste (shiro)
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 cups (400g) cooked brown rice
2 cups (200g) finely chopped broccoli
2 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
sea salt flakes
¾ cup (100g) sesame seeds
extra virgin olive oil, for brushing

Miso carrot salad
1 Tbsp white miso paste (shiro)
2 Tbsp mirin (Japanese rice wine)
1 Tbsp honey
300g heirloom Dutch carrots, scrubbed, trimmed and quartered lengthways
2 cups (50g) red-veined sorrel or baby spinach leaves

Method
Preheat oven to 200degC. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.

Place the ricotta, miso paste and ginger in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the rice, broccoli, onion and salt and mix to combine.

Place the sesame seeds on a small plate. Shape ¼-cup portions of the broccoli mixture into balls and roll in the sesame to coat. Place on the tray and brush generously with oil. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

While the broccoli balls are baking, make the miso carrot salad. Place the miso paste, mirin and honey in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the carrot and red-veined sorrel and toss to combine.

Divide the salad between serving bowls and top with the broccoli balls to serve.

Cook's notes: It's really easy to bake trays and trays of these rice balls and freeze them for later. You can swap the rice for quinoa or other cooked grains.

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