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Vegetables matter

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When handled well, vegetables really can become the hero of a dish. These versatile recipes are bursting with flavour but good for you, too.

Spaghettini of zucchini, mint, currants, pine nuts and pecorino

This recipe reminds me of my time in Sardinia. The vibrant, minty pesto is a perfect foil for the sweet zucchini and currants, and the pecorino adds a distinctive savoury tang.

50g mint
40g parsley, blanched & chopped
40g basil leaves
2 small cloves garlic, sliced
60g pine nuts, toasted, plus extra to sprinkle over just before serving
150ml extra virgin olive oil
120g pecorino, grated
Salt flakes and ground black pepper
250g spaghettini
3 medium zucchini, sliced and julienned, in the longest strip possible
80ml milk
2 tbsp currants, simmered in 1tbsp red wine vinegar for 1 minute

1. Roughly chop the mint and the parsley.

2. Process the herbs, garlic, 60 grams of pine nuts and oil together in a food processor or blender until you have a smoothish paste, then add the cheese and a splash of water and blitz briefly again.


3. Season with sea salt and a generous amount of black pepper.

4. Cook the spaghettini for seven to eight minutes. Meanwhile, put the zucchini in the bottom of a large saucepan. Lift the spaghettini out of the water and place it on top of the zucchini. Allow to sit off the heat for 30 seconds, which will allow the zucchini to soften. Add enough of the pesto to coat the pasta completely without drowning it (I usually have about a quarter left over, see tip), toss, then add the milk.

5. Let the pasta bubble over high heat for a minute to combine, add a little extra cheese and a splash of olive oil, if necessary, and toss through.

Check seasoning, sprinkle with the extra pine nuts and currants, and serve.

Serves 4

Drink Vermentino.

Tip Keep any leftover pesto in an airtight jar for a week with a thin layer of oil over the top.

Spring chicken, rice, lentil and spinach soup


Full of wholesome goodness, this soup is as much about vegetables as chicken. You can make it a day or two ahead of time, which allows the flavours to develop.

60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 celery heart, finely sliced
1 fennel, diced
5 dutch carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
120g rice (short or long grain)
100g small green lentils
4 medium zucchini, diced
1lt quality chicken stock, boiling
300ml boiling water
1 vegetable stock cube
200g baby spinach
5 sprigs tarragon, stripped from the stem
½ cup frozen peas
½ barbecued chicken, flesh removed and shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, to serve

1. Place a large pot over a medium heat, add oil, onion, garlic and fennel seeds and cook, stirring, for four minutes.

2. Add celery, fennel and carrot, cook for a further 25 minutes, allowing the vegetables to caramelise.

3. Add rice, lentils and zucchini and stir to combine, then add the hot stock, water and stock cube and cook for 20 minutes to allow rice and lentils to thicken the soup.

4. Add spinach, tarragon, peas and shredded chicken meat. Season with salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to sit for a while. Serve with bread and a squeeze of lemon.

Serves 8

Drink Wooded chardonnay.

Tip You can substitute brown rice for an even healthier soup but will need to allow for a little longer cooking time.

Frisee and pulled buffalo mozzarella salad with capers, dill and parsley


This salad is perfect as part of an antipasti spread or as a side dish with chargrilled meat.

2 heads of frisee, trimmed and washed
1 clove garlic, grated
100ml extra virgin oil
1 tsp fennel seed, ground
1 lemon, juiced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs of dill, fronds picked
3 sprigs of parsley, leaves picked
1 tbsp tiny capers
1 tbsp plain yoghurt
3 buffalo mozzarella balls, unravelled and pulled into pieces

Serves 6 as a side or antipasto

Bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to the boil. Place the frisee in it for three minutes and immediately refresh in cold water. Drain and squeeze hard to remove as much moisture as possible. Place in a bowl.

Whisk half the oil with the fennel seed, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Dress the frisee leaves, then toss through half the herbs and capers.

Mix the remaining oil with the yoghurt and season. Toss the mozzarella pieces through the yoghurt and oil mixture and pile on a flat platter. Spoon over the dressed frisee and scatter the remaining herbs and capers on top and serve.