Intense flavours: Vietnamese-style aubergines with prawns
Intense flavours: Vietnamese-style aubergines with prawns

The best vegetarian recipes for Meat Free Week

Bill Granger rejuvenates the stuffed vegetable to make even committed carnivores salivate

Bill Granger
Sunday 22 March 2015 01:00

If you haven't stuffed a vegetable since 1985, or even 1975, I must tell you that like so many things that I gave up in my quest for gastronomic sophistication, they are back. Not necessarily as we knew them back then, of course. You can leave wrinkly peppers packed with unidentified dark matter in the past.

What I'm suggesting instead is altogether fresher and brighter on both the eye and the palate. Courgettes, boiled just long enough to be warmed through, are filled with creamy buffalo mozzarella, salty anchovies, fresh herbs and a zesty pangrattato with a good chilli kick. A bulgur-wheat salad is given a sweet, earthy lift when roasted with spiced squash, getting a lovely nutty topping as a bonus. And grilled aubergines are stuffed with a zingy Vietnamese prawn salad that creates a party of contrasting textures and flavours in the mouth.

Retro? No, there's nothing old-fashioned about this stuffed veg. Just great current combinations that make vegetables the main event of the meal.

Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, and 50 Sekforde Street, London EC1, tel: 020 7251 9032, Follow Bill on Instagram at bill.granger

Vietnamese-style aubergines with prawns (optional)

Charring the aubergine really intensifies the flavours, adding a delicious smoky edge to the dish. You can find crispy shallots in Asian stores, where they sell them in large tubs that will last you for ages. If you can't get hold of them, make your own by deep-frying sliced shallots in light-flavoured oil until crisp.

Serves 4

6-8 baby aubergines
Light-flavoured oil, for brushing
1½ tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1½ tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, chopped
Juice 1 lime, plus lime wedges to serve
150g peeled cooked king prawns, chopped (optional)
3 spring onions, sliced into rounds
Handful coriander leaves
2 tbsp crispy shallots
Handful roasted peanuts, chopped
Plain rice, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways. Using a small, sharp knife, diagonally score lines into the flesh. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Brush the cut side of the aubergines with oil and cook cut-side down in the dry pan, pressing down until charred. You probably won't be able to fit all the aubergines in the pan at once, so do this in batches. Transfer to a roasting tin, cover with foil and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the flesh is very tender.

Combine the fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, chilli and lime juice in a bowl. Toss through the prawns and spring onions. Set aside while the aubergine cooks.

Place the cooked aubergine cut-side up in a platter and push down on the flesh with the back of a spoon. Top with the prawn salad then scatter with coriander, crispy shallots and peanuts. Serve with lime wedges and plain rice.

Stuffed squash with bulgur wheat and feta

Look for smallish squash or pumpkins for this dish. Queen squash or Italian Delica pumpkins are perfect in shape and texture.

Serves 4

100g bulgur wheat
2 small squash or pumpkin, cut into thick wedges and seeded
1 tsp honey
1 tsp toasted caraway seeds
Grated zest and juice ½ orange
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
Juice ½ lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp crushed chillies
Small bunch dill, chopped
Handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
4 spring onions, cut into rounds
200g feta cheese, broken into chunks
Plain yoghurt, to serve
Paprika, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7. Place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl. Pour in boiling water from the kettle, until it comes 1cm above the line of the bulgur wheat. Cover with cling film and set aside while the squash bakes.

Place the squash on a baking tray cut-side up and season with salt. Drizzle with oil and bake for 20 minutes. Combine the honey, caraway seeds, orange zest and 1 tbsp of oil in a small bowl. Spoon over the squash and return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and golden.

Make a dressing with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, the orange juice, lemon juice, garlic and chilli. Season with salt and stir through the bulgur wheat. Fold through the herbs, spring onion and feta. Pile into the hollow squash and return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, to lightly toast the top. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt on the side and a little sprinkle of paprika and olive oil.

Courgettes with anchovies (optional), chunky pangrattato and mozzarella

This dish is my way of willing spring along. It makes a lovely lunch served simply with a leafy salad on the side. Who knows, weather permitting, you might even be able to have it outside.

Serves 4

4 courgettes
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
40g day-old ciabatta
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Few lemon thyme sprigs, leaves only
Grated zest 1 lemon
½ tsp crushed chillies
Few mint leaves
Few basil leaves
6-8 anchovy fillets in olive oil (optional)
2 buffalo mozzarella, torn

Blanch the courgettes in a pan of salted, boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes, until just cooked. Drain and refresh in iced water. Cut the cooled courgettes in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Discard the flesh and place the courgettes on a platter. Season with salt and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Preheat the grill. Roughly chop the ciabatta and toss into a bowl with 2 tbsp of olive oil, the garlic, thyme sprigs, lemon zest and chilli.

Tip on to a baking tray and grill until lightly golden. Leave to cool then stir through the mint and basil leaves, anchovy fillets and buffalo mozzarella. Spoon the mixture into the hollow courgettes, add an extra drizzle of olive oil, and serve.

Food stylists: Marina Filippelli and becky wilkinson; stylist: Rachel Jukes

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