3 recipes to go vegetarian in style from MasterChef champions

The food industry is facing new challenges beyond the quality of cooking, writes Sean Russell. That’s why MasterChef have released a new cookbook that celebrates the magic of sustainable, healthy, vegetarian food

Saturday 01 May 2021 07:30
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<p>Piping hot – and green – mac’n’cheese fresh out of the oven is a sight to behold</p>

Piping hot – and green – mac’n’cheese fresh out of the oven is a sight to behold

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asterChef has come a long way since its humble beginnings. What was once only a BBC show in 1990, exploring what cooks could do with simple ingredients, is now something of a behemoth with over 60 productions worldwide, and watched annually by over 300 million people.

Participants have gone on to have their own restaurants, write their own cookbooks and win Michelin stars and viewers have been inspired not just to cook but to create delicious meals.

But MasterChef creator, Franc Roddam, knows that the food industry is facing new challenges ahead, “above and beyond the quality of cooking”. This change in priorities has inspired a new cookbook, MasterChef Green: 90 Veggie Recipes to Raise the Ordinary to the Extraordinary.

“We now live in a time where sustainability of produce is in doubt,” he writes in his foreword. “We also have to consider healthy eating, the health of the soil and the negative effects of food production in an over-populated world. Significantly, we must take a look at the immorality of food waste. These problems must be taken seriously in a way that does not take the pleasure out of eating. It’s essential to retain the magic.”

And that is what MasterChef Green aims to do: retain the magic of sustainable, healthy, vegetarian food. There are recipes from Alida Gotta, Gabriel Jonsson, Sowmiya Venkatesan and others from all around the world. So many, in fact, it was hard for us to pick our favourites but here are three that we think you’ll like.

Green mac’n’cheese with an almond crumb

Piping hot mac’n’cheese fresh out of the oven is a sight to behold. The bubbling cheese sauce trying to make its way through the golden-crusted topping never fails to set the taste buds alight. It’s also an opportunity to get creative. Use fresh herbs and salad leaves in the white sauce and add some nuts for added texture. Yes, it’s quite literally green, and will be a great hit with humans of all ages.

Makes: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

350g macaroni

100g sourdough, torn into pieces

30g blanched almonds

50g butter

1 small brown onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

30g plain flour

700ml milk

100g mature cheddar, grated

½ tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp thyme leaves

65g vegetarian grating cheese, grated

150g frozen peas, defrosted

30g baby spinach

6g flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked

6g basil leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/gas mark 6.

2. Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water for 2 minutes less than the instructions on the packet, then drain under cold water to stop the pasta cooking further.

3. Whizz the sourdough and almonds in a food processor until a smallish crumb forms, then set aside.

4. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onion and garlic for 2 minutes until soft, stirring. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for a minute until a paste forms. Gradually add 600ml of the milk, using a whisk to create a smooth white sauce.

5. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 3-5 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly, then season with salt and cracked black pepper. Off the heat, stir in the cheddar, dijon mustard, thyme, 50g of the vegetarian grating cheese and the peas.

6. Whizz the remaining 100ml milk in a blender with the spinach, parsley and basil and add this mixture to the white sauce. Fold in the macaroni and mix well to combine. Pour the green mac’n’cheese into a 24x18cm baking dish and top with the almond crumb and remaining vegetarian grating cheese.

7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the crumb topping is golden and the mac’n’cheese is bubbling. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

8. Serve with a few crisp salad leaves simply dressed with good oil and a little lemon juice.

Read more:

Corn fritters with smashed peas, quick-pickled onions and poached eggs

Corn fritters and brunch go hand-in-hand

Corn fritters and brunch go hand-in-hand. Packed with vibrancy and flavour, a batch of these is a great way to ease into the weekend. Mashed avocado is the classic accompaniment but, depending on where you live, those avocados may have come from a long way away. Mashed peas are a great substitute and they provide added freshness, while helping to keep ingredients a little closer to home.

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

250g corn kernels (from about 3 cobs)

½ red pepper, finely chopped

½ red onion, finely chopped

12g coriander, chopped

Zest of 1 lime

50g polenta

110g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

170ml buttermilk

2 eggs, beaten

30g unsalted butter, melted

80ml sunflower oil

Sea salt

For the quick-pickled onions:

100ml cider vinegar

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp sea salt

3 black peppercorns

3 coriander seeds

½ red onion, sliced

For the smashed peas:

250g frozen peas, defrosted

Handful mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ tbsp lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the poached eggs:

1 tbsp white vinegar

6 eggs

To serve:

100g creme fraiche

50g watercress or rocket

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 100C fan/120C/gas mark ½.

2. The day or night before, make the quick-pickled onions to allow enough time for the flavour to develop. You can always make a larger quantity of the onions to use in sandwiches or with cheese.

3. Bring the vinegar to the boil in a saucepan and add the sugar, salt, peppercorns and coriander seeds. Leave to simmer for a few minutes, then remove from the heat and add the sliced onion. Leave to cool, then transfer to a sterilised jar.

4. For the smashed peas, put the peas, mint, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and whizz, leaving it with some texture (don’t over-blend it and let it turn into a puree). Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

5. To make the corn fritters, place 3 large bowls on a work surface. In one bowl combine the corn kernels, pepper, onion, coriander and lime zest. In the next bowl mix together the polenta, flour, baking powder, smoked paprika and 1 tsp of salt. In the last bowl mix together the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter.

6. Begin by folding together the corn and pepper mixture with the polenta and flour mixture. Mix well, then add the contents to the bowl with the buttermilk, eggs and butter, so it’s all in one bowl. Gently fold the mixture together, trying not to overwork the mixture. Chill in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to allow the batter to firm up.

7. When you’re ready to cook, heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium to high heat. When hot, drop heaped dessertspoons of the corn fritter batter into the pan. Cook the fritters for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning carefully using a fish slice. Drain on kitchen paper while you cook the remaining fritters. Once all of the fritters are cooked, put them on an oven tray and keep warm in the oven while you poach the eggs.

8. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the pan. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and use a slotted spoon to stir the water in a circular motion to create a vortex before cracking the eggs into the water one by one. Poach the eggs for 3 minutes 30-45 seconds then carefully remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and put on a clean tea towel.

9. To serve, put the smashed peas onto the plates first, followed by the corn fritters, some creme fraiche and then the pickled onions, watercress or rocket and add a poached egg on the side.

Pulled jackfruit tacos with chipotle, charred corn and coleslaw

These tacos guarantee any new veggie convert won’t be missing meat at all

Jackfruit is such a versatile fruit and a relatively new “greatest hit” in the vegetarian world. Given the right treatment, its flesh can be unbelievably similar to that of pulled pork or shredded chicken. Add the lovely smoky chipotle braise and liquid smoke, and these tacos will guarantee that any new veggie convert won’t be missing meat at all.

Makes: 10 servings

Ingredients

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 brown onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large chipotle chilli in adobo sauce, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

120g tomato ketchup

250ml water

½ tbsp liquid smoke

2 x 400g cans young jackfruit in water, drained and shredded

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the charred corn:

2 cobs of corn, kernels removed

For the coleslaw:

150g red cabbage, finely shredded

1 medium carrot, cut into thin matchsticks

4 spring onions, finely sliced

Juice of ½ lime

80g soured cream, plus extra to serve

Small handful coriander, chopped

To serve:

10 corn or wheat tortillas

Avocado slices

Lime wedges

Hot sauce

Method

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until they have softened. Add the chipotle chilli, cumin, coriander, oregano and smoked paprika and cook for a further minute. Add the ketchup, water and liquid smoke and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the jackfruit. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until thickened, then season well with sea salt.

2. While the jackfruit is cooking, char the corn kernels in a dry frying pan over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until they start to get some dark charred marks. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan to allow the corn to steam and cook through for a further 1-2 minutes then set aside.

3. For the coleslaw, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

4. In a separate frying pan, toast the tortillas over a medium heat until they are warm and lightly toasted but not crisp.

5. To make the tacos, start by putting some coleslaw in the centre of each tortilla, then top with pulled jackfruit followed by the charred corn kernels. Serve with extra soured cream, slices of avocado, lime wedges and hot sauce for the ones who like it hot.

‘MasterChef Green’ by Adam O’Shepherd and MasterChef champions (Bloomsbury Absolute, £26; photography by Adam O’Shepherd) is available now

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