There is a little black book on the kitchen table. Neatly annotated in places, virtually illegible in others, it is the latest in a long line of tissue-thin pages containing the handwritten details of everything I eat.
Despite my being resolutely omnivorous, it is clear how much of my everyday eating has become plant based. Although not strictly vegetarian – the bottom line for me will always be that my dinner is delicious, not something that must adhere to a set of strict dietary rules – much of my weekday eating contains neither meat nor fish. I am not sure this was a particularly considered choice. It is simply the way my eating has grown to be over the past few years. I do know, however, that I am not alone in this.
My new book, Greenfeast, like Eat before it, is a collection of what I eat when I finish work every day: the casual yet spirited meals with which I sustain myself and whoever else is around. The recipes are, like those in previous collections, more for inspiration than rules to be adhered to, slavishly, word for word. But, unlike Eat, this collection offers no meat or fish. The idea of collecting these recipes together is for those like-minded eaters who find themselves wanting inspiration for a supper that owes more to plants than to animals.
A note on the recipes
Though all are plant based, the six recipes from Greenfeast that are appearing on irishtimes.com this week – one each day, from Monday to Saturday – are not strictly vegetarian. They can, however, be rendered suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets with a bit of informed tweaking.
NIGEL SLATER’S FREEKEH, PEACHES, FETA
Sweet-salty cheese and fruit. The comfort of warm grain
Serves two to three
Few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 large peach
3tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 Set the oven at 200 Celsius/gas 6. Put the freekeh, thyme and bay on to boil with enough water to cover by a good third. Salt it lightly and simmer for 15 minutes.
2 Place a large piece of foil on a baking sheet, lay the piece of feta in the middle and sprinkle with the zaatar. Halve the peach, discard the stone, then cut each half into four. Tuck the peach around the feta, then pour over two tablespoons of the olive oil. Pull the sides of the foil up around its cargo and scrunch loosely to seal. Bake for 20 minutes.
3 Peel and finely slice the onion, then fry until crisp in the reserved oil. Set aside on kitchen paper.
4 Chop the mint and parsley together. Remove the feta from the oven and open the parcel. Pour the baking juices into a bowl and mix with the juice of the lemon. Drain the freekeh, discarding the herbs, then dress with the lemon and baking juices. Fold in the mint and parsley, then break up the feta into large pieces and add. Lay the peaches among the freekeh, top with the crisp onions and serve.
Greenfeast: Spring, Summer, by Nigel Slater, is published by 4th Estate Books