Vegetarian for dinner? Meals even life-long carnivores will love

Middle-Eastern-plus is how Nigella Lawson describes the food dreamed up by Sabrina Ghayour in her new book

Milli’s charred sweetcorn salad, from Bazaar, by Sabrina Ghayour.

Milli’s charred sweetcorn salad, from Bazaar, by Sabrina Ghayour.

 

As the popularity of vegetarian and vegan food continues to soar, Sabrina Ghayour is bang on trend with the release, today, of her fourth cookbook, Bazaar: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes.

It is another big and bold and riotously colourful publication from the UK’s best-known Persian cooking expert. Even committed carnivores, like Ghayour herself, will find plenty to inspire between its covers.

True to her heritage, there are Iranian influences at work, but not exclusively – Middle-Eastern-plus, is how fellow author Nigella Lawson describes Ghayour’s work. But it is in the generous, packed-with-flavour dishes from her homeland that she excels. Good examples are the aubergine in tomato and tamarind sauce, and chickpea and vegetable koftas – both the sort of vegetarian dishes that make meat redundant.

As well as the expected egg dishes and soups and salads, there are recipes for pies, breads and pastries, sweet treats and store-cupboard suppers. Light bites and sharing plates get their own chapter, and for more robust appetites there are “moreish mains”.

“Bazaar is the ancient Persian word for market, and is shared by many other Eastern cultures ... No matter which country I travel to, one of my greatest joys is visiting a good market,” says Ghayour, who lives between London and Yorkshire, where she recently bought a house. She is an occasional visitor to Dublin too, keeping in touch with her half-Irish, half-Iranian cousins.

Here are two recipes from the book, hot off the presses. The first cleverly combines tomatoes with buttermilk, a crunchy spiced polenta crust and dried oregano. The second utilises those tins of palm hearts you can pick up in good delis and combines them with charred sweetcorn, red onions, baby tomatoes and fresh coriander in a colourful salad.

Sabrina Ghayour’s spiced buttermilk fried tomatoes
Sabrina Ghayour’s spiced buttermilk fried tomatoes

SPICED BUTTERMILK FRIED TOMATOES

This is definitely one of my better ideas. When I made my mother try one, with her first bite she smiled and said, "How on earth do you come up with this stuff?". Rest assured, this is her unique way of paying a compliment! My only advice is don’t be tempted to use ripe tomatoes for this recipe – the firmer and more underripe, the better.

Ingredients
Serves 4-6
Vegetable oil, for frying
200g best-quality polenta (not quick-cook)
250ml buttermilk
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp garlic granules
2 tsp sumac
4 large tomatoes, such as beef tomatoes
3 tblsp dried wild oregano
Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

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Method
Pour enough vegetable oil into a large, deep frying pan or saucepan to fill to a depth of about 2.5cm. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat and bring to frying temperature (add a little polenta: if it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough).

Line a plate with a double layer of kitchen paper. Pour the polenta on to a plate and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the buttermilk with the cayenne pepper, garlic granules, sumac and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Slice the tomatoes into 1.5cm thick slices – I usually get about four slices per tomato. Discard the ends, since the polenta doesn’t stick to the skin very easily.

Drag a tomato slice through the buttermilk and shake off any excess liquid, then place it gently in the polenta and coat the cut sides and the edges as best you can, carefully patting the polenta on to the slice to encrust it.

Lower it carefully into the hot oil, then repeat with the remaining tomato slices, frying in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Gently fry the slices for about 1 minute on each side, or until they start to brown. If they brown too fast, your oil is too hot, in which case switch off the heat and cook a few slices, then when the oil is at the right temperature, switch the heat back on.

Remove the slices from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to the paper-lined plate to drain, then sprinkle over some salt and the oregano. Serve the tomatoes hot.

MILLI’S CHARRED SWEETCORN SALAD

Once in a blue moon, I sheepishly agree to cook a meal for a talented chef friend of mine named Milli Taylor. Milli is one of those doubly talented individuals who not only makes food that tastes amazing, but her creations look beautiful, too. She always enjoys my salads, and this one in particular – a rainbow salad, as she calls it. She has good taste – it’s also a favourite of mine.

Ingredients
Serves 4-6
2 sweetcorn cobs
400g can hearts of palm, drained and cut diagonally into 1cm thick slices
300g baby tomatoes, halved
A red onion, sliced into half moons
A small packet (about 15g) of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

For the dressing
3 tblsp Greek yogurt
1 tblsp harissa
Juice of a fat lime
Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method
Mix the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the corn cobs in a saucepan of simmering water for 10 minutes, or until soft but not completely tender, then drain.

Preheat a griddle pan over a high heat and griddle the corn cobs for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until charred in places. Remove from the heat and transfer to a chopping board. Hold the sweetcorn cobs vertically and, using a sharp knife, cut down to slice off the kernels, then put them in a mixing bowl.

Arrange the hearts of palm, corn kernels, tomato and red onion on a serving platter. Dot with the dressing, then scatter over the coriander and serve.

Recipes and images from Bazaar: Vibrant Vegetarian and Plant-Based Recipes by Sabrina Ghayour, which is published today by Mitchell Beazley (£26). Photographs: Kris Kirkham

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