As I’ve mentioned previously, I love my cookery books and over the past years my collection of vegan and plant-based recipe books has grown and grown. One of my favourites for straightforward and exceptionally tasty vegan food is “Bosh!”, the original publication from Henry Firth and Ian Theasby. I was excited to get my hands on the latest release from the Bosh boys in early September: “Speedy Bosh” promises lots of new recipes for “amazing food” in 30 minutes. I know (because I bought them) that Nigella and Jamie have previously put together volumes for the time-conscious cook, but this is the first, all-colour, mainstream (for plant-based eating has undoubtedly swum to the mainstream) release I’ve seen for vegan cooking.
“Speedy Bosh” has great kerb appeal: it’s all hot pink and black, stuffed with Insta-worthy photographs of plates, bowls and boards of the prepared recipes and offers lots of hacks (for anyone not down with the latest lingo, this means hints and recommendations) for speedy cooking. The recipes are clustered together in sections covering hearty, takeaways, sharing, lighter, sweet, drinks and breakfasts. The weekend I got my hands on the book, I thought I’d start by cooking the first two recipe in the hearty section: cheat’s toad in the hole with curry gravy and aubergine and lentil meatball pasta.
The cheat’s toad in the hole is a great idea, using ready-rolled puff pastry instead of a traditional egg and milk-heavy batter. It was quick and easy to assemble and the addition of a tablespoon of curry powder to the wash for the pastry is inspired, adding richness to the colour and taste of the finished meal. The curry gravy is also a doddle to make though I deviated from the recipe by crushing in a couple of cloves of garlic and allowing them to cook out with the onion, rather than putting them in whole and removing just before serving. It added a few extra minutes to the overall cooking time but I wasn’t in a rush and wanted to get a more garlicky depth to the gravy. As ever with the Bosh boys, as well as dollops of ketchup, mustard and soy sauce and a good sprinkle of curry powder, the gravy had the extra flavour boost of nutritional yeast (nooch, as the L likes to call it). If you haven’t investigated nutritional yeast, let me introduce you to this incredible product: deactivated yeast, dried and sold as feather-light golden flakes which, when added to dishes, gives a nutty cheesy taste. My incomparable sister-in-law, Christine, says it smells like old socks. I think it smells delicious and opening the tin and having a deep sniff is a guilty pleasure and takes me back to being a child and inhaling greedily the scent wafting from a bag of freshly opened cheesy Wotsits.
A quick and easy recipe that made for a tasty Saturday evening dinner, served with a green salad, and left plenty for lunch on Sunday. Apart from anything else, the recipe reminded me how utterly joyful it is to cut into well-baked puff pastry and watch the explosion of flakes land in a close perimeter around your plate, and the pleasure of collecting up all the crumbly flakes with a (washed, sanitised and) dampened finger. This one is being added to my rep.
The following morning I went in search of a tub of baba ganoush for the second recipe I wanted to try: aubergine and lentil meatball pasta. I won’t retell here the sorry story of the lack of baba ganoush in the Surrey/Kent/Sussex borderlands in mid-September but four supermarkets, three convenience stores and a seven-day Post Office later, I gave up on my quest to find a tub, instead buying five aubergines and deciding to make my own. Inevitably this drove, as we like to say, a coach and horses through the 30 minute prep time. And all for four tablespoons of baba G in the meatball mix! It was worth it though, as we had enough left over to enjoyed as “cracker snacks” until mid-week.
Essentially this is a “spaghetti and meatballs” recipe where the meatballs are speedily assembled (baba G permitting) using a packet of pre-cooked puy lentils, breadcrumbs, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes. The baba ganoush acts as the binder which, of course, results in quite crumbly meatballs, a fact acknowledged in the recipe. I cooked the meatballs in the oven, rather than risk them falling apart in a frying pan as recommended by the boys. Oven-baking produced a crispy shell and soft inside, and they held together. The addition of fresh mint to the meatballs alongside the more usual parsley was an innovation I wasn’t sure about, but it worked very well and I’ll definitely use this again.
The recipe called for the cooked meatballs to be added to and moved through the warmed pasta sauce prior to serving but I decided they looked too fragile so served them on top of the sauce which resulted in a finished dish that had a look of the falafel about it, but tasted great. I’m not sure I’ll return to this recipe any time soon, partly because of the memory of baba G-gate is still too raw, but mainly because Waitrose does excellent frozen vegan meatballs – better even than Ikea’s, I think – which taste great and do hold their shape so I can throw them around the pan with abandon.
The next recipe in the hearty section of the book is for a deep, dark and smoky chilli, and I’m going to head there next. ~ E