From curried cauli to aubergine mole: Daniel Watkins’ veg-led sharing plates – recipes | Vegetarian food and drink


Roast cauliflower masala

Cauliflower is a truly versatile vegetable whose mild properties make it the ideal conduit for stronger flavours. Here, it’s elevated with some key aromatics, all of which will stand you in good stead for a well-stocked pantry.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 10 min
Serves 4 as a starter or sharing plate

150ml olive oil
3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
30g tamarind paste
1 stick lemongrass
, bashed to bruise, then finely chopped
½ cinnamon stick
6 fresh curry leaves
, or 1 tsp curry powder
1 fresh makrut lime leaf
1 red chilli
, split lengthways, pith and seeds removed, flesh finely chopped
1 x 400ml tin coconut
200g tinned tomatoes (ie, ½ tin)
Salt and black pepper
2 medium cauliflowers
(about 400-500g)
Roasted almonds, fresh coriander and lime wedges, to serve

First make the masala. Put 100ml oil in a heavy-based pan on a low heat, then add the onions, tamarind paste, lemongrass, cinnamon, curry leaves, lime leaf and chilli, and fry, stirring, for 15-20 minutes, until the onions are soft and caramelised.

Stir in the coconut milk and tomatoes, then turn down to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for an hour. Tip into a blender (or use a stick-blender), blitz smooth and season to taste; if you like, pass the sauce through a fine sieve.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Cut each cauliflower in half, rub half a tablespoon of oil over each piece, season, then put on the tray and roast for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through.

Spoon the warm masala into a wide, shallow bowl and arrange the cauliflower pieces on top (save any leftover masala – once cold, stir in some mayo to make a wonderful salad dressing). Finish with a few roasted almonds, some fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime, then serve hot.

Aubergine steaks with sourdough mole

A pillar of Mexican cuisine, mole is a rich and distinctive addition to any dish, and well worth the extra cooking time. Here, it’s paired with a simple aubergine base, not least to leave extra headspace for the complexities of the sauce. If you can’t get ancho and pasilla chillies, most supermarkets sell a Mexican chilli blend, so use that instead for a kick of heat.

Prep 15 min
Soak 1 hr
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4

4 aubergines
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves
, peeled and crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme
A few roasted seeds and lime wedges
, to serve

For the sourdough mole
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves
, peeled and crushed
30g shelled walnuts
30g shelled hazelnuts
25g sunflower seeds
20g white sesame seeds

1 ancho chilli, soaked in water for an hour, stalk and seeds discarded, flesh finely chopped
5 pasilla chillies
, soaked in water for an hour, stalks and seeds discarded, flesh finely chopped
50g tomato puree
250g sourdough
, cut into slices, toasted, then broken into pieces
¼ cinnamon stick, ground to a powder
4g (1¼ tsp) ground cumin

3g (1 tsp) smoked paprika

Honey, to taste
Orange zest, to taste

First make the mole. Put the oil in a medium pan, then fry the garlic, nuts, seeds and chillies one by one for a couple of minutes each, until golden, scooping them out and straining the oil between frying each ingredient. Stir the tomato puree into the hot oil and cook for a minute or two, until it darkens and turns brick-red.

Tip the oil and tomato mix into a large pot, add the bread, the fried garlic, nuts, seeds and chillies, and the ground spices, then carefully pour in enough water just to cover. Cook on a low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally and topping up the water level so it stays roughly the same throughout; the bread will soak up liquid as it cooks, so you’ll need more water to give the spices time to cook and the seeds to break up.

Blitz to a smooth sauce, pass through a sieve to remove any lumps, then season with salt, honey and orange zest to taste.

Meanwhile, start on the aubergines. Cut a 3cm lengthways slice off both sides of each aubergine (save these offcuts for another use), so you’re left with a large, flat steak.

Put a little olive oil in a wide frying pan on a medium-low heat, then lay in the aubergine steaks (in batches, if need be), add the garlic and thyme, season with a little salt and fry until coloured on both sides. Transfer to a baking tray, then put under a low grill and cook on both sides until nice and soft and golden

Spoon a generous pool of hot mole on to each plate, top with an aubergine steak and finish with a scattering of roasted seeds and a squeeze of lime.

Grilled sweet pepper with miso bagna cauda

Typically made with anchovies, bagna cauda is a salty staple of northern Italy, especially Piedmont. Here, it’s been veganised by substituting one store-cupboard ingredient for another, with the miso adding umami depth instead.

Prep 10 min
Cool 30 min
Cook 4 hr
Serves 4

4 red bell peppers
Olive oil
, for greasing
Salt and black pepper
Small capers
, to serve

For the miso bagna cauda
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
250ml olive oil
75g white miso paste

50g garlic, peeled and crushed
½ tsp chilli flakes

First make the bagna cauda. Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer. Peel off and discard the remaining skin and white pith from the zested lemon, roughly chop the flesh and put this in a metal bowl that will sit snugly over the water pan. Add the oil, miso paste, garlic and chilli flakes, mix well and cover with clingfilm.

Place the bowl on top of the water pan and leave to cook gently for 45 minutes, until the garlic is super-soft. Take the bowl off the pan and leave the sauce to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, blend until the mix emulsifies, then check the seasoning. It will now keep, covered, in the fridge for a week (it also works well as a dressing for salads or warm jersey royal or pink fir potatoes).

Turn on the grill to medium-high and leave to heat up for five minutes, until good and hot. Meanwhile, cut each pepper in half and remove and discard the stalks, pith and seeds. Toss the pepper halves in a little olive oil, to coat, and season.

Lay the peppers cut side down in a grill pan, then leave to cook for four to five minutes, until nicely charred. Flip over, and grill for another four to five minutes, until the skin is charred and blistered. Transfer the peppers to a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to steam for five or so minutes. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, if you like, though I don’t usually bother.

Arrange the pepper halves on a large plate, top each one with a big spoonful of bagna cauda, scatter over a few capers and serve.

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