This savory tarte tatin is the first recipe I bookmarked when I got my copy of River Cottage Veg and the dish I most anticipated cooking and eating. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's take on the French dessert is the perfect example of the wonders of vegetable cookery. Beets—the candy of the vegetable world—are excellent in the role of apples in this tart. Paired with buttery puff pastry and pungent shallot-parsley vinaigrette, they are sweet and savory all at once. Each bite is a treat.
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You won't miss the meat in this vegetarian biryani from River Cottage Veg. Served with fluffy saffron basmati rice, the base is a richly spiced stew of potatoes, peas, and carrots, fragrant with cardamom, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander.
Caponata is one of my favorite dippy things to whip out for summertime entertaining. A tangy sweet-and-sour melange of eggplant, tomatoes, and briny olives, the dish plays well with summer staples like grilled bread, grilled chicken, and grilled...well, anything. This version, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's version in River Cottage Veg, calls for an ingredient that I'd never thought to include in my caponatas: chocolate.
Chilled potato-leek soup, or Vichyssoise, is an excellent budget dish to have up one's sleeve. At its most basic, the soup's humble ingredients combine to form a silky, luxurious meal far greater than the sum of its parts. The velvety green soup in River Cottage Veg contains not only the potatoes and leeks, but also a couple of cucumbers and heads of butter lettuce as well. The greenery adds a refreshing touch and brilliant color to the soup, and the dollop of creme fraiche at the end is the perfect tangy-rich note to finish.
As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall grumbles in River Cottage Veg, arugula has become too popular for its own good. His arugula-fennel-lentil salad is an attempt to celebrate the green on its own merit. Earthy lentils and the crunchy, anise notes of fennel do indeed balance the peppery lettuce, and bright lemon zest enlivens the mix.