Rocket pesto bean burgers

My (fantastic) local pub does a pretty good vegan bean burger. It’s a rich thing, hefty on the cumin and sweet potato, and they serve it with a little avocado.  A good time. I have, however, taken to polluting its vegan essence by ordering it with a slab of cheese on top. This is, if anything, an even better time. But you have to pick your cheeses.

Sharp cheddar on a bean burger, maybe even Red Leicester or a Wensleydale? Yup, for sure. Mozzarella? Not so much.

It ought to work, but the thick, gentle creaminess of the mozzarella just fights the cumin and the spicy/sweet of the dark beans and sweet potato. Hmm. What to do? Could I hack together a bean burger that would be a bit lighter and fit nicely with some melty-gooey cheese?

Rocket pesto bean burgers

The short answer is “kind of”, and the long answer is this week’s experimental recipe.

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Radicchio pesto parcels

It’s the tail-end of Veguary – my annual flirtation with temporary vegetarianism – and I’ve not written much about the food that’s been involved. This is in no small part because my freezer is full of vegetable curry, and I’ve spent a frankly unreasonable amount of time trying to perfect a vegetable moussaka that doesn’t rely on lentils for bulk and body. More on that later, but if you’ve got any suggestions that take less then two hours, I’m listening.

These little puff pastry radicchio parcels are one of the successes from Veguary 2014, and pull off that neat trick of being quite impressive for almost no effort. Although the bitterness of the radicchio itself isn’t for all palates.

Radicchio pesto parcel

This is heavily adapted from Silver Spoon’s Radicchio en Croûte recipe (p.553). For that, you basically just grill small radicchio whole, and bake them in pastry with salt and pepper. It’s tasty if a little plain, and works best with very small heads of radicchio. If you’ve only got the large ones, you’re best slicing them in half.

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Broccoli walnut pesto

I’ve seen a lot of different kinds of pesto recipes lately, some going really quite a way off piste compared to a humble paste of garlic, basil, pine nuts, and all the oil and parmesan your doctor will let you pack yourself with. One in particular caught my eye, which was the cauliflower and almond pesto in the Smitten Kitchen book.

Smitten Kitchen is great, and if you don’t read the blog, you totally should.

Broccoli walnut pesto

I tried the cauliflower version, and although my stick blender wasn’t quite up to it, it was tasty as all hell. And it got me thinking. I love pesto, I love brassicas, cauliflower’s good and all, but what about motherfucking broccoli? Yeah, that’s right – broccoli. Bring it on.

(updated 01/09/15)

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Pappardelle with green beans and pesto

I spent February vegetarian. There – I said it. I’m not ashamed, either, although I’m not exactly proud of the fact that I called it “Veguary”.

Given my near-sexual ecstasy at the prospect of rillettes and cassoulet, “why?” is a perfectly valid question.

It was largely an experiment, to be honest. But I do feel a bit iffy about the macroeconomics and ecology around the contemporary Western diet, and eating less meat (along with one or two other dietary shifts) seems like a decent enough first step. Mostly though, it was to make cooking more interesting.

I’ll write more about Veguary in future, I’m sure. But armed with the River Cottage Veg everyday book and a fair quantity of enthusiasm, I set about it, and I survived, and I learned a lot.

One of the main things I learned was how to make things I genuinely enjoy eating that take less than half an hour to cook. The less healthy lesson I picked up was that many of these dishes are basically just pasta with some kind of vegetable, and a metric fuck-tonne of goats’ cheese dumped over the whole thing.

One of the things I regret is not writing it down at the time. So I’m going to do it now – cook my way through the bits I remember, take pictures, and tell you about it. Continue reading Pappardelle with green beans and pesto