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The Caterer

Book review – The Vegetarian Option

20 August 2012
Book review – The Vegetarian Option

The Vegetarian Option
By Simon Hopkinson
Quadrille Publishing, £9.99
ISBN 978-1-84949-183-6

Among the words that chefs dread to hear in the middle of a busy service are: "It's the Michelin inspector" and "Table four are in the trade and would like to tour the kitchen". Running a close third and infinitely more likely, however, is: "There are vegetarians/vegans who aren't keen on the menu and want more vegetarian options". Luckily, help is now at hand via this witty and useful book from the magnificent Simon Hopkinson, former top chef and currently top food writer.

Hopkinson writes well and would be a treat to read even if there were no recipes. He has strong opinions, which you may either applaud or boo.

The book divides into chapters on vegetables, pasta, pulses and grains, rice, eggs and fruit, with a good selection of comforting recipes, such as warm asparagus custards with tarragon vinaigrette; swede and potato pancakes with black pepper cream sauce; Korean kimchi and cheese-crusted, fried parsnip strips with romesco sauce. All the recipes will work and all the dishes will taste good.

There are also dishes that provide a hint of nostalgia for me: a courgette dish with soured cream and dill was similar to a Hungarian marrow dish I used to make at the Gay Hussar in 1970. I reproduced it at the Merchant House in Ludlow, alongside rare breed pork to the complete disdain of the local AA inspector. But it did work and tasted great.

Kay Henderson's carrot timbale was on the menu at Gidleigh Park when I pitched up to work there in 1985 and had helped establish the hotel's reputation for fine food. I remember it as a delight to eat, but a pain to make during service as it took a good 20 minutes to cook and was always made from raw when ordered. Paul and Kay Henderson ran Gidleigh purely on the basis of serving what they wanted to eat themselves. It seemed a strange guideline at the time, but strikes me as rather intelligent now.

There are a few pud recipes, too, such as a blackcurrant jelly trifle; blueberry pie and a couple of quince and damson jobs. Nice of course, but they are not really the heart of this first-rate book.

Do buy it and then read it. The prose around the recipes is worth the cost alone. And Jason Lowe's photography is a bonus.
By Shaun Hill, chef-proprietor, the Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

If you like this, you'll love these:
Plenty Yotam Ottolenghi
â- Delia's Vegetarian Collection Delia Smith
â- Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian Cookbook Madhur Jaffrey

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