Jamie Oliver is back with a brand new cookbook to help us all pack more veg onto our plates. Whether you're already a veggie fan or a carnivore who can't imagine a meal without meat, there is something for everyone in this brilliant cookbook full of creative ways to eat more veg. From crowd pleasers the whole family can get behind to veggie twists on all of your favourite dishes, VEG is a perfectly-timed collection of inspiring recipes.
Always keen to be the first to try out any new Jamie cookbook, The Happy Foodie team got straight in the kitchen to try out some of the recipes. Here is how we got on...
Who: Laura Nicol, Senior Publicity Manager, Michael Joseph
What I made: Greens Mac 'n' Cheese
What I thought: I like to think of myself as a mac and cheese aficionado, but my over-indulgence comes with a deep sense of guilt about the sheer amount of beige food I’m consuming. But here we have a GREEN mac and cheese, this could perfectly bridge the gap between wanting to bask in cheesy carb heaven and also have some semblance of a balanced (or at least colourful) meal.
I was slightly let down by the lack of greens you can get hold of in Coop/Sainsbury’s local (who knew it would be impossible to find a leek or tender stem broccoli in Balham!? Balham!), so I did go slightly off-piste with my ingredients. Because you blend all the greens up, I improvised and threw in REGULAR broccoli, and figured no one would notice, and supplemented a leek for mange tout (this one was a bit of a stretch). But throw in lots of cheese – and how can it possibly go wrong?
Turns out it’s tricky to make a green splat of pasta look appealing, but don’t be put off! It tasted great and I froze a few portions of it, really handy for when those mac and cheese cravings take hold.
Who: Claire Daverley, Marketing Manager, Page Turners
What I made: Honey Halloumi, Figs and Flatbreads
What I thought: Quite frankly, how far wrong can you go with a combo of halloumi, honey and figs? This beautiful brunch was dead easy to throw together, and also quite an exotic crowd-pleaser, making a lovely, light change from a veggie fry up or saucy shakshuka.
It can also work as a dinner and not just brunch; if you increase the number of eggs, as we did, it can easily act as a filling and satisfying main meal. In terms of the actual cooking, it's all about timings with this one. Once the eggs are boiling, you can make the salad whilst they're bubbling away. The salad is simple, fresh and flavoursome, with a tahini, yoghurt and lemon juice dressing, the taste of long, sun-drenched evenings and midsummer barbeques, speckled with the glowing jewels of cucumber and beef tomato. You could add some grains or salsas, too - dress it up however you like, throw it in a bowl and leave it gleaming on the table so people can serve themselves. Once the eggs are done, chuck the halloumi in a pan on a high heat so that it turns golden and crispy whilst you busy yourself with peeling the eggs. Is there anything more satisfying than a beautifully soft-boiled egg, sunny and oozing in the middle? An egg sprinkled with dukkah would be your answer, a gorgeous mixture of crushed chickpeas and herbs that I'll now be adding to my cornflakes if given the chance. (Just kidding. Probably not the right flavour for cereal, as game-changing as it is.) Chop the eggs in half, add the dukkah and again leave those on the table - I hope you've got enough little plates for this one, because it's all about spreading out a sharing platter of dishes, looking as good as they taste. Quarter the figs, destone the olives and add those to the table, too. Finally, scatter the halloumi with sesame seeds, drizzle with honey and serve warm so that you can mop everything up with the flatbreads, and hey presto, you've just delivered a brunch of kings. The heavenly sweetness of the figs pops beautifully against the savoury olives, and the creamy yet tangy salad was offset perfectly with the meatier textures of the cheese, eggs and bread. I'm not ashamed to say I ate it mostly with my fingers, savouring one gorgeous flavour at a time before pairing different combinations. Figs with halloumi. Eggs with tahini salad. Olives dunked in honey and dukkah. A bite of everything with the flatbread. Back to halloumi with a soft, sweet fig. The options are endless, the joy boundless, and I guarantee you'll be wanting this on your table every week.
Who: Sophie Shaw, Creative Metadata Executive, Michael Joseph
What I made: Scruffy Aubergine Lasagne
What I thought: I made this for my housemates and it went down really well – even the big meat-lover was a fan. It was super easy to cook as there’s minimal prep, so there was also hardly any washing up which is always a bonus! The flavours were really tasty and we liked how adding the crushed almonds gave it a crispy top once it had been in the oven. I’ll definitely make it again.
Who: Helena Fouracre, Marketing Executive, Michael Jospeh
What I made: Veggie Moussaka
What I thought: I’ve been so excited to get my hands on a copy of Veg, everything looks delicious and full of recipes I want to try my hand at but after a lot of deliberation I decided to have a go at the veggie moussaka.
It takes a little bit of prep work and you’ll definitely need a large casserole dish as Jamie suggests, otherwise your hob may look a little worse for wear (as mine did by the end) But this meal is perfect for making on a Sunday afternoon with a glass of wine, you can really take your time and you’re left with a beautiful, bubbling bake of aubergines, potatoes and golden feta sprinkled on top. It’s also really good for leftovers – perfect if you’re being super organised and batch cooking for the week!
Who: Fola Adebayo, Marketing Executive, Michael Jospeh
What I made: Sweet Leek Carbonara
What I thought: This was a fresh spin on carbonara for me, I don’t usually use leeks in my meals so this was different! Really great and simple midweek meal to make after work. Carb joy!
Who: Sophie Tudor, Marketing Executive, Dead Good
What I made: Amazing Veggie Chilli
What I thought: I don’t own a griddle pan, so I wasn’t off to a great start with this recipe but choosing to remain undefeated, I opted to roast all of the vegetables instead. This worked well but did mean I ended up sacrificing the smoky, chargrilled flavour that undoubtedly sets this apart from your run-of-the-mill chilli.
Once the task of chopping is out of the way, the rest of the recipe is relatively straightforward. Most of the cooking time is taken up by letting it all simmer at the end. I hadn’t thought of using lemon zest in chilli before but this really works, especially paired with the mild nutty flavour of the black rice. My favourite part about this recipe was the quantity it makes. This is definitely one to prepare in advance and freeze for evenings when you’re feeling lazy.