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Cook from the book: You Can Cook This!

by Francesca Sleet

published on 29 March 2023

Packed with 120 no-fuss, veg-centric dishes, Max La Manna’s new cookbook You Can Cook This! is a manifestation of Max’s belief that minimising food waste doesn’t have to mean compromising on flavour. From simple midweek meals and easy one-pot dinners, to crowd-pleasing dinner party dishes and tempting bakes and desserts, these recipes prioritise affordable ingredients and seasonal produce and include plenty of suggestions for the leftovers that are so often destined for the bin. With more of us than ever before looking for ways to reduce our food consumption and make each shop stretch further, we gathered a team of home cooks with an interest in sustainability to test out Max’s recipes and let us know what they thought.

From the book

Who: Émilie Hames, Sustainability Production Controller

What I made: One-tray Baked Gnocchi

What I thought: According to Max, this recipe was a huge hit with his Instagram followers and I can see why! It was incredibly quick and easy to prepare; you’re essentially throwing all your ingredients onto one tray, so it’s a really efficient way of cooking – and means less washing up later on! The combination of pasta, tomatoes, greens, and cheese is a timeless classic, but the choice to use gnocchi and mozzarella elevates the dish, resulting in a slightly more sophisticated pasta bake. All of these ingredients are common fridge staples, so it’s also a great recipe to turn to when you need to use up leftovers. Overall, the simplicity of the recipe and the punchy Italian flavours make this dish an instant classic. I’ll definitely be cooking this recipe again for my office lunches!

Who: Mia Oakley – Campaigns Officer, Ebury

What I made: Charred Aubergine & Peanut Stew and Fragrant Flatbread.

What I thought: So divine! For my first time cooking an aubergine stew and flatbreads, this was so easy to make – proven by the fact I managed to prove and cook it all post-work on a Monday. Max’s trick to soak the aubergine was ingenious as it easily drew out the excess water. I recommend crunchy peanut butter as it adds a wonderful texture to the stew. Also, this stew included one of my favourite types of low-energy (read low-effort) cooking; simmering. And the flatbreads really were fragrant. I used coconut yoghurt as suggested and finished them off with butter, garlic, basil and chives. I have since had these flatbreads twice in the same week for my lunch and as a snack. I really could cook this, and I definitely will cook this (and more) again.

Who: Alice King, Senior Campaigns Manager

What I made: Crispy Kale Udon Noodles with Peanut Butter Miso Dressing

What I thought: This was such a brilliant weeknight meal! I never know what to do with kale and roasting it really took it to a different level. I paired this with the crispy tofu, another recipe in You Can Cook This! which was so delicious; I did not know tofu could have that much flavour. The zingy dressing brought it all together so well. I’ll absolutely be making this again!

Who: Anda Podaru, Children’s Right’s Executive 

What I made: Greens and Feta Tarte Soleil

What I thought: I loved this recipe! It’s easy to make and definitely something you can whip up to impress dinner guests. For the greens, I used spinach and wild garlic, which went beautifully with the feta, walnuts, and lemon zest. My favourite part is the versatility of the recipe, in true Max la Manna fashion; use whatever you have on hand to minimise food waste!

Who: Demeter Scanlon, Head of Campaigns

What I made: Pulled Mushroom Tacos, Avocado and Tomato Salsa

What I thought: I love these meat-free tacos. The texture of the King Oyster mushrooms made it feel like I was eating pulled pork or chicken and the Aleppo sauce gave it a richness of flavour, paired with the avocado salsa which was fresh and fragrant. Such an easy weeknight dinner, I’ll definitely be making this one again.

Who: Isabelle Hanrahan, Editorial Assistant

What I made: Quick Garlic Chilli Ramen

What I thought: This was super easy to put together from ingredients that I already had and it made for a tasty, speedy midweek dinner. The ginger and lime added a freshness to the noodles and the sauce was very moreish, and I couldn’t resist adding another tablespoon of chilli oil once I’d started eating. The cleanup was minimal, so I prepped, cooked, ate and washed up within 25 minutes! I’ll definitely be making this again as a simple WFH lunch.

Who: Abby Watson, Head of Campaigns

What I made: Lemon and Poppy Seed Shortbread Fingers with Lemon Glaze.

What I thought: I had all of these ingredients in already, so this recipe was an easy no-brainer! I love to bake but previous attempts at shortbread haven’t always gone to plan – either too crumbly or too burnt. This was incredibly easy to make, stayed together and was full of lemony flavour! Max’s tip to score the shortbread before baking was genius, it resulted in clean slices which was incredibly satisfying and made it look very presentable.

Who: Leah Attwood, Publishing Operations Exec Audio

What I made Really Good Stuffed Peppers

What I thought I am so excited to have found a delicious stuffed peppers recipe, as I love the idea of a stuffed pepper but am often underwhelmed with the results when I make it myself. The recipe was so quick and simple to follow, and the combination of mint and sultanas with the feta and couscous really surprised me in the best way. Plus I made loads of couscous filling that I’ve been able to freeze for future meals!

Who: Louise King, Library & Archive Manager/Green Team member

What I made: Brown Butter and Crispy Sage Mac and Peas

What I thought: I made this dish because I have never found a straightforward recipe for macaroni cheese that works; this one does! It was really simple to follow and the addition of the peas, brown butter and sage made it even more delicious! They make it feel more like a meal than a side dish, although it could easily work for that too. As I couldn’t get any fresh, I did use dried sage, which was fine as a substitute, but other than that, everything else is a cupboard staple (for me) which was great! It made for a really tasty, comfort meal and there was enough leftover to pop in the freezer.

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