Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables: review

Matt_Wilkinson_Mr_Wilkinson's_Favourite_Vegetables

A review copy of Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables cookbook sat on my desk for several weeks before i eventually scooped it up as reading material for a short train ride. Once i started reading it, i damn near missed my stop.

To be honest, i wasn’t inspired to read a book about cooking vegetables. But something about this book – perhaps its solid cardboard, stark white cover with contrasting bright green snow peas etched on it – drew me, repeatedly, to look at it on my desk. I confess (i’m amongst friends, right?) that I even stroked the cover a few times: felt the black embedded lettering and the solidness of the book beneath my palm.

The time and thought invested in that cover paid off. It’s what lured me in. And like a friend i’ve cruelly mistreated, i’ve been trying to make amends to Mr Wilkinson – or Matt Wilkinson, the chef and owner of Melbourne eatery Pope Joan – ever since.

Wilkinson based the book around his favourite 24 vegetables. That’s got to make him a legend, for a start. Who on earth has 24 favourite vegetables? I have a few. Potato, definitely (see my recent blog post For the Love of Spuds). Garlic, perhaps. Beetroot, maybe. But as you can see, i’m pretty bit non-committal. I don’t think i’ve ever wondered which vegetables are my favourites. Frankly, i just haven’t thought of them in that way. Wilkinson knows this to be the case with many of us, and devised a book that aims to make veggies the star ingredient in the kitchen.

As beetroot is a ‘maybe favourite’ of mine i couldn’t resist trying Wilkinson’s foil-roasted big beets with ricotta and mint. The concept is simple. Large beetroots are baked like jacket potatoes in foil, cut and pushed down like jacket potatoes when cooked, then drizzled with red wine vinegar and sprinkled with ricotta and mint leaves. I did exactly what Wilkinson probably didn’t intend, and served them with steaks! Beetroot was the joint winner on that dinner plate. The creaminess of ricotta was the perfect contrast to the dense, sweet beetroot. Mint leaves were a genius touch.

Matt_Wilkinson_foil_roasted_beets

Deciding which recipes to road test from Wilkinson’s book was difficult. So many of them, each accompanied by a bright, fresh photograph, sound and look fantastic. Each of the 24 chapters begins with an introduction to one particular vegetable, which stars in the recipes that follow. Wilkinson discusses why it is a favourite of his, throws in some general advice about preparation and cooking, and some growing tips. Beautiful illustrations are scattered throughout the pages.

For dinner one night i decided to kill two birds with one stone and try two of Wilkinson’s recipes. His bean salad, he tells the reader, is “a home-meal regular” with his own family. It will be the same in our house, i’m sure. We loved the combination of green, yellow, and cannellini beans, alongside tomato, slithers of roasted red onion, and a creamy dressing of creme fraiche, dijon mustard, olive oil and chardonnay vinegar. I dutifully took the leftovers to work for lunch the following day. Next time i won’t rely on leftovers. I’ll make double the quantity.

I also made bagna cauda – a roasted garlic and anchovy dip. Wilkinson serves it with roasted vegetables as a snack. I smothered chicken marylands with it – between skin and flesh – and roasted them in the oven. The chicken – salty with anchovy and subtly garlicy (15 large cloves had been poached in milk, then cooked for 50 minutes in olive oil) was totally lick smackable.

Each time i flick through the pages of Wilkson’s book new recipes jump out at me. Spinach grows like a weed in my veggie patch and i make my own ricotta (i’ve blogged about that, too), so his spinach, mustard greens and baked ricotta cheese is probably next on the list. I can’t wait to make salad of brussels spout leaves, mozzarella & white anchovies; and sherpherd’s pie croquettes are begging to be given a shot.

During one last flick through of Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables before putting this blog post to bed, i found a message at the front from Wilkinson to the reader.

“Thank you so much for picking up this book and reading it,” he says.

Thank you, Mr Wilkinson. The pleasure was all mine.

 

Foil-roasted big beets with ricotta & mint

Serves 4 as a side

I love beetroot. This is just one of the many ways to enjoy it, simply done but so tasty.
We really should celebrate vegetables cooked without fuss much more.

4 beetroot (beets) (200 g/7 oz each), washed and trimmed

olive oil, for drizzling

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

25 ml (3/4 fl oz) red wine vinegar

250 g (9 oz) fresh ricotta, crumbled

1 large pinch of mint leaves, torn

Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7).

Cut 2 sheets of foil and lay them across each other to make a cross. Put the beetroot in the middle, drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then wrap up the beetroot to completely seal. Place on a baking tray and roast for 1 hour. Insert a skewer through a bulb to test to see if they’re cooked.

Once done, carefully transfer onto a serving plate, unwrap, cut an ‘X’ into the tops and push down like a jacket potato. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Just before serving, drizzle over the vinegar, top with the ricotta and mint and season with a little more salt and pepper. I suggest scooping the beetroot flesh out without eating the skin.

Recipe and image from Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables by Matt Wilkinson, published by Murdoch Books

RRP $49.99 

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14 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

14 responses to “Mr Wilkinson’s Favourite Vegetables: review

  1. OMG, you are so a woman, cook, writer and reader after my own heart! How can one not stroke and admire a thing of beauty, especially a book. I saw a snippet in the weekend papers on this one and it caught my eye immediately. Isn’t it such a good thing that recipes leap out at you as you thumb through the pages… ‘cook me, cook me!’. Love the beetroot, beautifully captured here. Hmmm… another one for my shelves, methinks. Thanks Rachel!

  2. Seems like you might be preaching to the choir here Rachel as I, like Lizzy, fondle particularly attractive cookbook covers – it is one area where a book really can be judged by it’s cover. I, too, have favourite veggies so will need to put this book on my list for sure!

    • Oh, no. Our secret is out. We three will become known as The Cookbook Fondlers! It’s a lovely book. Great thought and care have gone into it, which spills out of the pages.

  3. I have to buy that book. And your beetroot looked absolutely amazing. Thanks for posting!

    • It’s certainly a beautiful book. I will be buying for friends who enjoy cooking.
      The roasted beetroot is a lovely, simple recipe.
      The photograph was supplied by the publisher & acknowledged at the end of the post.
      If only I could photograph food so well!

  4. There’s a touch of whimsy with the book, and I adore a bit of whimsy. The simplicity of the recipes sound very appealing to me, too. That roasted beetroot looks beautiful!

  5. Is this another vege book I should add to my bulging cookbook collection? With hubby wanting to eat more vegetarian meals this year, it seems like I have a newfound reason to buy a new bookshelf! But the roasted beetroot sounds absolutely delicious. I think I would also be tempted to serve them with a “side” of meat!!

    You’ve got me thinking about my favourite vegetables … I’m not sure I could identify 24 different varieties, let alone call them my favourite!

    • It’s certainly a book that encourages healthiness, if that helps your dilemma! Here are his 24 favourite vegetables: asparagus, beans & peas, beetroot, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, capsicum, carrot, cauliflower, corn, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, garlic, horseradish, leaves from the garden (he means salad leaves, herbs, flowers), nettle, onion, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, radish, tomato, and zucchini.

  6. Rachel, you’ve given me a great idea for this weekend’s dinner party! Love the idea of those foil roasted beetroots. Will be doing that for sure! :) May I ask how long you bake them for an on what temperature? Thank you!

  7. Hi Lorraine, These gorgeous roasted beetroots would certainly be a simple addition to a dinner party. The recipe says to roast them for an hour – but it was more like an hour and 15 minutes for me. Basically, once you can insert a skewer with ease they’re ready. Heat your oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). Enjoy!

  8. I have tried the Roasted Beetroot at a B.B.Q. and they were a real hit with all a really great recipe and I will be using the recipe again and again Thank you ….Lyn D

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