British food may not spring to mind when you’re conjuring healthy meals, but thanks to a new generation of chefs like Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver, that stereotype is changing. Nigel Slater, who’s been a food columnist at The Observer for 18 years and is a presenter on BBC, is known for simple home cooking, and promotes the idea that making your own food (and eating your vegetables) isn’t just healthy, but can actually make you happier, too. His latest cookbook, Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch, was just released in the U.S. and tells the story of his impressive home garden, with over 400 recipes for the 29 vegetables that he grows in his back yard.
The elegant hard-cover volume is full of beautiful photos (like the one below) that will make you wish you could quit your job to garden and cook all day. Don’t quit your job; head to the farmer’s market and try his recipe for asparagus, fava bean, and mint pilaf below:
A pilaf of asparagus, fava beans, and mint
enough for 2
fava beans, shelled – a couple of handfuls
thin asparagus spears – 12
white basmati rice – 2/3 cup (120g)
butter – 4 tablespoons (50g)
bay leaves – 3
green cardamom pods – 6, very lightly crushed
black peppercorns – 6
a cinnamon stick
cloves – 2 or 3, but no more
cumin seeds – a small pinch
thyme – a couple of sprigs
green onions – 4 thin ones
parsley – 3 or 4 sprigs
to accompany the pilaf:
chopped mint – 2 tablespoons
olive oil – 2 tablespoons
yogurt – 3/4 cup (200g)
Cook the fava beans in deep, lightly salted boiling water for four minutes, until almost tender, then drain. Trim the asparagus and cut it into short lengths. Boil or steam for three minutes, then drain. Wash the rice three times in cold water, moving the grains around with your fingers. Cover with warm water, add a teaspoon of salt, and set aside for a good hour.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, cumin seeds, and sprigs of thyme. Stir them in the butter for a minute or two, until the fragrance wafts up. Drain the rice and add it to the warmed spices. Cover with about 1/4 inch (1cm) of water and bring to a boil. Season with salt, cover, and decrease the heat to simmer. Finely slice the green onions. Chop the parsley.
After five minutes, remove the lid and gently fold in the asparagus, fava beans, green onions, and parsley. Replace the lid and continue cooking for five or six minutes, until the rice is tender but has some bite to it. All the water should have been absorbed. Leave, with the lid on but the heat oV, for two or three minutes. Remove the lid, add a tablespoon of butter if you wish, check the seasoning, and fluff gently with a fork. Serve with the yogurt sauce below.
to accompany the pilaf:
Stir 2 tablespoons of chopped mint, a little salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil into 3/4 cup (200g) thick, but not strained, yogurt. You could add a small clove of crushed garlic too. Spoon over the pilaf at the table.
Reprinted with permission from Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater, copyright © 2009, 2010. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.”
Photo credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2009