I’ve been reading Richard Buckley’s new book, Plants Taste Better. Those of you who live within easy reach of Bath might have dined at Acorn Restaurant. In 2013 Richard bought the restaurant (then called Demuths) from Rachel Demuth who has since concentrated on her rather wonderful vegetarian cookery school.
The dishes served Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen are superb. For a meat eater to dine here, you forget that there’s no meat or fish and just concentrate on savouring the beautifully presented dishes.
Dipping into the book, I quickly discover that Richard’s instructions not only show you how to cook the dish but also carefully point you towards the different elements that will really make the dish sing. For example, a green lentil and onion pate is served with rye bread, sauerkraut and mustard. Roasted beetroot is served with a blackberry dressing, a puree of pistachios garnished with thyme and mustard micro leaves I then realise that all these dishes are vegan not vegetarian!
My tip: Read the recipe well in advance if you want to prepare the whole dish
Each recipe dish is presented as it would be in the restaurant. I’d suggest it is rare to get instructions on how to plate the dish in such detail. For the home cook, Richard suggests you try part of the recipe. I can imagine following his instructions to make the roasted beetroot on its own.
We’re encouraged to go out and buy the freshest vegetables possible, to seek out local producers and to eat seasonally. Tips are included on dressings, dips and stocks. Richard even varies the seasoning in his stock depending on the weather – star anise if it sunny, cloves if it is raining. Jerusalem artichokes are in season right now, and this recipe is a delicious way to serve them. And of course, you need a good bread to go with the soup, so do try my focaccia recipe.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
SUNCHOKE (JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE) VELOUTÉ
- 800 ml basic stock
- 500 g 1lb 2oz sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
- 25 ml Extra virgin olive olive oil plus extra to drizzle
- 1 Banana shallot sliced or small onion
- 25 ml Black truffle oil
- Sea salt
- 1/2 lemon juiced
FOR THE MUSHROOM GARNISH
- 125 g Chestnut mushrooms
- 10 ml Extra virgin olive oil
- 20 g banana shallots peeled and finely sliced or small onion
- sea salt
- 25 ml dry white wine
- Make the velouté. Fill a bowl with 1 litre (1¾ pints/4 cups) of cold water and add the juice of half a lemon.
- Using a mandolin, slice the sunchokes quickly and thinly and place straight into the water.
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the shallot. Gently fry until just translucent and going soft.
- Meanwhile, drain the artichokes and pat dry. Add them to the saucepan and fry briefly, then add the stock and bring to the boil.
- Simmer gently with a lid on for 15–25 minutes until the artichokes are so soft they break between your fingertips.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Next make the mushroom garnish. Chop the mushrooms into 5mm (¼-inch) dice.
- Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan (skillet) and add the shallots. Cook gently for about 2 minutes until just soft, but not brown.
- Add the diced mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt and cook until the mushrooms release their juices and these have evaporated.
- Add the wine and cook until the wine has completely evaporated.
- Remove the mushrooms from the heat and check and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a small bowl and keep warm while you finish the velouté.
- Transfer the velouté to a blender or food processor and add the truffle oil and a little salt. Blend until silky smooth and then pass through a sieve. Check and adjust the seasoning and truffle oil flavour, which should not be prominent but should give a richness to the flavour.
- Pour the velouté into 4 soup bowls or mugs, add a spoon of the mushroom duxelle (chopped mushroom) to each bowl and a drizzle of olive oil or truffle oil and serve with the everyday bread.
Make my focaccia
I like to make my focaccia with plenty of herbs. Rosemary is traditionally used, but try a mixture of what ever you have to hand.
- 500 gr white bread flour
- 50 gr olive or rapeseed oil plus extra for drizzling
- 10 gr fresh yeast
- 300 ml water
- 18 gr salt
- 20 gr mixed chopped herbs
- Weigh your ingredients. The temperature of your water should be approximately 20C.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, oil, fresh yeast and half the mixed herbs. Mix together roughly and allow to stand for 1/2 hour to autolyse (pre soak)
- Add the salt, then mix together on a low speed for 3 minutes, then increase the speed to medium for a further 3 minutes or until the dough comes away from the bowl cleanly.
- Cover and allow to prove in a place away from drafts for 1 hour.
- Pre-heat your oven to 200 C
- Roll out the dough thickly 2-3 cm and place in the greased tray. Brush with oil. Make indentations evenly over the dough and sprinkle the remaining herbs into the holes.
- Allow to rest a further 45 minutes before baking.
- Lightly spray water into the oven, place the tray and bake for approximately 25 minutes until risen and golden brown.
- Take out of the oven and brush liberally with olive oil. Let it cool.
Plants Taste Better by Richard Buckley, £25 Published by Jacqui Small.
Visit the The Acorn Restaurant, 2 North Parade Passage, Bath BA1 1NX