This lush, creative cookbook celebrates the flavor and versatility of vegetables by bringing them to the center of the table in more than 80 delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes.
Too many of us let vegetables play second fiddle in meals that center on protein or carbs. For chef Matt Wilkinson, vegetables come first. He builds his dishes around vegetables that are in season, when they taste the best, are most affordable, and most readily available.
The recipes in Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables range from simple salads such as Brussels Sprout Leaves, Mozzarella, and Anchovies, or Roasted Cucumber, Quinoa, Freekah, and Herbs, to hearty dishes such as Soft Parmesan Polenta with Crab and Mussels, or Braised Eggplant, Tomato, and Meatballs. They also include satisfying snacks like Irene’s Tzatziki, or Smoked Tomato and Goat’s Curd Gougéres, as well as desserts, such as Carrot Cake with Grated Carrot, Preserved Lemon, Raisin, and Ginger Pickle, or Creamed Rice Pudding. While many of the 80 plus dishes will appeal to vegetarians, there are plenty that incorporate meat. In all of them, Mr. Wilkinson’s vegetables are the stars.
With beautiful photography and vintage illustrations, the book is both timely and timeless.
Australian chef, gardener and restauranteur Matt Wilkinson took some time from his busy schedule to share a few thoughts with us about his new book Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables.
How do you describe your book to people who assume that this is simply a book for vegetarians or vegans?
Sometimes at Christmas time the present you think you want turns out to be trumped by something totally new. Well, sometimes all I ask is, just have a wee look inside–and if you like it, please keep flicking through it until you discover a recipe you want to make.
You have a slightly different approach to a dish. You base it around the vegetables as opposed to the protein. How did that approach come about?
For me it was easy to come to the realisation that wherever you are in the world, if you stop and look around there is always something in season. Surely a cook–home or professional–wants their food to be the most flavoursome. I truly believe that this can only come from whatever is in season around you at that moment in time.
Coming from Yorkshire to Australia did you go through any sort of ‘horticulture shock’?
It was more of a realisation of how and why things grow. For example, I had no idea about real seasons, that peanuts grew in the ground or that rice grew in the head just like wheat. Mainly, my eyes were opened to just how beautiful food and the source of our food really is. That said, I was so confused about pumpkin. In England, it’s pigs’ food not fit for human consumption–but here in Australia as in the US, it is a staple and one that I now truly love.
Do you get much time to garden yourself these days?
Every night and every morning just 5 minutes to myself. It’s a time for me–quite selfish, but I think sometimes a little time to ourselves lets us ponder the day, week, year ahead and past, and gather our thoughts to get on with the wonderful life that we have. I also now garden on Sunday mornings with my son. It’s such a special time for me to share something my grandad and father did with me.
We have just opened up Pope Joan for evenings, and my produce store next to Pope Joan is still a baby, so a lot is going on.
“Matt Wilkinson makes you look at vegetables differently! This book. . . will leave you eager to prepare one of his many delicious recipes.”
—Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin
“I love how my fellow Aussie Matt Wilkinson gives homegrown, seasonal vegetables the spotlight in his dishes. Whether you’re eating in his beautiful market-driven Melbourne cafe or lazily reading through his cookbook Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables, you can taste the admiration he has for all Mother Nature has to offer.”
—Curtis Stone, chef and host of Top Chef Masters and Around the World in 80 Plates
“Matt Wilkinson takes vegetables to a whole new level with his recipes that are simple, yet intricate at the same time. Vegetables have never been as tasty.”
—David Chang, chef/founder of Momofuku
“This book is packed with inventive recipes, gardening advice, and snippets of fun vegetable lore, and it’s one I’ll revisit often.”
—Lukas Volger, author of Vegetarian Entrees that Won’t Leave You Hungry
“I woke up in Melbourne and was whisked away to a studio where there was a make-shift kitchen with a couple guys putting together a meal of the most wonderful vegetables I had ever seen. There was no restaurant, no name. And that is where I met Matt and that chance meal in a warehouse behind a back alley is where one of my most special food memories remain. And now you can all see what I saw that night and maybe cook your own chance meal by Mr. Wilkinson.”
—Roy Choi, chef Kogi Taco, Food & Wine Best New Chef 2010
“This book hits home for me! The way it’s organized makes it so easy for people to celebrate each vegetable during its season and even inspires us to grow them with instructions on how-to!”
—Ana Sortun, Oleana & Sofra bakery, Best Chef: Northeast 2005 James Beard Foundation