When he was a teenager, Joe Woodhouse bred and showed whippets. His dogs won the junior category at Crufts and other big shows. On the way home to their farm in Cambridge, he and his mum would stop at pubs for some food. Woodhouse has been a vegetarian since he was 10 and, this being the 1990s, Woodhouse’s best hope was that the pub would serve mushroom stroganoff with wild rice.
Woodhouse, a 35-year-old former chef who is now a food photographer and stylist, revisits that dish in his vivid, inspiring new cookbook, Your Daily Veg.
“It’s so nostalgic, but still a bloody great meal,” he writes. Woodhouse’s take on mushroom stroganoff, though, shows how far vegetarian cooking has come in the intervening decades. His version is lighter, more sophisticated, less gloopy. “Sort of reminiscent of the flavour,” says Woodhouse, over the phone, “but there’s a bit of chard in there and the old one would definitely have had a lot more cream.”
Your Daily Veg is one of those cookbooks that you can tell will go into heavy rotation in your kitchen. Each chapter is given over to a different, common vegetable and how you can turn it into a satisfying, straightforward meal. “Get nice stuff, don’t do too much to it and make a nice dish – that’s the ethos,” Woodhouse says, with a chuckle. “My food is very healthy, but it’s also realistic and it’s not about shutting anything down: no fat, no cheese, no fun kind of thing.”
When Woodhouse first became a vegetarian, his parents wondered if it might be a phase but 25 years on, he thinks he’s only scratched the surface of what you can do with vegetables. Your Daily Veg was a lockdown endeavour, and he proved the perfect one-man band for the project: he created the recipes (in his 20s, he was a chef at the Towpath cafe in east London) and then shot them in his kitchen.
Woodhouse’s partner, the food writer Olia Hercules, was also working on a book, and they have a two-year-old son, so there was little lounging around. “When Wilfred was quite young I used to do little cooking demos with him,” recalls Woodhouse. “He’d be strapped to me and I’d talk him through it as if it was a cookery show.”
The task of recipe testing in lockdown mainly fell to locals in Forest Gate, east London. “Our neighbours are pretty happy they are our neighbours,” says Woodhouse. “We would put up a picture on the street WhatsApp and say: ‘First come, first served!’ And it would go in this kind of bidding war. But to be fair we get loads of food back. One of our neighbours brings us amazing Bengali curries. And there’s cakes from across the road because they have a bakery. So it’s quite a nice back and forth.”
The feedback Woodhouse had on his doorstep drop-offs was overwhelmingly positive, but what he really enjoys is when his food surprises people. “Sometimes people think, ‘It’s just vegetables,’ but they start eating it and it’s almost like they’ve forgotten they’re having a vegetarian meal,” he says. “I like it when the first reaction of someone is slightly unexpected: ‘Oh, this tastes really good!’”
Mushroom and chard stroganoff (pictured above)
This dish reminds me of my childhood. I used to travel around a lot, dog-showing with my mother. It was a wonderful time, the weekends spent camping and barbecuing with pit-stop pub visits on the long journeys home. As a vegetarian, 20-odd years ago, I often found the pub mainstay was the mushroom stroganoff, if I was lucky, dusted with paprika and served alongside white rice flecked with wild rice. It’s so nostalgic, but still a bloody great meal. I’ve added chard to round it out a bit, but spinach works just as well. Feel free to add some wild rice to keep true to the 1990s.
neutral oil 4 tbsp (such as groundnut or sunflower)
mixed mushrooms 750g (button, chestnut and portobello), whole, halved, quartered or sliced, depending on size
onions 2, finely sliced
garlic 5 cloves, finely sliced
paprika 1 tsp (preferably sweet)
cayenne ¼ tsp, or chilli powder
white wine or cider 200ml
rainbow chard 300g, leaves separated from stalks, stalks finely sliced, leaves roughly chopped
creme fraiche 200ml
lemon juice 3 tbsp, or more to taste
parsley 15g, finely chopped, or chervil (or both)
sea salt and black pepper
boiled rice to serve
Heat half the oil in a deep pan large enough to accommodate everything. Fry the mushrooms over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, turning once or twice, until a good golden brown colour. If they begin to stick, add a splash of water to keep everything moving. Once the mushrooms are coloured well, scoop out and reserve.
Add the remaining oil followed by the onions and a good pinch of salt and cook for 12-15 minutes until translucent and soft. Follow with the garlic and give them a stir. Add the mushrooms back in, along with the paprika and cayenne or chilli powder. Stir to combine well in the pan.
Add the wine or cider and allow the alcohol to bubble off for 30 seconds. Add the chard stalks along with the stock and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the creme fraiche and allow to bubble away for 2 minutes until slightly thickened.
Add the chard leaves and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice with the chopped herbs. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed. A good grind of black pepper is welcome. Serve spooned on top of rice.
Beans in sherried tomato sauce
This is a fresh beans on toast, but the beans are livened up with sherry and the toast is oven-baked crisp bread.
The crisp breads can be made ahead and stored in a sealed container. They go well with anything. Try breaking them to form croutons or use as scoops for dips. The beans take well to being topped with herbs or cheese, or eaten with just some bread and good-quality oil over the top.
neutral oil 2 tbsp (such as groundnut or sunflower)
onions 2, roughly diced
carrots 3, roughly diced
garlic 5 cloves, roughly chopped
plum tomatoes 2 × 400g tins, or 8 fresh tomatoes, roughly diced
dried white beans 200g, soaked and cooked (cannellini, haricot and coco are good here), or 500g tinned
best-quality sherry vinegar 3 tbsp, or to taste
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
sea salt and black pepper
For the crisp breads
olive oil 6 tbsp
large baguette or slender loaf 1, finely sliced
Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4.
For the crisp breads, drizzle some of the olive oil on several large, flat baking trays, or work in batches. Lay the bread slices, evenly spaced, in a single layer on the trays.
Gently rub the slices with the rest of the oil and flip them over to lightly coat each side with oil (too much and they tend to be a bit greasy when cooked). Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden and crisp, turning halfway through. Some will inevitably cook faster and some slower. If working in batches, pull out the done ones and replace with freshly oiled slices, essentially having a production line on the go, while you are making the beans.
Meanwhile, heat the neutral oil in a pan over a medium heat and sweat the onions, carrots and garlic with a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes, roughly breaking them up with a spatula.
Half-fill each tin with water and add to the pan. Cook for 25 minutes until reduced but not too dry, topping up water as needed.
Blend the contents of the pan in a blender until smooth, then return to the pan. Add the cooked beans, then gently cook together for a further 30 minutes or longer, adding water if needed: the consistency should be loose but still amalgamated.
Season with salt and pepper, then add the sherry vinegar to taste: you want the sharp, sweet twang of the vinegar to be a solid backbone of the sauce.
Serve drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, the crisp breads cracked over the top. Spanish tortilla goes well with the beans. Also great with whole roasted portobello mushrooms on top.
Creamed corn, soft-boiled egg and garlic chilli crisp
This garlic chilli crisp can and should go on everything and anything. Here, the sweet, creamy corn and potatoes act as a wonderful platform for the fiery, floral oil. The crisp can be used to dress noodles, fried eggs or steamed vegetables such as broccoli or greens, or stirred into egg-fried rice or crunchy veg salads. It’s worth having on hand to bring simple ingredients together into more of a meal. It will keep well in the refrigerator, sealed in a jar, for four weeks or so.
Serves 4 as a light meal with a salad or as a starter
frozen sweetcorn 350g, or kernels from 4 ears
unsalted butter 50g
onion 1, finely diced
potato 1 large (about 300g), such as king edward, maris piper, desiree or estima, cut into roughly 1cm cubes
full-fat milk 200ml
For the garlic chilli crisp
neutral oil 250ml
onions 1 large or 2 medium, finely diced
garlic 1 head, cloves peeled and evenly sliced
chilli flakes 3 tbsp
Sichuan peppercorns 2 tbsp, crushed
star anise 5
sea salt flakes 1 tbsp
honey 1 tsp
To make the garlic chilli crisp, add the oil, onion and garlic to a medium-sized saucepan and simmer for 20-30 minutes until golden but not too dark. You want to slowly drive the moisture from the onion and garlic; if you cook it too quickly they will burn. Just before the end, when the mix has slowed its bubbling and the garlic is nice and golden, add the chilli flakes, Sichuan peppercorns and star anise. Give a good turn around and remove from the heat. Mix in the salt and honey. Set aside until ready to use.
Set aside 100g of sweetcorn. Pulse the remaining kernels in a food processor five or six times until broken but not pureed. A hand blender is also fine, or roughly chop them with a knife.
Add the butter to a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Follow with the onion when the butter begins to foam. Stir around the pan for 10-12 minutes until translucent. Add the potato and cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring so nothing sticks. If the mixture gets a little dry, add a splash of water to keep things moving. Add the pulsed corn and milk. Cook over a medium heat for 1 minute, then reduce to a low heat, stirring often, for about 3 minutes until the mixture slightly thickens. Add the reserved kernels and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm. Season with salt to your taste.
Place the eggs in a medium-sized saucepan filled with cold water and cover with the lid. Heat over a medium heat until gently simmering. Remove from the heat and leave to sit in the water for 2 minutes. Drain the eggs and return to the pan. Shake it to break the shells, then fill with cold water, empty and refill with cold water. Let sit for a while until the eggs are cool enough to handle. Remove the shells and halve each egg.
Add the corn to a plate and top with 2 egg halves. Spoon over as much garlic chilli crisp as you like.
Savoy cabbage gratin
The beautiful golden crust on top with crispy cabbage edges hides a creamy, cheesy, mustard-spiked sauce below. The cabbage goes wonderfully with the chestnuts and makes this a great wintertime dish. The richness is kept in check by the acidity from the mustard and this, combined with the wine, makes for a rather alpine-style eating experience. It is important with this recipe to use good-quality wine as it shines through in the finished dish; a dry or oxidative white wine is best.
savoy cabbage 1 (about 800g), trimmed of any tough leaves and the dry base, cut through the stem into 8 wedges
olive oil 2 tbsp
unsalted butter 50g
onions 4 (about 600g), roughly diced
garlic 4 cloves, roughly chopped
good-quality white wine or sherry 100ml
creme fraiche 200g
dijon mustard 1 tbsp
vegetarian cheese 100g, grated (non-vegetarians can try gruyère or comté)
cooked chestnuts 200g, roughly broken up
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4.
Place the cabbage wedges on a roasting tray, drizzle with the oil and season with salt. Roast in the oven for about 45 minutes until tender and the edges are beginning to colour.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan with a lid over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and salt. Cook, covered, for 15-20 minutes until soft but without colour, checking occasionally and giving everything a good stir.
Add the wine or sherry and allow to bubble off, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Put the mixture in a blender and add the creme fraiche, mustard and half the cheese. Blend until smooth, check the seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Spoon some of this sauce on to a suitable dish for the gratin. Add the cabbage wedges, cut-side down, in one layer. Scatter over the chestnut pieces. Coat everything well with the rest of the sauce.
Finish with the remaining cheese. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and slightly thickened.
Heat the grill to a high heat. Grill for a final 5-10 minutes to get the top lovely and golden. Crack over black pepper and serve with a salad, to drag around in the gratin juices.
Potato and cheddar pie with apple sauce
This pie is a thing of beauty. Layering the cheese means you get molten pockets, which gives a strong taste set against the platform of the potatoes and onions. Do use a strong cheddar if you can. And eat it warm; you want it cooled just enough to taste everything but still warm enough that things are still in motion.
The apple sauce is a lovely fruity foil. I use whatever variety I have to hand, but go for sharp-flavoured cooking apples if you want something to really cut through the cheese. A good braeburn or russet is also most welcome. Go for cider over water to add a further dimension.
Serves 4 generously
For the pastry
self-raising flour 300g, plus extra for dusting
unsalted butter 180g, very cold, cut into small pieces
cider vinegar 1½ tbsp, or white wine vinegar
ice-cold water 2-3 tbsp
egg 1, beaten with 1 tbsp milk
For the filling
unsalted butter 25g
bay leaf 1 fresh
onions 2, finely sliced
potatoes 600g, finely sliced
dijon mustard 1 heaped tbsp
vegetarian mature cheddar 200g, coarsely grated
For the sauce
apples 3 medium, cored and diced
cider 50ml, or water
For the pastry, pulse the flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor until the mix resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the vinegar and water. Pulse a couple of times, tip the mix out onto a clean work surface and knead gently to combine. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 160C fan/gas mark 4. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat through. Grease a round 24cm or 20-30cm square pie dish.
For the filling, heat the butter and bay leaf in a pan over a medium heat, add the onions and cook for 10-12 minutes until well softened. Add about 125ml water, and continue to cook until it has evaporated. Add the potatoes and cook for 1-2 minutes, turning them around to coat well with the onions. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the mustard.
Roll out two-thirds of the pastry to about 5mm thick and line the base of the pie dish, leaving some overhanging. Roll out the rest of the pastry to form the lid, a little larger than the pie dish.
Over the base, lay out a third of the potatoes as flat as possible. Follow with a third of the cheese. Repeat twice. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the egg wash and lay the pastry lid on top. Press the two pieces together to seal. Trim the edge to neaten if necessary. Brush with more egg wash and pierce the lid a few times.
Place the pie on the heated baking tray and bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes until golden.
Meanwhile, in a lidded pan, cook the apples with the water or cider over medium heat for a couple of minutes until the apples are collapsing. Purée with a stick blender until as smooth you like.
Remove the pie from the oven and allow to stand for 20-30 minutes. Try to avoid cutting it too soon. Serve with a mustardy salad.
Sweet potato and ginger stew with quinoa
I was introduced to this dish by my friend, wonderful chef Paola Carosella. It has such vibrancy to it. Paola originally made it as a soup, but I lean towards a more stew-like consistency. If you prefer a soupier version, add more water accordingly. The longer this sits, the deeper the flavours will develop – so happily make it ahead of time.
onions 2, sliced lyonnaise (cut across the onion from root to top, rather than across the grain; this results in the onions keeping their shape when cooked, rather than breaking down)
garlic 6 cloves, peeled
fresh root ginger 50g, peeled
star anise 2
cinnamon stick 1
tomatoes 8, roughly diced, or 2 × 400g tins chopped tomatoes
sweet potatoes 4 (about 600g), cut into 2.5cm chunks
quinoa 150g, any colour
mozzarella or stringy cheese (optional)
yoghurt (if not using cheese)
red chilli 1, sliced
fresh coriander leaves picked
limes 6, cut into quarters
Sauté the onions with the oil and a decent couple of pinches of salt in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat for 15 minutes until translucent. Add a splash of water if they go too dry.
Crush the garlic under the heel of your knife and throw it into the pan as is. Grate the ginger directly into the pan using a fine or medium grater (or finely chop and add to the pan). Add the spices. Sauté for a further 2 minutes until the onions have fully softened.
Add the tomatoes along with water from half-filling the tins and rinsing them out, then cook for 10 minutes.
Add the sweet potato chunks and gently simmer for 20–30 minutes or until they are tender when poked with a knife. Keep topping up the water if needed. Check the seasoning when they are done.
Cook the quinoa in salted boiling water for 15 minutes. Usually I cook and drain quinoa ahead of time, refreshing it in cold water to stop the cooking process. When the stew is ready, stir in the cooked quinoa to warm through. Add a touch of water, if necessary.
In suitable bowls, add the diced mozzarella or stringy cheese, if using, then spoon over the sweet potato stew. Sprinkle on chilli slices and coriander leaves – fresh and punchy is the idea here, so don’t hold back on the garnish. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.
Your Daily Veg by Joe Woodhouse is published by Octopus, £22. To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy from guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply