The Vegetable Butcher ~ a Review

As you may know I have reviewed quite a few cookbooks over the years and they have all been interesting, entertaining, nicely presented, good recipes, fun, etc. but this one is different!

cookbook review
I have just received a review copy of “The Vegetable Butcher” by Cara Mangini and can honestly say it is one of the best new cookbooks I have seen in years.

Unlike so many cookbooks this one actually teaches, advises and encourages the reader to be creative (as do my own).

The book starts with information on knife skills and other useful kitchen info.  This is followed by  sections each dealing with a over 100 vegetables with pretty well all the information you’ll ever need – varieties, season, what to look for, storage, what to pair it with, how to prepare it, different cooking methods, ways to vary dishes, recipes for accompaniments, what to do with leftovers and over 150 rather delicious sounding recipes, such as ...

Caramelized Broccoli with Chile Oil and Parmesan

I decided to try this as I had a splendid head of broccoli in the fridge but once I started I had a brief moment of uncertainty. I wasn’t quite sure about the combination of Parmesan, chilli, garlic and lemon and not only that the kitchen was beginning to smell a bit odd with the roasting broccoli, but ... it was gorgeous! As I had no idea what to have for dinner I ate it with some penne pasta (and a glass of red) and enjoyed every mouthful.
broccoli pasta

... and ...

Sweet Potato Latkes

These are really quick and easy and they are also just my sort of thing; delicious.  I ate them pretty much as suggested in the recipe with sour cream and chilli jam; Cara Mangini does give a recipe for Cranberry Chipotle Jam which sounds gorgeous but I already had chilli jam in the fridge and used that.
sweet potato fritters

I shall definitely be making both these recipes again and no doubt lots more from The Vegetable Butcher.

The book is somewhat American – eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), fava (broad) beans, arugula (rocket)  and rutabaga (swede) and the occasional cup measurement but nothing you can’t cope with.  There are also a few ingredients one would be lucky to find in the UK – crosnes, fiddlehead ferns (I’d love to try them!) and jicama, for instance – but also lots of more normal veggies; asparagus, avocados, cauliflower, onions, potatoes, celery, spinach, radishes and, a bit of a surprise, rhubarb although it is indeed a vegetable.

Beautifully illustrated with very detailed visual instructions, this book is exceptional. I have a friend who runs the vegetarian Café Cinnamon in Falmouth and she’d love this book but tough!! She can borrow it but I’m afraid it’s a keeper!

Browned Butter ~ so Easy, so Delicious and so Useful!

I was talking to my friend Debs about Hollandaise Sauce as she intends putting Eggs Benedict on her menu and wondered how to keep the sauce warm during service.  I told her my own utterly brilliant idea – keep it in a vacuum/thermos flask.

This got me thinking about brown butter aka beurre noisette and the possibility of using it in Hollandaise – so I tried it (using my normal Hollandaise recipe here but browning the butter – see below) and blimey, delicious!


Brown butter is very easy to make, you can keep it in the fridge for weeks and there are so many delicious ways to use it.  Recipe first …

How to Brown Butter

~   Dice a block of butter (unsalted is apparently best for this but I can vouch that salted works well too because that is what I have just used!). 
~   Melt it in a light coloured pan (so that you can easily see and judge the colour change when it happens) over medium heat.
~   Once melted swirl occasionally to help it cook evenly and watch carefully – the solids in the butter will sink and start to brown and then the butter will gradually change colour from yellow to light golden to nutty brown at which stage it will also smell gorgeous.
~   Immediately remove the pan from the heat, spoon off and set aside any foam, and pour the butter into a fresh heatproof container to cool.  If you leave it in in the original pan it will continue to cook in its residual heat.
~   Once cold carefully pour the clear liquid butter into yet another clean container leaving the solids OR …
~   Keep the solids too, it’s a matter of personal preference!

I add the buttery foam to the next batch of mashed potatoes, which is usually within a few hours!

Delicious Ways to Use Browned Butter …

~   Melt over freshly cooked vegetables – lovely on asparagus.
~   Toss freshly cooked new potatoes (in the shops any minute now) in melted brown butter.  Taste first as they may be delicious just as they are and then season as you will, maybe some fresh herbs.
~   Butternut squash gratin – toss cooked butternut with browned butter and fresh sage, decant into ovenproof dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake to hot and crisp top.  Great with roast chicken!
~   A classic sauce for fish is simply melted brown butter with capers and lemon juice stirred in.  I don’t like capers so just use brown butter and lemon which makes a lovely sauce and is so quick and easy. After cooking the fish wipe out the pan and melt a knob of brown butter, add a squeeze of lemon and it's ready.


~   Cook a little crushed garlic in browned butter and toss with freshly cooked pasta (preferably a ribbon variety) and finish with plenty of fresh grated Parmesan (make sure it’s real Parmesan! ) and then maybe sprinkle with the following …

~   Melt a little browned butter, add a handful of fresh breadcrumbs and cook till crisp and browned to make a lovely caramelly buttery Pangrattato.  
 ~   Toss freshly popped corn with brown butter together with, perhaps, toasted nuts and a sprinkle of sugar.
~   Use instead of un-browned butter in baking, it will add a new depth of flavour to all your old favourites.  I thought for this post I’d bake some …


Brown Butter Cookies

These have a lovely uber butterscotch taste.

110g butter
100g soft light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
125g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
a little milk!

~   Brown the butter as above and when to your liking pour into a heatproof bowl to cool and solidify.
~   Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/160ºC fan/gas 4 and lightly grease a baking tray.
~   When it’s done that cream the browned butter together with the sugar and vanilla.
~   Sift together the flour and baking powder and mix into the brown butter and sugar.
~   Add just enough milk to form a cohesive dough.
~   Roll into the traditional “walnut sized” balls, arrange on the baking tray (you might even need two trays) with quite a gap between then and flatten slightly and gently and maybe make a pretty impression on the top but it's not essential. 
~   Bake for 20-25 minutes till firm and turning (more) golden round the edges.
~   Cool on a baking tray and maybe serve with …

Laphroaig & Brown Butter Ice Cream! Serves 3-4

Almost every ingredient I play with (even some savoury and peculiar ones) I try incorporating into my genius ice cream recipe.  In this case I was a bit worried because I knew that just adding brown butter to the mix would result in very firm ice cream – tasty but it would certainly need some softening before serving.  Then I thought, as I often do, of alcohol and decided whisky was about the right flavour.  All we had was Laphroaig which is quite a strong and controversial taste but it worked. My real man is very pleased with the result which is just as well as it is his whisky!

70g butter
200g condensed milk
250ml double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
30ml whisky – Laphroaig in this case

~   Brown the butter as above then stir in the condensed milk.
~   Set aside to cool.
~   Once cold whisk together the cream, vanilla extract and whisky to thick.
~   Fold the two mixes together (and if it seems a bit lumpy then give in another whisk).
~   Freeze

I have, of course, cooked with beurre noisette before but have never had a real play with the stuff. It takes minutes to make and keeps very well in the fridge so I shall from now on keep a batch ready to add to dishes as the whim takes me. I suggest you do the same.

*** This is just one of the splendidly useful tips in my book Cooking Tips &Techniques but even though I’ve told you this tip now it’s still worth getting the book as there are at least 500 more quality tips of this calibre!  However …

It is available both as an ebook and in paperback; I do think a hard copy is better in the case of reference books.