One of the most nerve-wracking things about new relationships is having to meet and integrate with your significant other’s close group of friends. You worry about their approval and opinions, fret over if you’ll have anything in common with them (besides the obvious person in question), pray that you’ll make a good impression, all the while stressing out over trying to remain true to yourself. It’s no fun.
I count myself extremely lucky, in that my SO’s friends are some of the most genuinely kind, warm and loving people I’ve ever met in Bahrain. I enjoy their company immensely, and I suspect (or at least hope) that they are quite fond of me too. Needless to say, I had nothing to worry about.
Two of said friends (sisters) have become famed within their social circle for their annual Christmas dinner. When they informed me that they were planning a special vegan version of almost everything on the menu, I was elated, and started crossing days off my calendar in eager anticipation. The food was absolutely divine (so delicious I forgot to take photos – anyone who has ever dined in my presence knows that is the highest order of compliments), but what touched me even more were the personalized gifts they had carefully picked out for everyone in attendance. Mine were of course, two vegan cookbooks, one of which has been on my “to buy” list for years:
River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall! Having been a River Cottage fan (particularly the all vegetarian season) since my days as a student in the UK, I was super excited to add this book to my humble but burgeoning collection of cookbooks.
To date I’ve made 3 recipes from it so far, all of which have been stunning. Although not all the recipes are vegan, they are all vegetarian and are easily adaptable. What I love about his style of cooking, and about the recipes in this book, is that they all focus on highlighting the merits and flavours of fresh, high quality ingredients. Some of the recipes are what some might call “too basic” but I find that the flavour pairings and cooking methods really lend themselves to creating simple yet stunning, unprocessed, whole food plant-based dishes.
But anyways, enough yacking – how about a recipe?
Green Bean and Courgette Salad with Tahini Dressing
(Adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday)
For the salad:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 medium courgettes (AKA zucchini) sliced into 3mm rounds
- Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
- 1/2 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
- 4 handfuls of salad leaves (I used a mix of Lollo Rosso, and Boston lettuce)
- 1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes
- A handful of finely chopped mint
For the dressing:
- 1⁄2 garlic clove, crushed with a little coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1⁄2 lemon
- Juice of 1⁄2 orange
- 1⁄2 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl (or food processor, if you’re feeling lazy). Thin with water as needed if it gets thick or pastey, then stir in the olive oil. Taste and adjust for seasonings, I added a smidgen more lemon juice as I like my dressings slightly tarter than usual.
- For the salad, start by cooking the courgette slices in batches. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook until soft and brown on both sides. Set aside in a bowl once cooked, and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
- Next blanch the green beans in a pot of boiling salted water for about 3-5 minutes or until just tender (you don’t want them mushy). The recipe states to dunk them in cold water to refresh, but I skipped this step and they came out just fine. Drain well then combine with the courgettes.
- To assemble, spread the salad leaves in a large serving bowl then scatter the courgettes, beans, tomatoes and mint. Drizzle with the tahini dressing and serve.
This was a perfect complement to the vegan spanakopita (yes you heard right) and chickpea and coriander quinoa that I whipped up for lunch a few weekends ago.
Something about winter commands the use of hearty cooked veggies alongside light and airy greens, crowned by a zesty yet creamy dressing like this one.
I hope you make this soon – I myself plan on re-creating it with some golden zucchini which I picked up at the farmer’s market today.
Until next time, dear readers!