At the top of my Christmas list was Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian book, Plenty. I’d had my eye on it for ages, and was delighted to finally get my hands on it. Already I’ve got a massive list of recipes to try, and this was the first one that made it to the table. Grilling the vegetables means it takes a bit longer, but it’s really worth it to get the depth of flavour and that tantalising hint of the Mediterranean. It’s a little bowl of sunshine and health, which is no bad thing in January.
It’s brilliant when, as with this book, something you’ve been waiting for is every bit as good as you’d hoped. Oh that that were also true of the new series of Sherlock. Somehow in the two year break since the dramatic death, the programme has reinvented itself as a sitcom. In both of the first two episodes I’ve found myself checking my watch and thinking, ‘But they will introduce a mystery soon, won’t they?’ Without a worthy foe menacing at every turn, there just doesn’t seem to be any sense of jeopardy anymore. Both episodes so far have felt like too much filler, which is fairly unforgivable when you only have three episodes every two years. Nevertheless, I will be watching the finale on Sunday and hoping for a return to form. The whole series will be redeemed for me if Mary is revealed to be evil. Or if she dies. At least The Bridge is also back, with Saga and Martin showing no signs of letting me down.
Grilled Vegetable Soup
Serves 4, from Plenty
2 red peppers, halved, seeds and stalk removed
2 red onions, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
20g basil leaves, torn
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 litre vegetable stock
1 can butterbeans
1. Preheat the grill to high and line a baking tray with foil. Prick the aubergines a few times with a sharp knife and put them on the tray. Grill for 30 minutes.
2. Add the peppers to the tray, turn the aubergines over and return to the grill for 15 minutes.
3. Put the tomatoes in a small tin and place them in the grill below the other veg. Grill everything for a further 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onions on a low heat for 15 minutes or so.
5. Remove everything from the grill. Cover the peppers with foil and leave them to cool slightly.
6. Slice the aubergines, scoop out the flesh and roughly chop it. Discard the skin.
7. Peel the cooled peppers and roughly chop them.
8. Chop the tomaotes roughly and add them to the onions along with the aubergine flesh, peppers, oregano, half the basil, garlic, stock and seasoning.
9. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.
10. Blend the soup until smooth.
11. Add the butterbeans, reheat gently and serve.