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Tuesday, 2 August 2011

On Rosamund Richardson

If there is one thing the world of vegetarianism needs, its a 'celebrity' chef. We need a Gordon, a Gary or a Delia to really get people interested in eating something a bit more interesting than the a fried up slice of a dead cow's behind.

In terms of skill and fine dining, Ireland's Denis Cotter would probably outswear Gordon, with Rose Elliot perhaps making a good stab at being the carrot cruncher's equivalent of Gary Rhodes. But for the Delia character, my money would be on Rosamond Richardson.

I'll drown out the cries of 'Rosamund who?' by pointing out that she has written more than 20 vegetarian cookbooks. One reason for her apparent invisibility is because her best selling books are published and sold by Sainsburys. Her small book Vegetarian Meals first appeared at the checkouts way back in 1984 and I reckon its the first proper vegetarian cookbook to have been published in the modern age.

In 1985, when I first decided to go vegetarian, Vegetarian Meals was first book I bought. Any worries I had about giving up meat were dispelled the second I took the first bite of her Eggs with Peppers dish, which was the first veggie recipe I ever cooked. Today, I regard it as my signature dish as well as a classic.

The recipe contains just seven things. A red and green pepper, 4 tablespoons of oil and as much garlic and black pepper as you can stand as well as some salt and four eggs. But put that lot together in the order Richardson tells you to and the taste will blow you away!

Tonight when I came home from work, I wondered what to have, and like I have done so many times since '85, I reached out for a Rosamund Richardson book. I've cooked more of her recipes over the years than anyone else's.

What sets them apart is their utter simplicity. There will be a short list of ingredients and a paragraph describing the method. For REALLY complicated recipes she might stretch to two paragraphs. If she uses three, we are talking Michelin starred cooking.

But out of those few things and sparingly used words comes food that completely justifies my decision to go veggie. Her recipes can be cooked by complete beginners yet taste like the belong at the Savoy Grill and would easily work their as her style of cooking would suit a busy eatery.
Try this one for example. This was a one of hers I cooked for the first time. And all I can say is wow! I've not seen her books in Sainsburys recently. But they do show up a lot in charity shops. If you find them, grab them and I can guarantee they will soon become your favourites.

Penne with Basil by Rosamund Richardson
500g of Penne Pasta
6 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
175g of Button Mushrooms quartered
2 Garlic Cloves, Crushed
3 Tablespoons of chopped Basil
142ml of single cream
25 grams of pine nuts
salt and pepper
Basil leaves to garnish.

Cook the penne in plenty of boiling water until it is al dente. Drain

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the mushrooms and cook rapidly for 3 - 4 minutes until slightly brown. stir into the pasta with the pan juices. Add the garlic and chopped basil and stir thoroughly; add the cream and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and finally stir in the pine nuts. Garnish each portion with torn basil leaves and serve immediately.

I am telling you this is totally yummy!