Smoked fennel by David Bez

Vegan Love: 3 classic Italian dishes from David Bez reimagined the plant-based way

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Looking for a way to update your favourite Italian dishes for Veganuary? Chef David Bez’s new cookbook has plenty of ideas.

Our love affair with Italian food is one for the ages. Typically a perfect mix of salty yet smooth parmesan; creamy sauce; either a pasta, dough or potato something; and often Italian cured meats such as pancetta or nduja. Guaranteed to leave you satisfied by the end.

Rest assured, if you’re testing out the plant-based waters for Veganuary, you won’t have to miss out on the classic Italian recipes you adore.

Looking for easy, plant-based recipes to recreate at home? Turn to London-based Italian cook David Bez. The author of three cookbooks Salad Love, Breakfast Love and Supper Love, Bez now brings us a new roster of delicious recipes in Vegan Love: Create Quick, Easy, Everyday Meals With A Veg + A Protein + A Sauce + A Topping

Bez’s philosophy is simple: every vegan recipe is composed of four key areas – a main vegetable, protein, sauce and a topping, usually herbs or seeds. And where better to start than with your favourite Italian dishes, creatively reimagined for the vegan palate? Thankfully, we have three brilliant recipes ready and waiting to get you through Veganuary…

Vegan Love by David Bez
Vegan Love by David Bez

First up, for the cacio e pepe fans among us, Bez’s celeriac cacio and pepe, cashew cream and black beans is sure to impress. Tuck into a couple of warm, oven-baked celery steaks, paired with nutty black beans and doused in a vegan cheese and pepper cashew cream. It’s like nothing ever changed…

If you’re a sucker for a veggie parmigiana, Bez’s aubergine ‘parmigiana’, tomato sauce and almond ‘ricotta’ will hit the spot. A clever use of blanched almonds, blended with lemon juice and sea salt leaves you with a creamy ricotta-like cheese you won’t be able to stop crumbling over your aubergine. 

Finally, when you’re in the mood for a risotto, consider Bez’s fennel and radicchio recipe with vegan sour cream (aka single oat cream spiked with lemon juice). Bursting with smoky and herby flavours, it’s a showstopper dish you didn’t know you needed for your next dinner party. 

  • Celeriac cacio and pepe, cashew cream and black beans

    Celeriac cacio and pepe, cashew cream and black beans by David Bez
    Celeriac cacio and pepe, cashew cream and black beans by David Bez

    Cooking time: 40 minutes

    Ingredients

    Protein or Carbohydrate

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 small onion, finely chopped
    • ½ teaspoon of brown sugar
    • 120g cooked black beans
    • sea salt, to taste

    Main vegetable

    • 2 slices of celeriac (celery root), 2.5cm
    • 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil or vegetable oil

    Sauce

    • 100g cashew nuts, soaked
    • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
    • 2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce

    Topping

    • a generous sprinkle of coarse black pepper
    • a sprinkle of chia seeds
    • a sprinkle of fresh oregano
    • a drizzle of truffle oil

    Method

    Step one: protein or carbohydrate

    Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion until transparent but not burned. Stir through sugar, salt and finally the black beans, then take off the heat and set aside, covered, for the beans to warm through.

    Step two: main vegetable

    Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Place the celeriac steak on a baking tray (sheet) lined with baking paper, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil (reserving the rest for later) and bake in the oven for 20–30 minutes until softer and golden but still quite firm. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan and cook the celeriac for 4–5 minutes on each side until golden and tender.

    Step three: sauce

    Place all the ingredients in a blender with 100ml water and blend until smooth.

    Step four: assembling

    Spoon the beans onto a plate along with the sauce. Lay the celeriac steaks on top and scatter over the toppings.

    Alternative tip

    Many carbs work very well in this recipe, like bread chunks, buckwheat chunks or lentils.

  • Aubergine ‘parmigiana’, tomato sauce and almond ‘ricotta’

    Aubergine ‘parmigiana’ with tomato sauce by David Bez
    Aubergine ‘parmigiana’ with tomato sauce by

    Cooking time: 20 minutes

    Ingredients

    Protein or carbohydrate

    • 100g blanched almonds
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

    Main vegetable

    • 1 large aubergine
    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    For drizzling

    • sea salt 
    • freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Sauce

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • ½ shallot, finely chopped
    • 200g tomato sauce canned
    • chopped tomatoes
    • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt

    Topping

    • a sprinkle of shelled hemp seeds
    • a sprinkle of fresh flat-leaf parsley

    Method

    Step one: protein or carbohydrate

    Place the almonds and salt with 150ml water in a high-speed blender and blitz to combine. Transfer to a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, stirring gently for a few minutes. Drain the liquid through a classic cheesecloth or just a colander or sieve into a bowl, then leave the almond ‘ricotta’ in the fridge overnight to release the rest of the water. Season further to taste.

    Step two: main vegetable

    Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Slice the top off the aubergine and then slice lengthwise into thin 10mm layers. Discard the first and last layers (mostly the skin) and place the rest on a baking tray (sheet) lined with baking paper. Ensure they are not overlapping, then drizzle with oil (reserving half for later), season with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes.

    Step three: sauce

    Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and cook the shallot until transparent but not burned, then add the tomato, sugar and salt. Stir well and simmer for 20 minutes.

    Step four: assembling

    Drizzle the remaining olive oil on the plate. Spoon a little sauce on top. Layer the aubergine on top and fill each layer with sauce. Finish with the remaining sauce, the almond ‘ricotta’ and the hemp seeds and parsley.

  • Smoked fennel, radicchio risotto with sour cream

    Smoked fennel by David Bez
    Smoked fennel by David Bez

    Cooking time: 45 minutes

    Ingredients

    Main vegetable

    • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
    • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon ketchup
    • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 fennel, topped, tailed and sliced in half lengthwise

    Protein or carbohydrate

    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • ½ shallot, finely chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    • ½ radicchio head, finely chopped
    • 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder
    • 60g risotto rice
    • 120ml hot water
    • 1 teaspoon sea salt
    • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

    Sauce

    • 2 tablespoons vegan single (light) cream (oat)
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

    Topping

    • a sprinkle of finely chopped radicchio head
    • a sprinkle of fresh flat-leaf parsley

    Method

    Step one: main vegetable

    Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Place the oil, sugar, ketchup, smoked paprika and salt in a bowl and mix well. Place the fennel on a sheet of baking paper, cover with the marinade and fold the paper over to wrap it up tightly. Place the parcel on a baking tray (sheet) lined with baking paper and bake for 15 minutes, then open up the parcel, drizzle with extra olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for a further 30 minutes, until tender.

    Step two: protein or carbohydrate

    Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the shallot and garlic for 10–15 minutes until softened, then add the radicchio and fry for a further 10 minutes. Place the vegetable bouillon powder in a jug, pour over 120ml boiling water and stir to dissolve. Add the rice to the pan and turn up the heat – the rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring (after a minute it will look slightly translucent). 

    Add the bouillon a ladle at a time and keep stirring. Turn the heat down to a simmer, add the salt and keep adding the stock (broth), slowly slowly, stirring often, for around 15 minutes until the rice is tender and creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Step three: sauce

    In a bowl, mix together the vegan cream with the lemon juice.

    Step four: assembling

    Spoon the risotto onto a plate and lay the fennel on top. Drizzle over the sauce and finish with the toppings.

    Alternative tip

    If you don’t have rice, you can replace it with quinoa, oats or buckwheat, though cooking times will vary.

Vegan Love: Create quick, easy, everyday meals with a veg + a protein + a sauce + a topping (Kyle Books) by David Bez is out now

Photography: © David Bez

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