Don’t Be Afraid Of Christmas Veg -- Here Are Three Recipes You Can Absolutely Nail
'MasterChef's King of Veg -- Simon Toohey -- has no shortage of ideas when it comes to creating delicious meals with fresh produce.
Simon inspired us all with his creative approach to vegetables when he plated up recipes like roasted heirloom beets, cauliflower cheese, and roasted figs with beetroot and black grape molasses.
We gave Simon a call to see if he could give us a few Christmas lunch ideas to elevate vegetables from sad, soggy afterthoughts to the stars of the show -- and it's hard not to get excited about plant-based food when the 'MasterChef' alum gets started on his favourite topic.
"There are many good ones!" Simon told 10 daily over the phone when we asked for his Christmas veg tips -- and he gave us three killer ideas that won't disappoint this festive season.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower
A recipe that's one of Simon's favourites at the moment is a roasted cauliflower that's packed with flavour and doesn't waste a single part of the cruciferous veg.
The first step involves placing your whole cauli in a pot on the stove, fully submerging it in a mixture of salt and water and simmering for ten minutes.
"I usually make the brine as salty as the sea. When you taste it and go, ‘Oof that’s really salty’, that’s the perfect amount," Simon told 10 daily, explaining that this first step both draws impurities out and packs the cauliflower with flavour.
Next, you "chuck it in the oven at 180 degrees for about half an hour when it all goes crunchy and crispy" -- but keep an eye on it because the timing "can vary depending on the size of the cauliflower".
The outside leaves (that are usually discarded in most recipes) go crunchy and crispy and then you can slather the veg with your favourite sauce.
"I like a green goddess sauce or maybe pesto, harissa, zaatar, or a beautiful garam masala with yoghurt.
"That’s one of my absolute favourites."
Sweet Potato With Lemon Labne
This winner of a recipe is also incredibly easy because it requires zero technique, no fiddling about with knives and delivers maximum flavour.
Simon explained that while most people chop up sweet potatoes into fries -- the veg's massive water content means roasting it whole helps the moisture evaporate, leaving you with a sweet and sticky treat.
"You just get a whole sweet potato and put it in the oven at 160 degrees and don’t touch it -- don’t put oil on it, don’t put salt on it just leave it in the oven for about two hours," he told 10 daily.
"You come back and the outside is still exactly the same, however, the inside has evaporated a bit and gone super sweet and then the skin sort of shrivels up and goes crunchy," Simon added.
You can add your preferred sauce but Simon loves what he describes as a lemon labne -- but instead of the cheese strained yoghurt, he uses a different ingredient to achieve the same texture.
"You blend silken tofu with lemon juice and salt and it tastes amazing," he said, explaining that he uses Meyer lemons because they're "slightly sweeter but really lemony".
If you've been scarred by grey, over-boiled broccoli, this recipe will win you over because it harnesses the real flavour-packed power of the veg.
"[Using broccoli] is just like cooking with meat when it has that wonderful Maillard reaction of acid, burnt proteins and caramelisation," Simon said.
"The same thing happens with things like broccoli, and broccoli reacts really well on a barbecue," he said, explaining that, "when the florets go dark, they get crunchy and sweet and have this whole other level of flavour".
You can check out Simon's Instagram page for more veg ideas and wait patiently for his upcoming cookbook!