A long, long time ago a rather battered vegetarian recipe book came into my possession. It’s a long story, and I will bore you with it because I can.
It was 1987. From memory I had just graduated from my fashion degree, and Mr.B and I were quite a new item. Uni had ended, and neither Mr.B or I wanted to go home to our parents – young and in the throes of a new romance – ahhhh. We couldn’t afford to pay rent, so we ended up living in a squat. Actually, we didn’t, but it does sound so bohemian and daring. The more mundane reality was that we ended up kind of house-sitting for a friend’s place while it was on the market to be sold. Students who had been on my course had previously rented the place, and one of them had left behind the aforementioned recipe book. After this phase I got a job and moved down to London, and the book came with me. I wasn’t a vegetarian, but I did try a few of the recipes and they were extremely tasty – not at all what I thought vegetarian hippy food would be. Of course I can’t remember the title or author of the book, and I seem to remember that it was missing its cover.
The book did not make it on our world travels, and has been lost somewhere along the way, but I’ve been thinking about a couple of those meals and decided to have a go at recreating this comforting and flavoursome casserole. Packed full of hearty vegetables and cheesy dumplings in a rich gravy with the sweet nuttiness of chestnuts, it’s a truly wintery meal.
It turned out pretty much as I remembered it, so I was really chuffed. The sauce was rich and delicious and I didn’t bother even serving green veg or potatoes as I already had Brussel sprouts and dumplings. It might have been nice to have some crusty sourdough on the side though, to mop up the sauce.
Next time I do it I will definitely use vacuum packed chestnuts as these were a nightmare to prepare. I couldn’t remember how I’d done it years ago, so I thought I’d seek expert advice and turned to Martha Stewart, who made it look a breeze – it wasn’t, but here’s the link anyway. If foul language and workplace injuries in the kitchen are your thing, then go right ahead!
Another Important Note*
If any of my family should happen to have this recipe book, please can I have it back – thanks!