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Loving veg later in life

Galette of courgette from Berber&Q: On Vegetables by Josh Katz (Kyle Books, £25). PA Photo/James Murphy.

By Prudence Wade

Like many people, the pandemic made chef Josh Katz want to go back to basics. He even relocated from London to Ibiza, saying he believed “the pandemic was telling us it wants us to live a more simple life”.

But he soon found this was all a bit easier said than done…

“I moved to the middle of nowhere and started growing my own vegetables – but I found out it’s really difficult,” Katz admits. “It’s actually not that easy to live self-sufficiently, it takes a lot of work and a lot of time” – particularly if you’ve got work and family responsibilities to take care of as well.

It would’ve been helpful for Katz to immediately produce a bountiful crop, because he was writing his second cookbook out there – one that’s entirely dedicated to vegetables. Instead, he says: “You would spend a lot of time tending to your plants, and then you would end up with like four red peppers – barely enough to test a recipe.”

Not that Katz has always been into veg – he admits it’s been a “journey of discovery, and I’m still on it. Certainly as a teenager, vegetables didn’t play a significant part of my diet, and in my 20s vegetables were never an exciting thing for me.”

The real turning point was when Katz started working for Yotam Ottolenghi in his late-20s. “He’s always been a big advocate for cooking vegetables, and that was probably the starting point for me – cooking in Notting Hill, doing salads every day. I loved my time there.

“I think that was probably when I started to embrace vegetables. And 12 years later, I’ve written a book on it.”

There’s a mix of cuisines in the book, from the Middle East to North Africa. Mediterranean dishes also feature heavily – perhaps unsurprisingly, as Katz was writing in Ibiza.

“I’m getting to the stage in my life – I’m 41 – where my body starts to communicate with me. It tells me what it likes, and what it doesn’t want – and it changes as you get older,” he adds.

“So the Mediterranean diet just feels a slightly cleaner and lighter approach to cooking for me.”


chilli-roasted pumpkin from Berber&Q: On Vegetables by Josh Katz (Kyle Books, £25). PA Photo/James Murphy.

Chilli-Roasted Pumpkin

Serves 4-6


For the pumpkin purée:

¼ small pumpkin (approx. 300g), peeled and cut into pieces

75g brown sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Flaked sea salt and ground black pepper

For the lemon dressing:

1 garlic clove, minced or grated

2tbsp lemon juice

1tbsp red wine vinegar

90ml extra-virgin olive oil

1½tbsp rapeseed oil

Flaked sea salt and ground black pepper

For the chilli-roasted pumpkin bulgar:

¾ small pumpkin (approx. 900g), cut into 1cm slices

60ml olive oil

30g light brown sugar

2tbsp Aleppo chilli flakes (pul biber)

2tbsp lemon thyme leaves

120g bulgur

Handful of dill and flat-leaf parsley, chopped

40g hazelnuts, toasted

40g capers, drained and rinsed

100g Mizithra or soft, fresh whey cheese


For the pumpkin purée: set the pumpkin in a steamer over boiling water and steam for 12–15 minutes, until completely tender. Transfer to a food processor, add the sugar and lemon juice and blend until smooth.

Transfer the purée to a saucepan and cook over low heat for 10–15 minutes, until thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the lemon dressing: Combine the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar and oils in a small bowl, season generously with salt and black pepper and whisk to combine.

For the chilli-roasted pumpkin bulgar: preheat the oven to 220C.

Roll the pumpkin in the olive oil, sprinkle with the sugar and chilli flakes and season generously with salt and black pepper. Transfer the pumpkin to a parchment-lined baking tray, scatter the lemon thyme over the top, and roast for 20-25 minutes until tender and slightly charred.

In the meantime, prepare the bulgur by covering it with boiling water in a small bowl and allowing it to soak for roughly five minutes. Drain, lightly run a fork through the grain to fluff it, and set to one side to cool.

Combine the bulgur with the chopped herbs, hazelnuts and capers and stir through 60ml of the lemon dressing. The tabbouleh should be light and sharp, not drenched and heavy. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Place the pumpkin purée on the bottom of a plate, layer the pumpkin and bulgur mixture on top, scatter the cheese over and serve.


Galette of Courgette

Serves 4


For the chilli-honey dressing:

1tbsp honey

1tbsp lemon juice

1 red chilli, blackened, peeled and chopped

3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Flaked sea salt and ground black pepper

For the galette:

200g mascarpone

100g crème fraîche

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 garlic cloves, grated

250g shop-bought all-butter puff pastry, cut and rolled to make two 30 x 20cm rectangles, 3mm thick, each cut in half to make 4 smaller rectangles

1 egg yolk

100g manouri cheese

1–2 large courgettes, very thinly sliced

2tsp thyme leaves

2tbsp olive oil


For the chilli-honey dressing: Put the honey, lemon juice and chilli in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper.

For the galette: preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the mascarpone, crème fraîche, lemon zest and garlic in a bowl, and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Place the pastry rectangles on the lined baking sheet and brush the egg yolk around the border of the pastry, roughly two centimetres in from the edge. Prick the centre gently with a fork, five or six times for each square.

Smear the mascarpone mix in the centre of each, crumble the manouri cheese over it, and arrange the courgette slices on top, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle over a little thyme, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 20–25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown, puffed at the edges and the base is crisp.

Slide the galettes onto serving plates and drizzle liberally with the chilli-honey dressing. Serve immediately while still warm.


Berber&Q: On Vegetables by Josh Katz is available now


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