Like many chefs I am a devout meat eater, but much of the food I cook at home is ‘meat free’. An unusual way to describe my vegetarian cookery perhaps, but I believe the secret to fantastic vegetarian food is that it must feel effortless; dishes should feel creative and complete in their own right, but just happen to be vegetarian.
You may not have come across spätzle before, a German/Swiss pasta that is very quick to make and is immensely versatile depending on the season. Try pea and ricotta in Spring or tomato and courgette flower in Summer, this version will be bang in season right now. For four:
Plain Flour – 400g
Eggs – 4, beaten
Salt – ½ tsp
Water – 200ml
Jerusalem Artichokes – 500g
Juice of 1 lemon
Milk – enough to cover the artichokes
Garlic – 1 clove, finely chopped
Sage Leaves – 20, finely chopped
Butter – 100g
Radicchio – 1 head, shredded
Parmesan – 150g, half grated, half shaved
Parsley – 1tbsp, finely chopped
Blanched Hazelnuts – 100g, toasted and roughly chopped
For the spätzle you will need a large pan of boiling salted water and a colander/steamer with small round holes. It should sit comfortably on top of the pan without touching the water. In a food processor beat together the flour, eggs, salt and water to make a very thick but pourable batter – add a little more water if it looks too thick. Tip half the batter into the colander and using a spatula push the batter slowly through the colander into the simmering water. It should look all misshapen and rough so don’t panic! The pasta will float when cooked. Strain, refresh in cold water and toss in a little oil to stop it sticking - set aside. Repeat until you have cooked all the batter.
Peel the artichokes, dice up and drop into the lemon water immediately to stop them going black. Drain and in a clean pan, cover with milk and simmer until very soft, approx. 30 mins. Blitz in a food processor until very smooth adding a little liquid from the pan and seasoning to make a nice smooth puree – keep warm.
To finish the dish, fry the garlic and sage in the butter for 30 seconds. Toss in the spätzle and radicchio and warm through. Add the grated parmesan, parsley, half the hazelnuts and season well. Put a good spoonful of the artichoke puree in the bottom of each pasta bowl and top with the spätzle. Sprinkle with the remainder of the hazelnuts and the parmesan shavings.