One of the great pleasures in the kitchen is cooking with Mediterranean vegetables, writes chef Marco Pierre White on the Knorr website, knorr.com
These flavourful, sun-ripened vegetables are the heart of many wonderful dishes from France, Greece, Italy and Spain.
Aubergines: These striking purple-skinned vegetables have a great texture, which I think is the closest thing to meat in the vegetable world. When I was a boy, aubergines were always sliced then salted before cooking to remove their bitter juices. Nowadays, aubergine varieties are far less bitter. Salting aubergine slices, then rinsing and patting before frying is a good idea, though, because it removes excess moisture and helps cut down on the amount of oil they absorb when fried.
Courgettes: This often rather overlooked vegetable has a very mild flavour, which makes it an excellent partner for other, more flavourful ingredients. If you want to allow courgettes to shine in their own right, then I suggest slicing them finely lengthways and griddling them either on a griddle pan or the barbecue. This really brings out their flavour.
Globe artichokes: Yes, these great, green vegetables do look rather daunting; after all they are a type of thistle. It’s true that artichokes hide their soft, edible hearts inside a casing of tough outer leaves. My suggestion, therefore, is simple – buy artichoke hearts in oil, so all the hard work of preparing them has been done already. Serve these bottled artichokes as part of an antipasti platter or chop them up and add them to tuna mayonnaise, as the Italians do, pasta salads, pasta sauces or risotto. They have a great, subtle flavour and a little goes a long way.
Red peppers: With their striking red colour and full, sweet flavour, red peppers are a great way of brightening up a dish both visually and in terms of taste. I like to roast red peppers to soften them and bring out their sweetness. To do this, pre-heat your grill or your oven to high, pierce a red pepper with a skewer (to make it easier to turn it) and roast until charred on all sides. Once charred, carefully place in a plastic bag and set aside; this means the steam will help the skin come off the flesh, making it much easier to peel. Once cooled, peel the red pepper and chop. Use in pasta sauces, roast vegetable salads, or in fish or chicken dishes.
Tomatoes: What would we do without tomatoes? Home-made tomato sauce was a staple in my house as a boy. In summertime, I like to use ripe, tasty tomatoes in a simple salad – sliced and sprinkled with a touch of good olive oil and lemon juice, a few shredded basil leaves and freshly ground pepper.
The Independent on Saturday