High-end restaurant chefs would have to be some of the most vocally cynical when it comes to the subject of meat-free dining. But in his latest book, New Feast, acclaimed Lebanese-Australian chef Greg Malouf (ex-MoMo) proves that vegetables no longer need be an after thought when it comes to eating like a king.
Although he’s still very much a meat lover and someone who has always been, “unashamedly greedy for all that’s on offer”, Malouf says that since leaving Australia in 2012 (for career stints in London and now Dubai) and paying closer attention to his health, he has made some major shifts in the way he eats.
“Shifting to a ‘more veg, less meat’ approach wasn’t all that difficult” he says. “The Middle Eastern diet is actually pretty good for you and, despite the many years of restaurant gluttony, I grew up in a family where meat played more of a supporting role at meal times.”
Malouf explains that writing a book dedicated to vegetarian food was never really on the cards. But given the extensive canon of recipes that he had developed over the years in the kitchens at O’Connell’s in South Melbourne, MoMo and more recently at the Michelin-starred Petersham Nursery in the UK, he realised he had amassed more than enough meat-free recipes to fill several books.
“We were between books and the idea of vegetarian came up, and the more I thought about it, the more it made perfect sense,” he says. “Because it relies so heavily on pulses, grains, spices and aromatics, Middle Eastern cuisine lends itself perfectly to vegetarian food.” The book has 250-plus pages of beautifully shot recipes. There are chapters on everything from raw and cooked vegetable salads, to dips, breads, rice-based dishes and a gorgeous range of pastries and desserts.
The more than 130 recipes are big on colour, texture and heady aromatics. And in other good news, Malouf’s recipes are also refreshingly un-cheffy and free from over complication.
With dishes designed for mixing, matching and sharing, New Feast captures the freshness, vibrancy and generosity of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Published by Hardie Grant, New Feast by Greg & Lucy Malouf is now available from bookshops nationally.