Plant-based condiments, persimmons, lentils & steak re-imagined by David Neville.

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Persimmons thankfully offer that burst of colour and honey sweetness in the winter months and prove that nature isn’t so cruel. The pleasant blend of sweetness, tannins and juiciness make them ideal for both raw and cooked applications. If they feel rock hard, wrap them in newspaper for 3-4 days to soften and get the best from them.


Raw persimmon & golden sultana relish
In a medium-sized bowl, place 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Whisk to dissolve sugar. Add 1 teaspoon hot mustard. Peel and finely dice 2 whole persimmons and 1 green apple, discarding any fibrous core and seeds. Peel and finely dice 1 medium shallot and add all ingredients to the bowl and toss. Fold through 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives and 2 tablespoons golden sultanas. Serve with grilled meats or spicy dishes.

Persimmon & mandarin vegan gummies
Coarsely dice 2 persimmons and press through an electric juicer. Measure persimmon juice, then juice ripe mandarins (skin and all) until you have 250ml juice in total (the mandarin count will vary with each batch if you get ones that are a tad dry). Place into a medium pot and add 6g agar powder (I use Lotus Brand) and 2 tablespoons caster sugar. Bring to the boil for 90 seconds then remove from heat. Pour liquid into a clean ice cube tray to cool for 60 minutes. Remove from the tray and place on an airing rack overnight to dehydrate to a gummy texture.

Spiced persimmon coulis
Peel 4 ripe persimmons over a bowl – you will know they are ripe enough if the skins can almost be pulled off with your fingertips. Cut persimmons into 2cm cubes and place in a small pot with 3 tablespoons butter and ¼ cup caster sugar. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a bay leaf. Cover the pot with a lid and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf, blitz the fruit in a blender and add 2-3 tablespoons brandy. Pass through a sieve and adjust with a little water to achieve a consistency that barely coats the back of a spoon. Serve with pancakes or crêpes.

Baked persimmon with clotted cream
Peel and remove the stalks from 4 firm persimmons. Cut each persimmon in half crosswise. Place cut-side up on a medium baking tray that holds them snugly. Place ¼ cup honey, 1 cup water, 3 tablespoons butter and ½ teaspoon each salt and allspice into a small pot and bring to a simmer. Pour liquid over the persimmons and cover dish with foil. Bake at 190°C for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for further 15 minutes, basting regularly. Switch oven to grill mode and grill for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from the baking dish. Serve two halves per person with a generous dollop of clotted cream.

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This dish is styled on the classic bistro staple of steak and chips. I confess, I struggled out of the gate with this challenge. Mushrooms are fabulous, but after cooking they weren’t ‘meaty’ enough for me. Then the light bulb went on: double the texture up. Sometimes more is more – if one mushroom isn’t enough, make it two.




Cauliflower steak
Remove outer leaves from one firm mini cauliflower. Cut cauliflower into two steaks approximately 2cm thick. Toast 2 tablespoons pinenuts until golden. Heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil on high, then sear the cauliflower for 2 minutes without shaking the pan. Carefully turn, then season. Add 50g butter and 1 unpeeled clove garlic to the pan, lower heat and baste cauliflower continuously for
4-5 minutes until deep caramel in colour. Turn cauliflower and repeat then remove to absorbent paper. Add pinenuts, 1 tablespoon olive tapenade and juice ½ lemon to the pan and swirl to combine. Plate cauliflower and spoon over nut-brown butter sauce.

Celeriac steak
Peel 1 large celeriac and reserve skin. Place skin in a hot, non-stick pan with 1 tablespoon oil and cook over a high heat until it begins to blister and becomes deep golden. Add 2 cups vegetable stock and 2 tablespoons soy sauce and bring to a simmer. Discard the peelings. Cut the celeriac down the centre and trim the sides to make two steaks 2-2½cm thick. Place steaks into simmering stock and add 2 tablespoons butter. Cover with a sheet of baking paper, lower heat and reduce until all liquid is evaporated and only butter remains. Flip celeriac and add an additional tablespoon butter and gently fry until a fork inserts and they’re golden and tender.

Red cabbage steak
Remove outer leaves of a cabbage leaving just the dense heart, about 15cm in diameter. Cut cabbage in half through the core. Season each side with enough salt to get in between the layers. Take a cast iron pan and add just enough oil to barely cover the base. Heat until hot. Place the cabbage halves cut-side down and sear over a high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 10 minutes – you want to push this to the very edge of burning, until it’s nearly black. Add 100g butter to the pan and raise the heat to medium. Continuously baste the cabbage in hot butter for 4-5 minutes. Test the core with a skewer until it yields to only moderate pressure. Remove from pan and wrap in foil to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedge and freshly torn herbs.

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This recipe reminds me of an episode of Grand Designs. A lofty ambition, questioning if it looks right, sticking to the process and in the end the host declares, “What a triumph”. A humble dish in ingredients and appearance, but in my opinion, it batted way above all expectations.




Black lentil ragout with pappardelle
Finely grate 1 medium onion, 1 carrot, 2 stalks celery and 4 cloves garlic. Heat a heavy-based pot with 2 tablespoons oil and sweat vegetables for 4-6 minutes. Add ½ cup each red split lentils and black lentils and stir through. Add 150g tomato paste and ½ cup red wine. Bring to a simmer and add 1 x 400g can whole peeled tomatoes and 700ml vegetable stock. Return to a simmer, then lower heat to a bare simmer. Cook for 90 minutes, stirring regularly, until lentils begin to break apart and liquid has reduced by 30% to a thick ragout. Season with salt and pepper. While ragout is cooking, cook 400g pappardelle pasta and reserve. Toss pasta through the hot ragout and serve.

Lentil, pickled raisin & herb salad
Wash 400g dried green puy lentils and put into a pot with twice as much water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 17-18 minutes until al dente. Strain thoroughly. While lentils are cooking, place ¼ cup apple cider vinegar into a pot and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add 4 tablespoons raisins, ⅓ cup cold-pressed neutral oil and 4 tablespoons drained capers. Combine warm lentils with warm dressing and allow to stand in a bowl. Add 1 thinly sliced red onion and 1 cup picked fresh herbs, including parsley, chervil and tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. Stir before serving. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Red lentil soup
Soak 2 cups red lentils in cold water for 1 hour. Heat ½cup olive oil in a heavy pot. Add 1 diced onion and 2 diced carrots. Cook for 5-6 minutes to soften. Add 2 teaspoons each dried cumin, ground turmeric, oregano and 2 bay leaves. Cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrance is released. Add strained lentils, 1 x 400g can whole peeled tomatoes and 7 cups vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, until lentils are tender. Remove from heat to cool briefly, discard bay leaves and blitz with an immersion blender until creamy. Add the juice from 1 lemon and season with salt and pepper. Serve with crumbled feta and fresh bread.

Lentil, sesame and lemon dip
Put 1 cup red lentils into a pot and cover with twice as much water. Bring to a simmer for 30 minutes, when the lentils should crush easily under pressure. Strain lentils and, while hot, place in a blender with ¼ cup tahini, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 1 teaspoon each cayenne pepper, cumin and sumac. Blitz on medium speed and drizzle in the juice of ½ lemon and 3-4 tablespoons olive oil. Stop the blender, scrape down the sides and blitz again, adding some water if it is too thick. Blitz until smooth and the consistency of thick yoghurt. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with toasted pita bread. Cook’s tip Any type of lentil can be used, but red lentils give the best colour.

This classic Italian flan is a savoury, unctuous delight. The recipe highlights the difference between the fragile, salty brown anchovy and the acidic, meaty white anchovy. Once you you have tried them in their different applications, it will make you a convert to this polarizing little fish.



A good selection of condiments can make or break a simple meal. In the west, we tend to think of things such as store-bought ketchup or mustard. In my travels, I’ve had my mind changed on this subject with fragrant pastes, spicy dried toppings and pounded aromatics dolloped into every imaginable dish. Condiments should be unique to the person. The ol’ T-sauce is fine, but let’s push a bit further.


Scoop the flesh from 3 ripe kiwifruit. Add to a food processor with 3 whole green jalapeños, ½ cucumber, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 clove garlic, 1 cup finely chopped coriander and a teaspoon each of salt and sugar. Blitz until as smooth as possible. Ideal with new potatoes or steamed vegetables. (Makes 500g). Cook’s tip This is for those who like to breathe fire. The chilli can be toned down if you prefer.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy pot and gently fry 1 coarsely chopped onion, a 4cm knob ginger and 4 cloves garlic for 5-6 minutes. Add 2 coarsely chopped tomatoes and 1 cup sliced banana. Add 3 tablespoons madras curry powder, stir well and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons each of butter and flour. Stir thoroughly to remove any lumps of flour. Add 400ml vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Add 2 tablespoons each soy sauce, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. Simmer gently for 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Blitz with an immersion blender until pulpy then pass through a strainer. Return to the pot and reduce until the consistency of light gravy. Add 1 cup parmesan and melt through. Remove from the heat and cool. Serve with minute steaks, rice dishes or fried food. (Makes 600g).

Place 150g each of fresh marjoram and thyme onto a baking tray and bake at 50°C for approximately 2 hours for the leaves to become dry and crumbly. Crumble just the leaves into a dry bowl. Warm a pan to a medium heat and add 3 tablespoons each sumac, white sesame seeds and hemp hearts. Lightly toast the spices for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat to cool. Add to the dried herb leaves and crush with your fingertips to combine. Ideal on flatbread or mac and cheese. (Makes 300g).

In a stainless steel bowl, place 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes, 1 cinnamon quill and ½ teaspoon five-spice powder. Heat 250ml neutral oil to 115°C and pour over the dried spices – the spices will gently fry in the oil. Stir with a steel spoon, then allow to cool. Add 50ml black rice and/or balsamic vinegar and stir. Store in a clean jar in the fridge and stir before using. Ideal with dumplings. (Makes 300ml).