Umami, delectable, eye-catching, fresh and surprising. If that is the description of a plant-based meal, the chef must be doing an awful lot right. In January 2020, Zineb Hattab opened Restaurant KLE in Zurich, where she is serving a new generation of vegan dishes. She has attracted acclaim and a full house right from the word go.
Hattab was originally a software engineer, but several years ago she started to make a career out of cooking. She immediately signed up for cookery internships with the very best, such as Massimo Bottura in Modena and Andreas Caminada in Schauenstein. She then went to New York, where she worked with Daniela Soto-Innes, who was voted the world’s best female chef in 2019.
And now she’s in Zurich’s district 3. Her decision to cook plant-based food is a pragmatic one: “I’ve recently stopped eating animal products, so there’s no reason for me to cook anything else in my restaurant”.
Having only just embarked upon her vegan journey, she knows that vegan cooking demands some adjustments here and there. We picked up a couple of tips on how to obtain the tastiest results in everyday plant-based cooking.
Don’t be afraid of seasoning: Food does not have to taste predominantly of seasoning, and seasoning does not necessarily make a dish spicy. For example, fennel and coriander are very aromatic without being spicy.
Use nuts as ingredients: Nuts aren’t only for snacking on. Almond pesto, finely grated hazelnuts in salad, and cashew nut cream as the basis for ice cream or tiramisu all enrich plant-based recipes.
Be aware of the seasons: Plants come into their own when they are in season – so it’s essential to learn what is currently growing and consciously make use of these plants.
Incorporate vinegar and oil: There’s a huge choice of oils and vinegars available – they form the basis for dressings for roast vegetables and vegetable kebabs, and also of course for salads.
Add bitter notes: Don’t throw away the peel of citrus fruit, as it adds a lovely bitter quality to recipes.
Have herbs to hand: Herbs are pure freshness and explosions of flavour, so always keep some handy on your balcony or kitchen counter.