The chef and TV personality hopes his latest cookbook - Much More Veg - will inspire more people to become less dependent on meat.

In case you didn't realise by now, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall really, really wants us to eat more vegetables.

The 52-year-old chef and TV personality, who lives in East Devon, has made a career out of committing to seasonal, ethically produced food, and is best known for hosting Channel 4 series River Cottage, which documents his efforts to become a self-reliant farmer in rural England.

His TV ventures have led to huge campaigns aimed at reducing food waste and changing EU fishing policies, and also the publication of several cookbooks, including his hugely successful first vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Veg Every Day back in 2011, which set out to make plants more appealing.

Now Hugh's back with Much More Veg and a selection of new recipes dedicated to inspiring people to become less dependent on meat - but this veg book is also vegan to boot.

"It was so close to being vegan anyway, and I thought, actually, the most inclusive form of cooking is vegan cooking," he says, "especially as I was already talking about vegetables in their unadulterated form - making the best out of all our plant ingredients. It would have been a bit bonkers for it not to have been a vegan book. But of course, it's for everybody."

Bring out the natural flavours

Hugh says he finds the huge rise of veganism amongst young people really exciting, explaining, "it has to be the direction of travel". But you have to ask, if Hugh himself is still a carnivore - which he certainly is - does he truly think you can make plant-based meals as delicious as ones that contain meat?

"We know how easy it is to make meat delicious - you put salt and pepper on it and you put it in a frying pan and the caramel flavours are delicious. The problem with veg, for so long," he muses, "is we've steamed it and boiled it and we haven't done enough. With veg, we can caramelise the edges, we can add a little spice, we can use amazing, funky dressings - all those things will bring up the natural flavours of vegetables, which incidentally, are already pretty tasty."

Motivation for meat-eaters

Hugh acknowledges that a lot of people set to buy the book are likely to be omnivores, hence why the book's 'meatiest' chapter, in terms of volume, is the one concerning tapas, mezze and side dishes. Think spiced cabbage with sunflower seeds and wine baked mushrooms that have been given a "little tweak" for some edge.

"You want to put a barbecued chop next to one of these recipes? I'm a carnivore, I'm not going to hold that against you," Hugh jokes. "But I didn't see any need to put the chop in the book, because I've covered a lot of ground in meat and fish [previously].

"What people need more help with is making vegetables delicious. Because they have to compete in the end; we have to make them super tasty for people to want them, not just virtuous, and we need to make them tasty raw, tasty cooked, tasty fried, tasty roasted."

Cook from scratch to keeps costs down

"If you've got no interest in cooking and you want to eat, as many people do these days, essentially by choosing ready-to-eat food - whether it's ready meals in the shop or takeaways, or combinations thereof, and nothing is cooked from fresh - then yeah, it's quite hard," says Hugh, considering the costs involved with rising food prices and relying on packaged meals.

"But if you're prepared to cook from scratch then fresh fruit and veg - in their raw form - are not especially expensive. And if you're prepared to spend a little time in the kitchen, just chop up a load of vegetables and pop them in the oven with a little bit of salt and pepper and some spices, if you've got them, that is a very easy win."

River Cottage Much More Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is published by Bloomsbury, priced £26. Photography by Simon Wheeler. Available now.