The recent Horsemeat scandal has left farmers incensed as meat sales have plummeted, supermarkets have lost billions in profits and governments struggle in vain to draw a line under the scandal over horsemeat being sold as beef.
So with consumers ditching beef for veggie ready meals it makes me question why people feel that creating vegetarian dishes can be difficult. Wouldn’t it be just as easy to buy ingredients to create a vegetarian dish than buying a microwave pre-packed one?
By creating your own dish, you control the quantities, the amount of salt, volume… So why don’t some people cook their own vegetarian dishes? Simple:
Vegetarian = Boring!
If you try to convince a non-vegetarian that a meat free meal is delicious and exciting then you’ll just be faced with the deadpan certainty that they are awaiting the punchline in your joke. Either that or they think you’re going to resurrect the vegetable stir-fry. It is just a case of changing a mindset. Question: how can culinary giants such as Italy and Spain create amazing vegetable dishes without the ridicule of their respective nations? Answer: by never compromising on flavour.
The key to a great vegetable dish is to keep it simple. Let the product speak for itself such as aubergines and honey; a simple Starter to any meal:
Aubergine and honey
1st: Heat a griddle pan for approximately 8mins before you start cooking.
2nd: Slice the aubergine however you wish; I tend to favour cutting them in half along their length and then slicing into thin strips along the length of each half.
3rd: Pour olive oil into a dish and soak both sides of the aubergine slices in the oil. Aubergines are like sponges and will soak up a lot of oil so try not to leave them dunked in the oil for too long.
4th: Griddle until scorch marked and softened from the griddle.
5th: Drizzle honey over just before serving.
Use ingredients to compliment your vegetable:
1st: Make the Garlic, Chillies and Parsley butter found on the recipes page.
2nd: Share between the mushrooms.
3rd: Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and bake at 180°C for 20mins.
Disclaimer: The butter retains a lot of heat so take care when eating as you don’t want to end up with your palette blistered to shreds!
For the more adventurous cook why not try a Roast Vegetable Lasagne or an impressive melanzane alla parmigiana where instead of using lasagne sheets you use slices of aubergine with plenty of parmesan.
Toptip: When roasting vegetables don’t add salt until the end otherwise they braise in their own cooking liquid.
Or if you want to impress:
Aubergine rolls filled with spinach, ricotta and pine nuts:
1st: Soften the aubergine slices by either griddling or cooking them in the oven.
2nd: Mix the wilted spinach leaves with the ricotta cheese and add a good shaving of parmesan. Season to taste.
3rd: Either use tomato passata from a jar or create your own.
Start to assemble the dish:
4th: Place a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the bottom of the oven dish.
5th: Add a teaspoonful of the mixture to one end of the aubergine slice and roll it. Repeat this for the remaining aubergine slices. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. To make this a dinner party indulgence why not cover in bechamel sauce before sprinkling with parmesan cheese.
Most of these vegetable dishes make a great accompaniment to any meal. For example both the mushrooms and the aubergine rolls can be a side dish to meat or chicken if you so wish. But celebrating them as a main course with some crusty bread is just as rewarding. Remember, there are plenty of health benefits from eating more vegetables, they are tasty and good on the budget.
Buy vegetables at the height of their season as this will mean you’ll get the best quality product at the best price. Buy what you need as they have a limited longevity; buy small but buy often.
No, I am not a vegetarian, but I hope through this blog entry I may have given you some ideas as to how to take the jump and cook up simple meat-free dishes that you won’t find boring or predictable.
Give them a try!