When I first went veg I went to all my favourite recipe sites and typed in “vegetarian”, then hit the search button. I tried so many new flavours, new ingredient combinations, and so many more recipes than I had ever thought existed. Suddenly a whole new world opened to me – and one of those worlds was cuisines from other cultures who took vegetables pretty damn seriously.
So seriously that their vegetables were unlike anything I had ever tasted before. Take this Greek stew for example – it’s not just roast vegetables, people (although they are my favourite!), it’s a mix of slowly braised/roasted veg with loads of garlic, onion, herbs and lemon, cooked for hours until it melds into a delectable, sweet, flavoursome (dare I say unctuous? weird word, but it’s perfect) mix of soft, crispy, chewy vegetable stew-like deliciousness.
I know, I thought the same thing. Why millet when you can arborio? Or even carnaroli? Won’t millet be less creamy than risotto rice? Well, yes and no. But the point is, it’s delicious. It’s even gluten-free, if that’s your thing. If you’re avoiding white rice, then let me assure you, it’s got a great risotto texture. I was both surprised and pleased, then I scarfed the lot.
I know, I know – broadbeans sound like such a spring vegetable! But if you’ve got a bag o’ em in the freezer, and you’ve got plenty of lemon and chilli floating around then you’ve got a pretty gnarly cool-weather dish if you are, in fact, in cool weather.
There is something about this time of year, when I’m still half in school holiday-mode, where all ideas of meal plans and being organised in dinner-related dinner activities go flying out the window with all of my cares and most of my dreams.
This means I’m either scrabbling to find dinner out of whatever we happen to have in the cupboard, or I’ve forgotten about dinner until it’s dinner time. Which is where I drag out the pasta bake. Find sad veg, add to pasta, top with cheese, EAT WITH WINE.
Normally I’m even lazier and I just chop veg and throw it in the sauce, then throw the sauce on the pasta. Then throw the lot in the oven. This time I pre-roasted the veg which is only ever going to be a good thing – roasting really brings out their flavour. And if you’ve got half a container of black olives, throw them in too – the more flavour the better!
I usually cook one 500g packet of pasta to just before al dente (it will keep cooking in the oven) – I’ve been buying organic pasta in bulk lately so I’ve got PLENTY to go round. This time I roasted a bunch of asparagus (cut into pieces), a few mushrooms, a mixture of all the tomatoes I could find lying around, some onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic. All in the same pan, all with a generous pour of olive oil and plenty of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Mix that lot once cooked with a can or two of tomatoes or a jar of tomato passata, pinch of sugar, bit o’ basil and some more salt, pepper, and olive oil. Stir the sauce through the pasta, top with excruciating amounts of a good, sharp cheese, and pop in the oven until all have had a change to mingle and perhaps even a couple of them make out in the corner.
Pour wine into a glass. Sit on the couch with a bowl of this in one hand, and your wine in the other. Enjoy.
Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!
I can’t remember what reminded me, but I was thinking about minted pea soup, andI remembered reading a recipe by Sophie Dahl where she said she thinks of English summers and cricket and whatnot when she makes it. I don’t know what I think of, except it’s delicious, and before I knew it, I found myself in front of the freezers at my local shops trying to buy a kilo of tiny sweet little globes of goodness.
Which I lovingly simmered in some homemade veggie stock with some sauteed onion and garlic and a little mint from my struggling balcony pot. Then I blended to within an inch of its life, topped with Meredith goat feta, watercress, and mucho black pepper.
Now I’m not one for frozen veggies usually, but if you’re going to take the time to shell fresh peas, then you should really eat them boiled with a little butter and salt – enjoyed in their natural state! It’s criminal to sit through all that effort only to blend them when frozen peas taste just as good in soup.
Keep things vegan by omitting the sauteeing butter, and the extra goat feta at the end. It’s still (as with most vegan food) utterly divine. You won’t miss a thing.
So tell me, do you soup? Do you pea soup? I know some of you out there loathe peas with the fire of a thousand suns – are you one of them?
I know, right – meatless meatloaf? What is it, then?
Well, it’s delicious, is what it is. In fact, when I first found the recipe, it was called “Really Good Vegetarian Meatloaf (Really!)” and I was intrigued. It had high ratings, and people who tried the recipe appeared to agree.
I’ll be the judge of that, I thought.
Yeah, ok – they were right. It was really good.
What you’re really looking for anyway is something baked in an oven that is the vehicle for gravy, amirite?
Anyway, we really liked it, and although next time I will probably put the mix in a food processor rather than just mashing the lentils, I think it does what is says it’s going to do. And if I was home for Christmas, this is what I’d be making. Alongside 84 kilos of potato bake, all the roasted pumpkin in the land, minted peas, and a pavlova chaser.
I know, I know – you’re a vegetarian at Christmas and you don’t know what’s festive enough to eat when everyone else is chowing down on ham. Or worse – you’re a carnivore hosting a vegetarian and you don’t know what to do.
I got some vegetarian Christmas meal ideas that don’t take long, aren’t fiddly, but are super-festive and full of flavour. Nobody will miss out on this special day, I promise. Well, except maybe Santa, I hear he’s on a diet.