For many, vegetarianism is not a diet, it’s a way of life.
There are many different type of vegetarians, the majority I’ve met are ovo-lacto vegetarians who don’t eat animals, but do eat eggs and dairy products. We often entertain vegetarian friends at home and when we do I don’t see it necessary to prepare separate meals, as vegetarian food can be just as, if not more, flavoursome and nutritious.
One of my favourite dishes is pine nut and carrot roast with mushroom sauce, served with potato gnocchi with parmesan and herb butter. Another favourite when entertaining are blue cheese soufflés, however if I‘m serving straight to the table I do a ‘Bless Me’, not that I doubt the recipe, but when I first started making soufflés I used to bless myself in the hope that they would rise properly. Now I do it out of habit … me superstitious in the kitchen!
I remember when working in a prestigious Dublin hotel, the then President was attending a special dinner. As she is vegetarian, we served a vegetarian menu which included a tart served to all attendees. There were great compliments afterwards, and although it was a vegetarian menu, all the plates came back empty. See my recipe for pear and brie tart.
Vegetarians find their essential proteins in grains, nuts and pulses. Another important part of the diet is wholegrain.
Tofu is an excellent source of protein, used by some vegetarians as a replacement for meat. It’s made from curdled soy milk which is pressed into blocks and it comes in different varieties and shapes, and can be eaten either fresh or cooked in many different ways.
For many vegetarians, beans and legumes are a staple part of the diet. The only drawback can be the length of time they can take to cook, however once you know the techniques you will see how easy it is to cook with them. Before using any beans or legumes, rinse them thoroughly to remove any debris, then for dry beans and some legumes (except lentils, split peas and mung beans), they need to be soaked. Normally this would involve soaking the beans in water preferably overnight, however if time is of the essence you can bring the beans to the boil for a minute or two then remove from the heat and cover and leave for an hour or two if possible.
Here are a couple of tips when cooking beans:
- Don’t add salt to the water whilst the beans are soaking, or during the first hour or so of cooking.
- When you’ve finished cooking your beans or legumes, don’t throw away the cooking liquid as it’s full of nutrients and great to use as a stock for soups.
Another of my favourite vegetarian recipes is my vegetable terrine. Terrines are usually served cold or at room temperature, and they’re almost always better made a day in advance, a definite advantage if you’re entertaining! I’ve used agar instead of gelatine and vegetable stock. Asparagus, carrots, peas and green beans all work well but don’t be afraid to experiment using your favourite vegetables.
So whether you follow a vegetarian diet or not, why not try some of these recipes to help achieve your 7-a-day!
Here's some of my favourite vegetarian recipes... now get cooking!
Blue Cheese Soufflé
Replace the blue cheese with Parmesan or Gruyere if preferred. Be sure to not over whip the egg whites for lighter soufflé
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Mild Vegetarian Curry
Mild Vegetable Curry. This recipe light, healthy and nutritious. Turn this recipe into a meat curry by adding some leftover chicken or lamb. View recipe.
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Savoury Vegetarian Tart
For added flavour whisk in some sweet chilli jam/sauce into the eggs when preparing the filling
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