Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Poor Little Veggie Girl

Rick Stein was grilling some beef in the background a few weeks back and I was half watching him, half focusing on my laptop when suddenly my ears pricked up. I plonked myself in front of the T.V to witness Rick succumb to a feeling of pity. When salivating over his chunk of BBQ’d cow he turned to the camera and said to all vegetarians within earshot ‘you poor people, you’re missing this’. I simply smiled. To hear this comment is nothing new in the life of a vegetarian, especially one who dares to call themselves a foodie.

It’s often thought that veggies are repressed carnivores who secretly yearn for a bacon sandwich and dream of sinking their teeth into a slice of rare roast beef alongside goose fat crisped potatoes and a Yorkshire pud; not to mention Christmas, just how CAN you celebrate Christmas without turkey and chipolatas?!

Fast forward a few weeks to a conversation with a friend in connection with a magazine article we are working on, specifically the topic of vegetarianism. My friend, a meat eater, was suggesting ideas for the article and commented that in order to eat a balanced and, above all, interesting diet veggies do have to put in a little more graft. I have to say, I agreed with her.

The observation was made that the process of rustling up a mid-week supper, as a meat-eater, is generally a simpler and less time consuming one than us carnivorously challenged folk can hope for. For example, steak on the griddle, rocket salad dressed with olive oil, chunk of bread and glass of red…sorted! A vegetarian could have this same experience but it would either be a synthetic substitute or a bland block of tofu charred to perfection…yum?

Believe me when I say I am not a vegetarian who pushes my lifestyle choice down people's throats, it’s as much your choice to eat meat as it is mine not to. It’s the simple fact that I couldn’t face the day knowing that I didn’t have a plate of something wholesome yet indulgent to look forward to when I get home from work. That vegetarians have it harder at times, whether it be at home or when eating out, makes me work harder to research recipes, techniques and ingredients. It also makes me think about nutrition ensuring I am still getting the protein and iron I need to be healthy. The hard working, highly talented chefs I look up to and admire would have a field day with me here, telling me that I have no idea the effort that goes into sourcing and creating the recipes they superbly turn out day after day, I would agree with them100%. In this instance, however, I am not talking about professional chefs I’m talking about everyday folk who want to feed themselves well after a tediously exhausting day of being responsible grown-ups.

We are now in the midst of summer and enjoying some damn fine weather; as a result, out come the BBQs, al fresco dining and boozy weekend afternoons in the garden. Now, if you’re a meat eater, you most likely grill and are perfectly happy with sausages, burgers and chicken portions etc all sandwiched between bread rolls with a few sauces and salads. However if, like me, you’re a vegetarian who loves to cook and is used to fresh homemade food the veggie burgers and sausages available on the market don’t really cut it. I don’t actually eat meat substitutes that often in any case. I don’t choose to eat meat so why would I want to pretend to choose to eat meat? One exception to this is Quorn mince. Added to a sauce bursting with butter, onions, garlic, thyme, red wine, Dijon and some seasoning it can produce a pretty decent shepherd’s pie. Chili is also a good option, use a basic chili recipe (I’ve adapted a Jamie Oliver one over the years) and replace beef mince with Quorn mince. You may have to increase the seasoning when using Quorn mince as, obviously, it doesn’t contain animal fat and therefore doesn’t provide a huge depth of flavor on its own; you just have to help it along a little but I am yet to meet a non-vegetarian who doesn’t enjoy my Chili Con Quorne!

On the subject the summer eating, last weekend the sun was doing its thing and I fancied a light salad for lunch so I headed out in search of ingredients that would make for a something more inspiring than the usual vegetarian offerings aka a side salad on a bigger plate or the chicken-salad-without-the-chicken. As it were I also needed a few essentials for the week so I grabbed my eco friendly, smugness inducing jute shopper and headed out.

A little over £70 later I had satisfactorily justified that French brandy, dark chocolate and pecan brownie torte were essential items, alongside several others, and headed home to make my lunch:

Melon with mint and Feta (use room temperature ingredients)
Serves One

½ honeydew melon peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
50g feta, roughly crumbled
2 celery stalks, peeled (fennel would work well too) and sliced on the diagonal
2 sprigs mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
1tbl sp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
Maldon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the melon, feta and celery in a large bowl.

Add the mint, olive oil and vinegar and toss all ingredients together.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

This is a really spin on Nigella Lawson’s watermelon, feta and black olive salad from her ‘Forever Summer’ book. In her own words ‘as improbable as it may sound, this combination is utterly fantastic, both savory and refreshing at the same time’.

None of the recipes I use and often post on this blog would be utilized without my ‘why should vegetarian’s be an after -thought?’ attitude. Monday mornings would not be spent at my desk, pen in hand, thinking up meals and researching recipes for the week ahead for not only my husband and I but for friends and family. All meat eaters, they frequent our dining room each week often leaving with a parting statement: ‘I could give up meat no problem, until the smell of bacon hit me then I’d be lost…poor you…how do you do it?’

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