I remember when I was 17 and I declared to my mother that I was going to be a vegetarian. She said of course I was, and proceeded to ignore me. She wasn’t going to go out of her way, as she put it “for a phase”, and make special meals for me. I would simply have to make do with what she deemed ‘vegetarian’. It all came to an emotional head when she served me yet another baked potato. What it boiled down to? She didn’t know how to cook ‘vegetarian’.
Skip forward 10 years and I had the luck of becoming a vegetarian chef in an Inn in the Southern United States. My first cooking job, and my most difficult. What really hit home was that Vegetarian cooking was harder than cooking with meat, because you can’t rely on sauces. Sauces would overwhelm the subtlety of vegetables.
Also, you actually had to really think about the combinations of veg, the flavourings, even the style of cooking. After all, there is only so much stir fry one wants to eat day after day.
Thus said, that was for a restaurant. Home cooking vegetarian (and vegan!) is SOOOO much easier! I was put to the test when a vegan friend was visiting. It gave me the chance to search out new recipes, and the result was I discovered a whole new tasty world.
I always thought that vegan cooking was incredibly complicated or used ingredients that I had never come across before. Boy, was I wrong. I realised I had fallen for the gossip about veganism, but luckily and happily I was proved wrong and a whole new world opened up for me. We are definitely incorporating many more vegan (as well as vegetarian) meals into our week.
There are some absolutely amazing, easy, fast recipes out there and these days with the internet there is really no excuse not to find them. My preference is to determine what I have in the garden, or fridge, that needs using up and do a search on it. So for example on the vegetarian front; that lone courgette becomes a Courgette and Mushroom Tart. Dead simple, absolutely delicious, and so easy to make! Left over tomatoes that are going slightly mushy, not a problem. They become a Tomato and Zucchini Galette, another so very simple yet gorgeous tasting dish. Oh, and there is always that question about what to do with cauliflower, besides Cauliflower and Cheese. How about Cauliflower and Sorrel Soup or Cauliflower Pakoras? Both of these dishes are stunning. (PS: I do love Cauliflower and Cheese, but I prefer mine with bacon.) And if you haven’t tried Celeriac Oven chips (that weird really ugly vegetable), you haven’t lived.
So whether you have invited friends for dinner who tell you they are vegetarian, or your daughter has just declared herself one, Don’t Panic! Just choose your veg, do a search and have a go. It really is that simple.