I love vegetables but I am not a vegetarian. I do try hard to get my 5 a day and I dont mind having plenty of meals without any meat but I must admit that I dont think I could go without eating bacon forever!
There has been quite a lot of press lately about it being healthy to give your body a rest from alcohol for two days every week. I have been trying to do this for some time now anyway but it got me thinking that it might be a good idea to try and have at least one or two meat free days each week also. I think we all probably eat a bit too much meat. Its a habit to build your meals around some type of protein as the main ingredient. Also, if your husband is anything like mine and all the other men in my family, they just turn their noses up at the idea of chickpeas and lentils etc. But eating veggie does not have to be dull or equate to a plate of rabbit food. Vegetables can be healthy, filling, exciting and down right tasty!
I was recently flicking through an old copy of Hello magazine and there was an article all about going veggie. It said that an estimated seven million people in the UK dont eat red meat and four million have cut out meat altogether. What I found really interesting was that research suggests that a vegetarian diet could cut the risk of certain cancers by up to 40%. Eating lots of red meat and other proteins in your diet opens you up to certain strains of cancer and heart disease. Now I love cooking and all foods and I certainly dont want this blog to end up sounding like a lecture making you feel guilty about lifes pleasures, but I do think that its worth bearing all this in mind and considering the possibility of having one or two meat free days a week. I dont think it can hurt is all Im saying!
With this in mind (and also my vegetarian readers who may sometimes feel neglected) I set about making three veggie dishes with the aim that my husband did not pine for the missing meat.
First off I made a dish that I based on the Huevos Rancheros which is basically a Mexican breakfast dish of eggs and spicy tomatoes. I wanted this to be something rustic and filling that I could knock up quickly and which works really well as a lunchtime meal with some crusty bread. I am calling it Baked Eggs with Spicy Peppers and Chickpeas. I used a can of ready roasted peppers for this dish partly for ease but also because they have a wonderful sweetness and softness. The chickpeas bulk this dish out making it very satisfying, filling your belly on a cold winters day. I used Harissa paste to spice this dish rather than fresh chilli; it is a lovely blend of spices including red chilli, garlic and coriander and it can really pack a punch so use carefully! This dish is not fancy or cheffy but it is delicious and very pleasing. Neither I nor my husband missed any meat
Next I set about making a Roasted Vegetable Lasagne with Cottage Cheese. I got the idea for this from a recipe I saw in a magazine years ago and in it they used cottage cheese instead of a béchamel sauce. I did not keep that recipe but I never forgot the idea and always wanted to try it as a low fat alternative. I chopped up lots and lots of veggies and roasted them down for a good hour and a half. I couldnt get hold of any fresh lasagne sheets so I blanched some dry sheets and used those, layering with the vegetables and a good spreading of cottage cheese and a sprinkle of cheddar as you would when building a normal lasagne. The result was a triumph. The cottage cheese was very mild and allowed the vegetables to sing and the whole thing tasted light and guilt free! My husband said to me afterwards that it really didnt need any meat in it all. I count that as a total success!!
And finally I decided to try something a little more fancy that you could easily make at a dinner party to impress your guests, vegetarian or otherwise. Shallot Tarte Tatin with Goats Cheese is a thing of beauty and utterly scrummy to boot! (Recipe by James Martin) Its not really hard to make although it is a little laborious peeling 600g of shallots! But trust me, its worth it. The little shallots are cooked in a caramel with balsamic vinegar which gives them a wonderful sharp, rich sweetness and then encased in the puff pastry and finally dotted with creamy Goats cheese. I really think this dish is beautiful and also quintessentially French so I shall be adding it to my repertoire immediately. Bon appétit indeed .
Has this inspired you to go veggie once a week? I would love to know!