I have lived the last 3 weeks of my life as a fully fledged vegetarian. We have had a lovely young girl from California staying with us and in return for a bed and food, she has worked on our house, mainly painting and stripping our shutters. Its a wonderful scheme giving people a chance to travel and live rent free with families such as ourselves and sample how others live. As it turns out, she is a vegetarian so we decided we would embrace it to the full with her and we embarked on 3 weeks of no meat. My husband and I did this with great joy, both of us expecting to feel wonderful for it and maybe even loose some weight. And I must say that I have not been disappointed. My skin is looking clear and fresh, I have lost a couple of pounds, I have not missed the meat and first and foremost, my wallet has enjoyed the experience! To my delight, I have found that despite having an extra mouth to feed, I have saved on average 30 Euros on my weekly shop by cutting out meat. It is a revelation to be able to so clearly appraise how expensive meat has become and has made us think about how often we need to make it part of our meals. I think the plan from now on is to eat mainly vegetables and maybe have some meat for a treat at the weekends. Although we do not intend to be too rigid in this plan, both my husband and I have really enjoyed the vegetarian dishes that I have been making and as long as we continue to be adventurous and excited about vegetables, then this should be easy to stick to.
I have picked out a few recipes that have stood out for me over the last few weeks for their taste, simplicity and satisfaction factor and I will share some with you here. First of all, I was lucky enough to be able to pick up a huge bunch of Watercress from a market for 1 Euro last week. Not always easy to get hold of here as you need exactly the right conditions to grow it and is only available seasonally. So when I see it, I grab it as I love the peppery flavour. I used the whole bunch to make a lovely light lunch of Watercress Frittata. This recipe is simplicity itself, just wilted Watercress mixed with eggs and set. It is completely all about the watercress with the eggs just the agent to hold it all together. There is something so wonderful about the smell of the watercress as you gently fry it, it somehow softens the pepperiness but intensifies the aromas at the same time. I love this served simply with a salad and some crusty bread. And for those of you who still crave some Protein, it would also be fabulous with some flaked salmon stirred through.
Another simple dish that I particularly enjoyed was Chickpea & Coriander Burgers with Sweet Chilli Sauce. These did not take long to make with only a few ingredients all whizzed up in the blender. These burgers had a lovely light consistency which I was not expecting. The lemon zest and coriander exploded on your palate giving the burgers a hint of Thailand which was perfectly paired with a splash of sweet chilli sauce as a garnish. I had expected them to be super filling encased in a wholemeal bun but honestly, they were delicate and delicious and I would certainly make them again instead of a greasy beef burger! Another vegetarian revelation!
A great recipe to fall back on if you dont have a lot of time is this Black Olive and Feta Tart. Using ready made Puff Pastry means that this delicious salty but sweet tart is really just an assembly job where you sprinkle everything on top just like a pizza and bake for 20 minutes. I have made this a few times and it always goes down a storm, perfect for lazy lunches sat outside in the sunshine. The ingredients balance each other so well and it tastes just as good as it looks .which is pretty darn good!
And finally for this instalment of vegetarian delights, I want to include a super easy supper dish which is filling, delicious and thrifty, wonderful for us busy Mums! I made Baked Tomato Rice with Crunchy Vegetables & Raclette Cheese. This recipe is not at all fussy or fancy but it is comforting and substantial and would happily feed a hungry family who would not miss the meat. Cook your rice and mix with a jar of tomato and ricotta pasta sauce, stir through some sundried tomatoes, top with lightly steamed vegetables and cover liberally with Raclette cheese. Stick the whole thing under the grill until the cheese melts and bubbles oozily and serve. Thats it, nothing cheffy but I promise you, it is tasty and nourishing and sometimes, that is just what the doctor ordered dont you think?
Happy cooking friends!