How to Become Vegetarian for a Week
Why am I going Vegetarian for a Week?
I have always been a lover of quality food and drink but, although I am an omnivore, I am far closer to being a carnivore than a vegetarian. That makes my going vegetarian for a week a rather unusual choice. The idea came about a few weeks ago when it was mentioned to me half in jest that I should try it. I agreed to give it some thought - and ultimately decided, "Why not?" I probably had nothing to lose but weight!
I will post on this page one vegetarian dinner recipe - which I will have eaten! - representative of each day of the week beginning Monday, 24th May, 2010.
I am so looking forward to this challenge...
Monday, 24th May, 2010
Potato and Spinach Vegetarian Curry with Boiled Rice Recipe - A modestly spiced dish to start my Vegetarian adventures
I decided tonight to start off my vegetarian experience with a simple but tasty curry. Normally when preparing a curry, my first decision is whether to make it with lamb, chicken, beef, or whatever - on this occasion, I naturally was more restricted in my choice! As I do love spinach, however, and know that potatoes make an excellent curry, I came up with this incredibly simple but tasty creation which I hope that you will try for yourself.
The quantities in this recipe will serve two people.
1 1/2 pints of fresh vegetable stock (Please - no stock cubes!)
2 generous handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves
6 small, closed cup mushrooms (halved)
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1/2" grated ginger root
1 small red chilli pepper (finely chopped)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander seed
6oz basmati rice
1 tomato (for garnish, if required)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
The potatoes should be peeled and chopped in to approximately 1" cubes. They should then be added to a pot and the cold vegetable stock added, along with all the other curry ingredients except the mushrooms and spinach. The pot should be placed on a high heat until the stock begins to boil. The heat should be reduced to gently simmer the mixture for twenty minutes, at which point the mushrooms and spinach should be added. (Tip - remove and discard the bay leaf before adding the spinach or it may become, "Lost," and provide an unpleasant surprise during eating.) Note that the amount of spinach may seem excessive at this stage but it will shrink to a fraction of its original size in no time. The curry should then be simmered for another ten to fifteen minutes while the rice is prepared.
The rice should firstly be washed through a sieve under running cold water before being added to a pot, seasoned with salt and plenty of boiling water added to cover the rice to about a depth of 1". The water should be brought back to a boil before the heat is reduced and the rice is allowed to simmer for ten to twelve minutes. Note:- It is often touted that rice should not be stirred while it is cooking. There is much merit to this advice but one brief but thorough stir around one minute after the water has returned to the boil will largely prevent the rice grains sticking to one another and the pot.
When the rice is cooked, it should be drained thoroughly through a sieve. In order to serve it as shown above, I lined a small dish with clingfilm (about 1" sticking above the edges all round) before tightly packing the rice inside. I then merely placed the plate over the dish and inverted them. By holding the edges of the clingfilm, I then easily lifted the serving dish away and peeled off the clingfilm.
The curry should be tasted for seasoning and may be served in a separate dish as shown, or simply added to the plate. The tomato half is an optional but attractive extra, as is the small spinach leaf added atop the rice.
Tuesday, 25th May, 2010
Cheese, Tomato and Mushroom Pizza Omelette (with Optional Fresh Rocket Leaves) - A substantial omelette which can be sliced and eaten like a pizza
This is a variation of one of the first dishes I was ever shown how to cook. My uncle (who taught me most of my early basic knowledge of cooking) showed me how he used to prepare omelettes in a similar way to this while serving with the Royal Air Force in the jungles of the Far East. It is strictly speaking an omelette (being made principally with eggs) but the breadcrumbs give it a consistency not unlike pizza and make it a far more substantial offering.
4 free range, organic eggs
2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs (must be fresh - otherwise quality will be severely affected)
1 medium tomato (sliced)
1 medium mushroom (sliced)
2oz cheddar cheese (grated)
Fresh rocket leaves to garnish (if desired)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little butter for frying
The eggs should be cracked in to a bowl and the water and seasoning added. They should then be whisked lightly until they are combined but not to the point of frothing up. The breadcrumbs should then be stirred through the mixture. The butter should then be gently melted in a non-stick omelette pan - ensuring the base and sides of the pan are coated - and the mixture added. The heat should then be turned up to medium.
Normally at this stage of preparing an omelette, we would gently work the egg in the pan until it begins to set. There is absolutely no requirement to do that in this instance as we do not want our omelette to be, "Light and fluffy." The egg should simply be left to cook until it can be seen that there is only a thin film of uncooked mixture on the top. The tomato and mushroom slices should then be arranged as shown in the photograph to the right, or as preferred.
The pan should then be removed from the hob or stove top and placed under a hot grill for around a minute until the egg has completely cooked and the tomato and mushroom slices are therefore set in place. The cheese should then be scattered on top and the pan placed back under the grill for around another minute until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.
The pizza omelette can then carefully be loosened around the edges with a spatula and slid on to a plate. The rocket leaf garnish is optional. The omelette can simply be eaten as is with a knife and fork or sliced like a pizza and eaten by hand.
The options for making this basic dish are as varied as with any traditional pizza. I hope that you will have fun experimenting with them.
Wednesday, 26th May, 2010
Macaroni Cheese with Spinach and Tomato - A slightly adapted version of an old favourite
Macaroni Cheese is a great favourite around the world. I decided on this occasion, however, to glam it up a little with just a couple of additional inclusions. I loved the result and very much hope that you will try it for yourself and think the same. This quantity will serve two people.
6oz dried macaroni
3/4 pint of milk (warmed slightly)
2oz cheddar cheese (grated)
1 large tomato (de-seeded and roughly chopped)
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
It is of course entirely possible to use fresh macaroni in this recipe but I use dried for convenience. The macaroni should therefore be put on to cook, per the instructions on the packet. That which I used here had to be simmered in boiling water for six or seven minutes.
The butter should then be gently melted in a large pot and the flour sieved and then stirred in to make a roux. It is important to cook the roux for a few minutes - stirring at all times with a wooden spoon - before starting to add the warmed milk in three or four stages to make a smooth and extremely basic bechamel sauce. It is purely my own opinion that if cold milk is added, the sauce is more likely to be lumpy. When the sauce is ready, the cheese should be added and carefully stirred through. The residual heat should be more than sufficient to melt it in a minute or so.
The macaroni, spinach and tomato should then be carefully stirred in to the sauce. This is why I suggested using a big pot to make the sauce! Alternatively, all the ingredients can be added to a bowl or basin to be combined. It will seem at this stage that the spinach being used is excessive but baby spinach is mostly water and it will soon reduce considerably in volume.
The mixture should then be added to an ovenproof dish and the breadcrumbs scattered evenly on top. The dish should then be placed in to the oven, pre-heated to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5 for around twenty minutes, until the breadcrumbs have crusted and turned golden brown. The macaroni cheese with spinach and tomato may then be served.
Thursday, 27th May, 2010
A Vegetarian Platter for Two - An incredibly simple yet presentable offering
This simple platter consists of chilli potato wedges, cherry tomatoes, baby corn on the cob and carrots in nutmeg butter, all served around homemade guacamole. Ideally, the potato wedges should be started and the guacamole prepared a couple of hours prior to starting the cooking proper, for reasons I will explain.
3 medium potatoes (unpeeled)
10 cherry tomatoes (halved)
12 baby corn cobs
1 large carrot or 2 medium sized
1 large, ripe avocado
2 cloves of garlic
1 red chilli pepper
1 tsp chilli powder (or paprika, if milder is desired)
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Sunflower oil for frying
I know it may not always be possible, but the potato wedges are much crispier on the outside if they are started a couple of hours in advance. What I do is wash the potatoes and then half them down through the centre. I then cut each half in to three wedges by starting in the centre and cutting outwards at thirty degrees to the vertical in each direction. I then put the wedges in a large pot, add enough cold water to comfortably cover them, salt and a piece of frozen lemon, about one inch square. (This will help to stop the potatoes turning black as they cool.) The pot should be put on to the heat, the water brought to a boil and the heat reduced to simmer the potatoes for ten minutes only. They should then be drained, allowed to cool and then placed in a plastic container and in to the refrigerator until required later.
While the potato wedges are simmering, the guacamole can be prepared. This will allow all the flavours to fully infuse. Start by peeling and de-stoning the avocado. The two halves should then be placed in a bowl and mashed with a fork. The garlic should be peeled and grated in to the avocado and the chilli pepper very finely chopped and also added. Seeds in or out? That is personal choice, depending upon how hot you want your guacamole to be but remember it is the membrane which holds the seeds which contains the heat, not the seeds themselves, so if removing the seeds to keep the heat down, the membrane will also have to be cut away.
A small squeeze of lemon juice should be added (to stop the guacamole discolouring), salt and pepper to taste and the mixture should be stirred thoroughly before being covered with clingfilm and refrigerated.
When it comes to cooking the full meal proper, the first step is to put the oven on to preheat to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. A high-sided baking sheet should also have enough sunflower oil added to comfortably cover the base and be popped in to the oven to preheat.
While the oven is heating, the chilli powder (or paprika) should be spread out on a plate and salt added to taste. The potato wedges should each be dipped in turn in the paprika on each exposed flesh side, before the excess is carefully tapped away. The potato wedges should then be placed in the hot oil on the baking sheet and in to the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. They should be shaken and turned halfway through cooking.
The carrot will take the next longest to cook. The carrot(s) should be scraped, not peeled, before being chopped in to wedges about 2" by 1/2". They should be simmered in boiling, salted water for twenty minutes, before being drained and returned to the pot. The butter and nutmeg should be added and the carrots gently swirled in the melting butter to ensure even coating.
The baby corn does not actually need cooking at all but I like to blanch it only for a couple of minutes in boiling water, just to heat it through, when serving it with other hot ingredients.
If you have a serving plate such as the one I used, arrange the various components as shown. Alternatively, plate them up prior to serving or serve them in individual smaller dishes and enjoy.
Friday, 28th May, 2010
Vegetarian Chilli - A classic dish - minus its principal ingredient: beef!
Chilli Con Carne is a dish which I prepare and enjoy regularly - needless to say, always before now made with plenty of minced (ground) beef! The idea to make a vegetarian alternative actually came about purely by coincidence only yesterday when I by chance happened to come across a recipe on the Web for Vegetarian Chilli which - frankly - sounded extremely confusing. The list of ingredients would all but have filled this page and although I had never before heard of its creator - nor even the site upon which it was published - I was not inclined to explore any further. I decided there and then to have a crack at doing better and what follows is the result of that pledge.
I have served this vegetarian chilli on its own. Served in this fashion, the quantities will serve two people but if served with rice, will probably cater for four. Another way in which I often like to eat traditional chilli is with fresh, warmed, crusty bread, instead of rice.
2 14oz cans of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
1 14oz can of red kidney beans in water
1 cob of fresh corn (kernels carefully removed with a Chinese cleaver or very sharp knife)
1 green bell pepper (de-seeded and sliced in to approx. 3/4" strips)
3 large, closed cup mushrooms (roughly chopped)
3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
2 red chilli peppers (finely chopped - seeds in or out as per preference)
1 tsp of whole cumin seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp of olive oil
This recipe is actually one of the easiest I have ever shared! One beauty that I have found of vegetarian cooking is that very often there is no real requirement to cook at all! The raw ingredients are perfectly edible. I have on this occasion, however, elected to cook them...
Firstly, put the olive oil in to a large pot. Please do not go to the expense of buying extra virgin or even virgin olive oil for this recipe. It is simply a waste of money for a recipe such as this - it will make no difference whatsoever to your finished dish! Ordinary olive oil is fine.
Heat the olive oil gently and then add the garlic and the chilli peppers to sweat off for about a minute - stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Thereafter, add the tomatoes and turn up the heat to bring to a simmer.
It is important to wash the red kidney beans before adding them to the mixture. Do so through a colander, under running cold water, before adding them and the remainder of the ingredients to the pot.
The cumin seeds deserve a whole paragraph of their own. It is of course entirely possible simply to use ground cumin. I have found, however, that toasting cumin seeds in a dry frying pan for around a minute, before grinding them in a pestle and mortar improves the flavour of the finished dish no end.
The whole mixture should be brought to a simmer and simmered for around twenty minutes. This serves to generate the flavours.
Please note that this chilli is very well suited to freezing. It should of course, however, be heated thoroughly at any future date prior to serving.
Saturday, 29th May, 2010
Mixed Salad with Asparagus Spears - Incredibly quick and simple bu also very tasty
Thank you for your visit to this site and I hope that you will like or have liked some of the recipes posted here. Any comments which you have may be left in the space below.