Vegetarian Cooking for beginners
These days we are bombarded with dietary advice, and rightly so, given the medical time-bombs of obesity and diabetes that are becoming increasingly problematic. With cooking we can literally change the world, and even have some fun in the process, so it's a very important part of the day.
I've been vegetarian since the age of 15, and have never regretted it. Here is an easy and practical recipe that I like so much that I make it all the time - and it takes 10 mins to prepare. I've been influenced by macrobiotic and low-GL diet cookery and here in the UK we are assailed with TV cookery programmes every day - it's cheap TV! - Why film a music or drama extravaganza when you can film Jamie Oliver cooking something!
Stir -Fry recipe for Eejits
- Chop up some broccoli,leeks and carrot and steam them in a covered pan - use very little water. Will probably take 5 mins or so, so now-
- Put some extra-virgin olive oil in a wok, and fry some onions. I prefer organic red onions.
- Add some tofu - I use pre-marinated tofu, but it's not important.
- Add some sweetcorn, then noodles. Noodles ready-for-wok variety are easiest, obviously.
- Now the vegetables are steamed, add any left over water to the wok.
- Finally, stir in some cashew nuts, and add a little tamari or organic soy sauce.
- It's nice to add a sprinkle of nori (Japanese seaweed) or milled seeds at the end.
- This basic concept can be changed around any way you like - if there is anything you really like, just add it.
- You could use buckwheat or soba noodles for added health benefits
General tips for cooking
You probably know all of this, but-
- Don't add salt or sugar to things, there is enough in everything already
- Use only quality olive oil, walnut oil, avocado oil. Avocado oil is especially healthy.
- Cook veg al dente, minimum time possible
- Use organic veg and support local growers
- By being vegetarian or working towards that, you will save a load of $$$ - money which can be spent on the best ingredients and the finest wines. The Keith Floyd school of cookery is to encourage yourself with a glass or two of red wine, and it definitely makes cooking into a fun activity!
- Tamari or organic soy sauce is easily worth the money, and will improve most dishes. Miso is great to add flavour to soups, and also casseroles.
- Woks are not expensive. A cheap source in the UK and Europe is IKEA - probably about £2.99 for the last one I bought there.
The low -GL diet
I'm fairly sceptical about the whole world of diets and weight-loss, and I think that's the right way to be. However, having seen the results of this diet plan, with its emphasis on healthy cooking, I'm convinced that it works.
The Holford Low- GL Diet Cookbook is full of good advice and recipes. It builds on the GI or glycaemic index based diet, in which the essential thing is understanding how fast different foods are metabolized in the body, and looking for those foods that have a slower energy release. GL is different to GI.
This is not essentially a vegetarian diet, though there are veggie options - so I can't fully endorse it myself. But I think it's an educational and well-informed book. Just reducing bread and carbs in your diet can really help you lose weight, and food combination tips such as combining protein and carb can also work well.
There has been a lot of interesting research lately into superfoods, foods which punch about their weight in a nutritional sense. These include broccoli, walnuts, blueberries and many other foods. Here's a short superfoods list: apples, artichokes, apricots, asparagus, beets, blueberries, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cantaloupe, cauliflower, cherries, celery, chives, corn, cod, crabs, cucumbers, cranberries, eggplant, flounder, grapefruit, garlic, green beans, grapes, honeydew, kale, lemons, leeks, lettuce, lobster, limes, mushrooms, mangoes, nectarines, onions, oranges, okra, parsley, papaya, peaches, peas, pears, peppers, prunes, pumpkin, pineapple, raspberries, radishes, red cabbage, scallions, sauerkraut, spinach, strawberries, string beans, squash, tangerines, turnips tomatoes, and watermelon.
It's really a good idea to include as many of these as possible. If nothing else, it may save you and your family from medical bills in the future, and it's an easy way to improve a healthy cooking regime.
Also, looking at longetivity in the places such as Azerbaijan and Okinawa is really promising. In both places, a very low intake of meat is implicated in long life, and yogurt also seems important, though this is probably down to sheep's yogurt rather than dairy produce.
One of the world's longest-lived people is 112 years old, and from Azerbaijan. Mind you, she does look a bit rough. She attributes her long life to yogurt and not eating much meat. There is a video on the BBC new website which is worth watching.
The whole area of macrobiotic cooking is interesting if you are searching for healthy cooking methods. Japanese cuisine with nori and other seaweeds has a great contribution to make.
The Meat Industry
The meat industry is the cause of cruelty and barbaric practices on an epic scale. Apart from the appalling conditions that animals are subjected to, there is also the hormone and additives that ends up in your meat.It's an industrial process.
U.N. figures estimate the global carbon footprint of this industry to be 18% of all carbon emissions, more than all forms of transportation combined. Then there is the Amazon deforestation for cattle rearing...it is not sustainable to eat meat, it's that simple.
Still not convinced that healthy cooking is vegetarian cooking? Try Cafe Maitreya in Bristol UK, winner of many awards for their vegetarian cookery. The food is just amazing. I'm guessing it's one of the world's best restaurants, despite the less- than- promising location in the back streets of Bristol!
Please recommend any other examples of healthy cooking in restaurants through the comments box.
Salads and raw food
To be honest, I've never been too keen on salads, and it's taken me a long time to get to like them. Using organically grown produce makes all the difference. Here is an easy French salad that is popular in Brittany and is very easy to make -
Take organic lettuce or Marks and Spencer four-leaf salad, and add some French dressing, the mustard- based kind with olive oil. To this just add chopped walnuts, chives and small cubes of Roquefort cheese.
You could use this as a baguette filling, or put some pitta bread in your toaster and split it, then fill with the salad mixture. Marinated olives make a nice addition.