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Give Peas a Chance

Next week is National Vegetarian Week. How do you feel about that?

Maybe you have been veggie for a long time and wouldn’t dream of eating any other way?

Maybe you’re more than a little fed up with these designated weeks and are not sure they actually make a difference or are in any way meaningful?

Us? A bit of both actually.

Having been vegetarian for more than 40 years (OK, those of you who actually know us can now be certain who is writing this blog!) we don’t need to be convinced by the benefits, to our own health and to the health of the planet. And, indeed, to our bank balance. We are regularly shocked at the price of meat.

And, yes, sometimes these National Whatever Days and Weeks seem a little silly, but perhaps they are a good chance to raise awareness and get a bit of a conversation going. They are certainly quite handy when we’re trying to think what to write about each week.

Vegan is often espoused as the way to eat to save the planet, and with good reason, but it still feels like quite a bold step for many. Vegetarian is maybe a bit easier.

Interestingly, the recipes on the National Vegetarian Week website are all carbon-calculated, so you can see the difference you are making. Nice to see them making it easier to see how you are doing with their slogan

Eat veggie, cut carbon, drive change

There are certainly some tasty options there and we would encourage you to have a look

But, speaking personally, we are not sure they are going to entice the whole family or those who adamantly refuse to eat a meal that doesn’t contain meat, and we’ve had a lot of experience in serving vegetarian meals that will not scare off the carnivores. We can’t tell you how many times some has said to us

· Oh no, I am not eating that. Or

· But that tastes so good

To avoid the first comments, just don’t mention that the dish is vegetarian!

Only when you are faced with clean plates, and nice comments, do you admit that there was not meat in the meal. That’s when you get the second comment, in quite a shocked voice.

When we are catering for youngsters, we will serve burgers or sausages, without pointing out that they do not contain meat. We have served vegetarian haggis – and here we feel we should name names. MacSweens made the original vege haggis and it is still, by far, the best – to many people who now buy it themselves over the meat variety. A small win J

Quorn mince works well instead of the meaty variety in chilli or bolognaise sauce. We loved being told that our bolognaise was the best a visitor had ever tasted then seeing the look on their face when we told them it contained soya mince.

Actually, you don’t always have to make a big deal of vegetarian meals. There’s always that sticky moment when you have been invited to eat and want to let your host know you are vegetarian, without making them want to un-invite you immediately. Then it can be good to remind them how many everyday dishes are, in fact, vegetarian.

· Macaroni cheese

· Pizza

· Curry

· Omelette

· Stir fry

· Soup

So, to get you in the mood, and in the spirit of driving change, we’re sharing with you seven dishes, one for each day of the week, that we regularly make and that are almost always devoured and often followed by a request for the recipe.

We could think of them as a gateway to vegetarianism. They are tried and tested and are great if

· You want to give vegetarian meals a go

· You want to persuade others that vegetarian meals are really tasty

All these recipes serve 4

Cheese and Nut Loaf

A good one if still want to serve a more traditional meat (but not!), potatoes and two veg meal. A very old recipe indeed, but it still stands the test of time. So old, that we have written down the ingredients in ounces in our book! We have changed them to grams for you 😊

Mix all these ingredients well.

250 g grated cheddar cheese

225 g cottage cheese

100 g chopped mushrooms

225 g chopped nuts (use whichever nuts you want, a mixture if fine)

225 g cooked rice

1 teaspoon of herbs – can be parsley, thyme, oregano, anything really

Then add 3 beaten eggs

Put into a greased loaf tin, cover and bake at 190 degrees for one hour 15 mins

Can be eaten hot or cold

Lentil Loaf

Absolutely gorgeous, served hot or cold. It comes from Rose Elliot’s book, “Your Very Good Health”.

Which we bought when it was published in 1981. Pre-internet so you can’t get the recipe online. We were checking the publication date before writing this and did smile at the suggestion that, if readers have any questions, they should write to Rose, enclosing an S.A.E. We leave it to some of our younger readers to find out what an S.A.E. is ……..

This is one of those books that falls open at certain pages – including the one containing this recipe – and has various splatters on it, indicating that it has been very well-used indeed.

175 g split red lentils

225 g water

1 bay leaf

125 g grated cheese

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

50 g button mushrooms, finely chopped

40 g fresh breadcrumbs

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 egg

1. Put the lentils, water and bay leaf into a pan and simmer gently, uncovered, until all the liquid has been absorbed – about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf

2. Add all the other ingredients, mix well and season with salt and pepper

3. Put into a well-greased 450 g loaf tin and bake, uncovered, at 190 degrees for 45-60 minutes, until the top is firm and golden-brown

Three Bean Chilli

Fabulous dish that can be made ahead of time. We’re fairly sure it came from BBC Good Food, which is a site we highly recommend, but it seems to have dropped off the pages. There are, undoubtedly, other excellent vegetarian chilli recipes out there, but we promised you tried and tested so here goes.


1 tbsp veg oil

1 large carrot, chopped into small dice

1 large stick celery, chopped into small dice

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 glove of garlic, finely chopped

1 chilli, finely chopped, or half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 bay leaf

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp soy sauce

1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 pepper, chopped into small dice

1 400 g tin each of kidney beans, aduki beans and black eyed beans, drained

1. Add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and fresh chilli (if using) to the oil in a large pan on a medium hot heat and cook for 10 minutes

2. Add tomato puree and stir for 30 seconds, then add the cumin, coriander, bay, smoked paprika and dried chilli if using. Stir fry for a minute

3. Add chopped tomatoes, chopped pepper and soy sauce, bring to simmer, cover and leave on a low heat for 10 – 20 mins, stirring occasionally, until veg is cooked through

4. Add all the beans, stir, bring to simmer, cover and cook on low heat for 10 – 15 mins until beans are hot (Add a couple of tbsps of water if it gets a bit dry)

5. Add chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice and sour cream or grated cheese

Courgette Carbonara

From Jamie Oliver. Actually we have tweaked this a little bit, leaving out the bacon in the original recipe. We are ever so grateful to the friend who passed this one on to us, and note that is actually called Beautiful Courgette Carbonara. Which it absolutely is.

Peach and Chickpea Curry

From the wonderful “A Girl Called Jack”, by Jack Monroe. You maybe know that Jack writes about cooking on a budget and at the time this was published she claimed you could make it for 22p. Obviously, there’s been inflation since then, but it’s still a very cheap dish, that masquerades as something much more expensive.

The link will take you directly to the recipe, but please take a look at some of the other recipes on the site. We really recommend them.

Cashew Macaroni

We first ate this a couple of years ago when visiting our vegan daughter in her student flat, and it is now a firm family favourite We can’t find it online, but would not want to miss this chance to pass it on to you.

Note: you need to soak the cashews in boiling water for 10 minutes before you start. We can’t tell you how many times we have forgotten this. It looks like a long list of ingredients, and you can miss out some if you want, but if you use them all you get a great depth of flavour.

We generally add chopped broccoli to his dish, but again, that’s up to you

1 cup cashews

3 tbsps lemon juice

1 can coconut milk

2 tbsps white miso paste (substitute with salt if you prefer)

1 chopped pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

4-6 tbps nutritional yeast

1. Blitz the cashews in a blender with a couple of spoonfuls of water

2. Put into a pan, add all the other ingredients and heat gently

3. Cook the pasta and add to the sauce

Sri Lankan Curry

Taken from “The Student Cookbook: Curries” that we picked up in a charity shop ages ago.

We have adapted it slightly. If you feel the sauce is a little thin, mix a tsp of cornflour with a tsp of water and stir in repeating if necessary).

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger

2 chillies, finely chopped

1 tsp lemon grass or finely grated lemon rind

1 tsp turmeric

800 ml coconut milk

250g each courgettes, potatoes, peppers and carrots (you can choose other vegetables, of course)

1. Put the onions, garlic, ginger, chillies, lemongrass or lemon rind, turmeric and salt in a saucepan. Bring to simmering point and cook gently, uncovered, for 20 mins

2. Add the vegetables and cook for another 20 mins until the vegetables are tender

Baked Tomato and Mozzarella Orzo

This dish is SO easy to make, but it’s difficult to describe just how delicious it is.

We hope you enjoy at least one of these dishes 😊

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