Tuesday, 24 March 2015

It's national vegetarian week! Why not try something new?

Studies have shown that vegetarians (following a well-balanced low-fat high-fibre vegetarian diet) often have lower incidence of coronary artery disease, hypertension, obesity and some forms of cancer.

Vegetarians avoid meat, poultry, game, fish and slaughterhouse by-products such as gelatine and animal fats. The staples of the vegetarian diet are fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts. Most vegetarians eat dairy products and free-range eggs.

Fruitarians: Avoid all animal products and processed foods.
Vegans: Avoid all animal products.
Lacto-vegetarians: Eat dairy products but not eggs.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: Eat both dairy products and eggs.
Semi-vegetarians: Eat fish and/or chicken but no red meat. They are not officially classed as vegetarians.
A vegetarian diet can be a very healthy option but it is important to ensure it is well balanced. You could stuff your face with chips and chocolate at every meal and be vegetarian but you wouldn’t be doing your health much good.

Staples of a Vegetarian Diet

A balanced vegetarian diet should include:

  • Grains and cereals: Wholegrain bread, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, muesli.
  • Legumes, nuts and seeds: Soya beans. kidney beans, split peas, lentils, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds
  • Fruit and vegetables: As much as you want - think variety. Try new fruits and vegetables and include them in your diet every day
  • Dairy or soya products: Look out for fat free and reduced calorie options for milk, yoghurts, cheeses. 
  • A typical vegetarian diet closely matches expert dietary recommendations for healthy eating, being low in saturated fat and high in fibre, complex carbohydrates, and fresh fruit and vegetables. As long as you eat a variety of foods you will be getting all the nutrients you need. 


Try A Little Vegetarianism
Abandon the idea that you have to eat meat every day and try a couple of meat-free days each week. You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy vegetarian dishes. Both you and your wallet will feel the benefits!

Miso-roasted aubergine steaks with sweet potato

1 large aubergine (about 375g)
2 tbsp brown miso paste (we used Clearspring)
350g sweet potatoes, unpeeled and cut into chunky wedges
1 tbsp sunflower oil
thumb-sized piece ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
pinch of pink Himalayan salt
8 spring onions, sliced diagonally

small pack parsley, leaves chopped



  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Peel the aubergine with a potato peeler and roughly spread the miso paste all over it – the best way to do this is with the back of a spoon.
  2. Put it in a roasting tin along with the sweet potato wedges. Pour 225ml boiling water into the base of the tin, then add the oil, ginger and garlic. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the wedges and place in the oven.
  3. After 30 mins, pour another 125ml boiling water into the base of the tin and roast for another 20 mins. Repeat, adding 50ml boiling water and the spring onions, and roast for 10 mins more. Check the aubergine is cooked by inserting a knife in the centre – if it is ready it will easily slide in and out, and the aubergine will be soft on the inside.
  4. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the potato wedges, slice the aubergine into 2cm thick ‘steaks’ and serve on top of the potatoes. If there is no sauce in the bottom of the tin, add 3 tbsp water to loosen up the miso, then pour the miso gravy over the aubergine steaks and sprinkle with cracked black pepper.


Five-a-day tagine

4 carrots, cut into chunks
4 small parsnips, or 3 large, cut into chunks
3 red onions, cut into wedges
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp each ground cumin, paprika, cinnamon and mild chilli powder
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 small handfuls soft dried apricots

2 tsp honey


  1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Scatter the veg over a couple of baking trays, drizzle with half the oil, season, then rub the oil over the veg with your hands to coat. Roast for 30 mins until tender and beginning to brown.
  2. Meanwhile, fry the spices in the remaining oil for 1 min – they should sizzle and start to smell aromatic. Tip in the tomatoes, apricots, honey and a can of water. Simmer for 5 mins until the sauce is slightly reduced and the apricots plump, then stir in the veg and some seasoning. Serve with couscous or jacket potatoes.


Aubergine Parmigiana

3 large aubergines
olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ bulb spring garlic, or 1 clove of regular garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 heaped teaspoon dried oregano
2x400 g good-quality tinned plum tomatoes, or 1kg fresh ripe tomatoes
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a little wine vinegar
1 large handful fresh basil
3 large handfuls Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 handfuls dried breadcrumbs
a little fresh oregano, leaves chopped
150 g buffalo mozzarella, optional



  1. First things first: remove the stalks from the aubergines, slice them up into 1cm thick slices, and put to one side. Whether you're using a griddle pan or a barbecue, get it really hot. Meanwhile, put 2 or 3 lugs of olive oil into a large pan on a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and dried oregano and cook for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and the garlic has a tiny bit of colour. If you're using tinned tomatoes, break them up, and if you're using fresh tomatoes (which will obviously taste sweeter and more delicious, if they're in season), very quickly prick each one and put them into a big pan of boiling water for 40 seconds. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put them into a bowl of cold water for 30 seconds, then remove the skins, carefully squeeze out the pips and cut up the flesh. Add the tomato flesh or tinned tomatoes to the onion, garlic and oregano. Give the mixture a good stir, then put a lid on the pan and simmer slowly for 15 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, grill the aubergines on both sides until lightly charred Рyou may have to do them in batches, as they probably won't all fit into your griddle pan in one go. As each batch is finished, remove them to a tray and carry on grilling the rest until they're all nicely done. When the tomato sauce is reduced and sweet, season it carefully with salt, pepper and a tiny swig of wine vinegar, and add the basil. You can leave the sauce chunky or you can pur̩e it.
  3. Get yourself an earthenware type dish (25 x 12–15cm). Put in a small layer of tomato sauce, then a thin scattering of Parmesan, followed by a single layer of aubergines. Repeat these layers until you've used all the ingredients up, finishing with a little sauce and another good sprinkling of Parmesan. I like to toss the breadcrumbs in olive oil with a little freshly chopped oregano and sprinkle them on top of the Parmesan. Sometimes the dish is served with torn-up mozzarella on top, which is nice too.
  4. Place the dish in the oven and bake at 190°C/375°F/gas 5 for half an hour until golden, crisp and bubbly. It's best eaten straight away, but it can also be served cold. You can use the same method substituting courgettes or fennel for the aubergines – both are delicious. But do try making it with aubergines – you'll love it!

Vegetable Chilli

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, approximately 500g
1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin, plus extra for sprinkling
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 cloves garlic
a bunch of fresh coriander
1 fresh red chilli
1 fresh green chilli
2 x 400 g tinned beans, such as kidney, chickpea, pinto and cannellini
2 x 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes



  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas 6. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized chunks. Sprinkle with a pinch each of cayenne, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat, then spread out on a baking tray and set aside.
  2. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Halve, deseed and roughly chop the peppers. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Pick the coriander leaves and put aside, then finely chop the stalks. Deseed and finely chop the chillies. 
  3. Place the sweet potatoes in the hot oven for 40 minutes, or until soft and golden. Meanwhile, put a large pan over a medium-high heat and add a couple lugs of olive oil. Add the onion, peppers and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. 
  4. Add the coriander stalks, chilli and spices and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring every couple of minutes. Drain the beans, then tip them into the pan with the tinned tomatoes. Stir well and bring to the boil, then reduce to a medium-low heat and leave to tick away for 25 to 30 minutes, or until thickened and reduced. Keep an eye on it, and add a splash of water if it gets a bit thick. Stir the roasted sweet potato through your chilli with most of the coriander leaves. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if you think it needs it. 
  5. Scatter the remaining leaves over the top, and serve with some soured cream, guacamole and rice or tortilla chips.


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