Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Twelve days of Meat Free March: a veggie recipe round-up

This month has flown by - I can't quite believe that I'm almost half way through my thirty one days of meat abstention. Apart from missing the sweet, sweet taste of freshly fried chorizo, the beautiful versatility of prawns - my favourite fishy friends - and the indescribable wonder of a Saturday morning bacon sandwich, I've actually not missed eating meat all that much at all. Despite my colleague Nathan sending me almost daily photos of thick-cut, beautifully cooked steak, I've found the draw of the meat aisle quite easy to resist.

The thing that's kept me going is the wealth of new, healthy, delicious recipes that I've discovered - both by chance and by recommendation. I thought I'd take the opportunity to pop together a quick rundown of a few of my favourite dishes that I've tried over the past twelve days. 

Ottolenghi's Barley, Tomato and Garlic Risotto

Recommended to me by the wonderful Gemma over at Florence Finds, this dish was a wonderful, filling mid-week treat - one that I know will join our list of favourites even when we go back to full-time omnivore fun.  To be honest, when I was cooking it I was completely unsure quite how it was going to turn out - it features quite a concoction of ingredients and a hell of a lot of garlic. So, maybe not a first date food, but if you like healthy comfort noms and want to ward off vampires, this one's for you. You just need to put your faith in Ottolenghi's genius and trust that the recipe will work. We adapted it slightly as we were low on fresh tomatoes so we used tins, and instead of buying pearl barley we used Bello's three grain blend - which is a mixture of risotto rice, spelt and barley. If you want to try Ottolenghi's original recipe, you can find it here.

Serves 4

Heat 3 tbsps of olive oil (or a few sprays of Fry-lite) over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan and sauté 2 whole heads of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and quarted, for about two minutes, or until golden. Add two tins of chopped tomatoes, 1/2 tsp of paprika, 1/8 tsp dried chilli flakes, 1 tbsp thyme, 4 strips of lemon zest, 1 1/2 tsp caster sugar, 1 tsp salt, 270g of Bello's three grain blend (rinsed and drained) and a ladleful of water; stir and bring the mix to a simmer. Cook over minimal heat for 50-60 minutes, until the barley is tender but still firm to the bite. You’ll need to stir it from time to time, so it doesn’t stick to the pan, and add water occasionally, making sure there is always just enough liquid left in the pot to cook the barley. At the end of the cooking, the mix should be runny enough easily to spoon into bowls.
Once done, remove the pan from the heat, stir in 15g chopped coriander leaves and some freshly ground black pepper. Add 150g of feta, stir gently so the cheese doesn’t break up too much and stays in largish chunks, taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Spoon into serving bowls, sprinkle with 50g of feta and 5g of coriander, and drizzle over a little olive oil.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

Filling. Low calorie. Cheap. Fast.Vegan-friendly. Perhaps could do with a bit more in the way of spice, but did the trick just fine. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has slightly adapted his recipe from Angela Hartnett's, which can be found here, which in turn was inspired by food served at Prashad, a vegetarian restaurant in Bradford which is firmly on my list to try this month. Watch this space for a review!

Gnocchi and Tomato bake

Image courtesy of BBC Good Food - but mine looked like this too, I promise!

I can't put into words how much I adore BBC's Good Food. I own two of their hefty recipe books and they're our go-to food bibles for whenever the cupboards are bare and our imagination is lacking. Full of meals made made up of store cupboard favourites, and a large veggie section to boot, I've cooked a lot of their recipes and I've never discovered a bad one. This gnocchi and tomato bake was no exception - simple, super quick and very tasty - it hit spot on a day that cheese was being craved in abundance. 

So, there we go. Here's to another two and a bit weeks of vegtastic meals. Please help a sister out though - I'd love to know if there are any veggie meals that you'd particularly recommend to keep me going over the next nineteen days!


  1. That gnocchi looks delicious! On the subject of gnocchi, Lorraine Pascale's mascarpone gnocchi and pesto is a dream although a bit of a faff so I'd save it for a weekend treat. I also love her mushroom risotto - although I leave out the chestnuts and add a little asparagus - perfect with a crisp glass of pinot grigio! xx

  2. These look gorgeous, will definitely be trying them out myself!