Meat Free January: Episode 3, Return of the Vegetarian

So week three of a vegetarian January. Wow, only 48 weeks left until Christmas(!). I think I will start doing a series on a grow your own Christmas soon.

Anyway, I really hope it has been going well so far. I know some people who have given up on the new year already, but regardless, it is always good eating less meat, having a few vegetarian meals each week. It saves money and the environment: so really good!
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been having debates over the basis of veganism. I know it is off the point slightly, but I want to know your views.
My friends Dave and Charlotte (hi Dave and Charlotte!) and I, along with my daughter, decided on a short trip to the peak district. If you do not know, this is the area at the southern point of the Pennines and has some stunning scenery. I think Winnett’s Pass was the most fun I have had driving in a long time.
Well, let’s try to stay on topic, Charlotte and Dave are attempting a vegan year this year (not just January, but all year!). I wish them well with this, and rather them than I!
We quickly got on to the nature of veganism. Why does one become vegan? And what is the priority of issues?
Dave was quite clear. Animal welfare trumps all, and that is what veganism is. This was a view seconded by another friend, Kitty, who said if there were the option of a meat and dairy free sandwich in plastic packaging, and a sandwich in eco friendly, compostable packaging but packed full of meat, she would go for the plastic one. However she argued that being environmentally good and not eating meat were together were the thing to strive towards.My arguement was on the other side, food should be local wherever possible, seasonal and grown using environmentally sound means. If your actions in not eating meat are contributing to a more toxic environment then is it any better?

This is a complex discussion, and one that I might try to do a full post on in the future. But right now we have recipes to discuss.

So, how about a bit of fun this week. Let’s give veganism a try!!! So all the following are vegan friendly recipes, not just vegetarian, but on top, they are all things grown locally to me, seasonal (or preserved from previous seasons).

Celeriac and herb soup

I discovered only this week that cueleriac works really well with dill. Well this soup is simple and delicious and filled with those celeriac and dill flavours.

Ingredients

  • 75g dill
  • 75g parsley
  • 1 celeriac
  • 6 radishes
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • Tablespoon fennel seed
  • Teaspoon dried thyme
  • Teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Tablespoon of rapeseed oil
  • Salt to season
  • Pepper to season

Method

  1. Chop all ingredients into small pieces. For the celeriac, aim for inch cubes.
  2. Place all ingredients in a pan and boil for 30 minutes. If you need more water, add it.
  3. After the 30 minutes blend everything together into a smooth soup
  4. Place back in the pan once blended. If you want it thicker then reduce down on the hob, stirring so that it does not burn on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Serve with some crusty bread, or the piadina at the bottom of the page.

Falafel wraps

A great way to use chickpeas and those dried herbs from earlier in the year. The filling of the wrap can be changed depending on what is in season. Falafels are a great vegetarian staple.

Ingredients

For the falafel (makes 6 falafel)

  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 50ml aqua faba (chickpea water)

For the wrap filling (per wrap x6 falafel)

Tablespoon harissa paste
  • Teaspoon tahini
  • Tablespoon chopped red onion
  • Five inch cubes of butternut squash
  • 2 pickled gerkins chopped
  • Handful coriander
  • Handful parsley
  • Handful mint
  • Handful baby spinach
  • Ready made wrap, pitta bread or home made large piadina (recipe below)

Method

  1. Mince the garlic, onion and parsley together.
  2. Dry fry the cumin seed and coriander seed until fragrant, then grind using a pestle and mortar until you have a fine powder.
    1. While this is cooking prepare the ingredients for the wrap. Smear the wrap/pitta/piadina in the harissa paste and then layer the herbs, roughly torn, the onion, the gerkin slices and spinach.
    2. Place the butternut squash cubes in with the falafel and fry until brown and crisp on each side.
    3. Drip the tahini onto the wrap and then place the butternut squash and falafel.
    4. Wrap in any way possible and enjoy as soon as you can!Add the chickpeas to the pestle and mortar and grind them as well. You want them to maintain some texture, but certainly be smaller than halves. Add the minced garlic, onion and parsley to the chickpea and spice mix, followed by the aqua faba which will bind it all together. Then mix vigorously.
    5. Heat up the oil in a frying pan and shallow fry until the falafel is cooked through and golden on the outside. To do this you will need to turn constantly throughout the cooking time.
    6. Roll the mix into 6 equal balls, ensuring that they are equal sizes
  1. While this is cooking prepare the ingredients for the wrap. Smear the wrap/pitta/piadina in the harissa paste and then layer the herbs, roughly torn, the onion, the gerkin slices and spinach.
  2. Place the butternut squash cubes in with the falafel and fry until brown and crisp on each side.
  3. Drip the tahini onto the wrap and then place the butternut squash and falafel.
  4. Wrap in any way possible and enjoy as soon as you can!

Bean and Green stew

A wonderful, warming Winter stew that fills you with energy for the upcoming week. I found that paprika and fennel really work well together and these bring a lovely fresh warmth to this stew.

Ingredients

  • 4 types of dried beans, 200g of each (I like different sizes especially, so butter beans, black beans, borlotti beans and canalinni work well for me, but use what you have in).
  • 1 whole white cabbage
  • 1 large onion
  • A bulb of garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 can of tomato
  • 2 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 250ml red wine (ensure this is vegan)
  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

Method

  1. For dried beans you need to soak overnight and then rinse just before adding to the stew.
  2. Slice the cabbage into thin slices, horizontally through the cabbage. Aim for 1cm slices.
  3. Slice the carrots into small cubes.
  4. Slice the celery into thin slices
  5. Finely dice the onion and the garlic. Place these in a large wide pan (that you can also put in the oven) on the hob with the rapeseed oil and fry gently. After 5 minutes add the celery and carrots and fry for another 10 minutes.
  6. Once fried, add the herbs: rosemary, thyme and fennel seeds. Then add the paprika and the cabbage after a couple of minutes and fry for 3 more minutes.
  7. Add the tinned tomato, the dried beans, the tomato puree, the vegetable stock and the red wine.
  8. Place a lid on the pan and put in the oven (200°C) for 2.5 hours, stirring every half an hour or so.
  9. If the stew is looking dry add a little water, the beans soak up quite a lot.
As a bonus this week, someone asked in the last week whether I had any recipes for flat bread. Well, here is one for you all to enjoy. Again vegetarian for your delight.
P.S. This will work really well with the stew!

Italian Piadina

These are super simple and tasty.

Ingredients

  • 250g flour
  • Teaspoon salt
  • 110ml water
  • 90ml rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Mix the flour and the salt well.
  2. Add the water and oil, a little at a time, until you make a thick dough. Then continue to knead this mixture to activate the gluten. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.
  3. Form into about 5 small balls. When ready to cook, flatten each ball into a circle to about 2mm thick and place on a hot griddle pan for between 1 and 2 minutes on each side.
So there you have some fun vegetarian and vegan meals to help you with your vegetarian January. Lovely! See you soon.