Never in my life did I think I’d be recommending anything I’ve cooked to a wider public. Cooking is not in my genetic make-up. In my kitchen I can tell you where the ice cream is, and have contributed a pretty brilliant pig-shaped egg timer (or “pig timer”) to the gadgets collection, but my entire life I have preferred eating food to creating it, to supporting others’ endeavours, while I drink gin and entertain them with puns or singing Shania Twain.
Until vegetarianism happened, when suddenly, to avoid anaemia, mouth ulcers, and general boredom, I started experimenting. Also, since being in a full-time job I’ve had enough money to do a colourful food shop, as opposed to eating peanut butter sandwiches most evenings, and a bag of satsumas every now and then to avoid getting ill. I’m excited about them, still, nine months in, and I really think, without being a wanker, that we can’t ignore what we’re being told; that the meat and dairy industry is cruel, unsustainable, and ecologically destructive, and we need to change the way we think about food before it’s too late. (Cymbal crash.)
So. The way my routine works, I spend a lot of evenings out the house and tend to eat on the go, or heat things up at work, so this is mostly a mixture of meals I make in advance regularly, and a couple of dishes I spend more time over, maybe if friends visit or Ed and I are feeling enthusiastic about being grown-ups.
These are all cheap. There is no quinoa, partly because I think it’s seriously over-rated, and also because I keep reading articles about how all these superfoods are great and everything but also really depleting the communities who farm them, and we shouldn’t get too hooked on them or we’ll just start destroying another environment.
These are all also really easy to make. It would be unwise for me to try to complicate things when I get stressed about boiling the kettle most days. That’s why my instructions are less structured and more “as the thought comes to me.” These are hassle free, there are no lentils and berries in there, all the ingredients are easy to get your hands on, and all of them taste good re-heated. Hope you have fun if you cook them and don’t blame me if it goes wrong.
THREE BEAN CHILLI. (Good for re-heating, freezing, bingeing, hosting. The whole lot.)
Obviously I didn’t invent this but it’s a game-changer. Some people out there add quorn mince, but the last I heard they accidentally released a batch of quorn mince that has metal in it.
- Olive oil
- Various spices
- 1 red onion
- Stalks of celery (optional)
- 1 red and 1 yellow pepper
- 2 courgettes
- 1 aubergine
- Half punnet of mushrooms
- Diced or grated carrot (optional – sometimes I cba)
- 2 tins of kidney beans
- 1 tin of black eyed beans
- 1 tin of chick peas
- 3 tins of chopped tomatoes
Start with the onion and celery and fry it up in some olive oil. Dice the vegetables and fry them for a little bit too. Add some S&P. Once they’ve softened, add the chopped tomatoes. I usually do one tin at a time depending on how much veg I’m using; sometimes once you put the lid on the pan you don’t need as much because it turns out there’s loads of juice in tomatoes. Who knew? Add the beans (I usually rinse them first; no idea why) and then add as many spices as you want (you’ll have to ask someone else to recommend spices, I forget the names), and stick the lid on. Take it off whenever, I know I should know when, but I don’t, maybe 15 minutes? Dish it up with nachos, or a jacket potato, or rice, or pasta, or in giant gem lettuce dishes if you want zero carbs (I admire you). If you want cheese, or salsa, or any other cool dips, go wild.
COURGETTE, SPINACH, TOMATO AND FETA PESTO PASTA. (Saves in fridge for 3-4 days, fine re-heated, or eat on the day.)
- Olive oil
- 2 courgettes (if you’re batch-making)
- Half a bag of spinach
- Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes
- A block of feta
- Pasta of your choice (I use gluten free because IBS)
This is the easiest dish in the world to make. Fry up some courgette, handfuls of spinach if you want the iron, cherry tomatoes, the lot. Once your pasta is boiled, drain it and tip it in the pan. Turn off the heat, add some pesto and a block of feta, season with salt and pepper and you’re ready to go. I live off this. It’s pretty great without feta too if you wanna be a good vegan – maybe chuck some olives instead because salt is life.
RATATOUILLE (re-heat, dish up, freeze, dance with?).
- 1 aubergine
- 2 courgettes (you see there is a theme developing?)
- 2 peppers (you can choose the colours)
- Half a punnet of mushrooms (optional)
- 2 tinned tomatoes
Everything gets fried in the pan, the tomatoes are added, I usually chuck in some basil and oregano. Tastes better if you leave it in the pan for 15-20 minutes on a low heat. There’s a specific way of cooking aubergine to make it go not-chewy; if I’m feeling organised and mature I’ll put it in a colander with some salt on before I fry it. I think that’s supposed to work. I avoid onion in this one as I’m not a massive fan but feel free. Don’t forget S&P. Serve with jacket potatoes, or it goes well with veggie sausages IMO.
VEGGIE FAJITAS (These are best on the day – but you can definitely reheat the fillings and it is joyful.)
- 1 mexican spice mix
- 1 courgette
- 2 peppers
- 1 aubergine
- Half punnet of mushrooms
- Sweetcorn (optional)
That chilli I mentioned earlier? That goes really well with tacos. Just saying. And if you want to make multiple dishes, veggie fajitas are the way to go. Serve up some sliced peppers, courgette, mushrooms and aubergine fried in any kind of Mexican sachet sauce (seriously, you think I can do a Mexican sauce from scratch?) and serve it in tortilla wraps. These are also absolutely delicious with sweetcorn, lettuce, guacamole, salsa, you name it.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO (this makes you a popular host but you can freeze/re-heat like the others too. When re-heating, add a bit more veg stock so it goes gloopy again.)
This takes longer than your average meal (i.e. toast) so it’s better if you looking to impress, rather than just survive on food.
- 1 butternut squash
- Veg stock
- Knob of butter
- 1 white onion
- Risotto rice
- Little bit of white wine
Parmesan (but the vegetarian version – only just found out Parmesan isn’t vegetarian – mental.)
I think some people like putting sage in this
Butternut squash is hard to chop, so if you have a sledgehammer, great. Otherwise chop it as best you can and stick it in the oven with some olive oil. Then cook a simple risotto; fry some onion on a low heat in the butter, when it’s softened, add the risotto rice and smother it in the buttery onions. Add the wine, and then begin to ladle in the stock, a little bit at a time until it’s all absorbed. Once the stock is gone and your risotto is looking like a risotto, take the squash out the oven and stick it in the pan. It goes all gooey and orange and wonderful. Add the cheese and then you are done, baby. YUM YUM YUM. Definitely drink the rest of the wine.
These are my top dogs for successful vegetarian meals that you could present to other humans, and definitely get a “Wow… I don’t actually miss meat in this” comment. Of course, I don’t survive purely on these wonders. I eat a lot of egg sandwiches with salt and vinegar crisps, marmite on toast, sweet potatoes with cheese and beans. I also love Quorn chicken nuggets, a good veggie pizza, and veggie burgers with halloumi, but I can’t really take credit for any of those. Also falafel. I live for falafel.
What I’ve loved most about the whole vegetarian game is the fact you consume so many more vegetables than a meat-based diet. You can feel good about what you’re putting in your body, which is useful when you’re addicted to ice cream in your free time like me. Let me know what you think, I’m curious. Is this useful – or did you know all these recipes already and are just sat there thinking, “alright, Em, jog on”, whilst eating a steak?