Husband and I often eat different meals as we have quite different tastes. I’ve been used to cooking different meals all my adult life so it’s something I just do rather than think of as a chore. I’m not vegetarian, enjoy fish and do eat a small amount of chicken occasionally but for the most part I choose vegi meals. Our preferences do overlap in some areas (in particular with fish) but whilst I have not moved one jot towards Husband’s meaty favourites , he does enjoy some of my vegi offerings. Whether for reasons of health or saving money even the most committed meat eaters are accepting that a few vegi meals thrown into the menu planning is not a bad idea. Today I am sharing some of my choices for dinner.
Back in 1975 Shirley Conran famously declared in her book Superwoman that life was “too short to stuff a mushroom”. Now, in my opinion, life is too short for many things but stuffing a mushroom is not one of them, because I really do enjoy a stuffed mushroom! And, let’s face it, eating food that we enjoy is one of the primary pleasures in life.
Very similar to the stuffed mushroom, is a large Portobello mushroom also makes a great substitute for a burger. Served in a bun with fried onions and grilled cheese, it tastes delicious even if the appearance isn’t up to much.
I ‘m not a great fan of Quorn but I will eat it if it’s been marinated in some strong flavours. Here (below left) I used wholegrain mustard, balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of honey before adding it to a tray bake of peppers and onions. More often than Quorn I use chopped vegi sausages in a recipe that calls for meat. The best ones, in my opinion, are the Linda McCartney ones, especially the red onion flavour. I like them quite well done and cook them before adding them in when the rest of the dish is cooked. I really like this dish (right) which uses them with parsnips, tomatoes and onions. A spoonful of marmite (you are either now licking your lips in anticipation or turning away in disgust) added meaty flavour.
Chestnuts are not just for Christmas! My main monthly shop invariably includes a couple of vacuum packs (Merchant Gourmet). Their texture is substantial and they have a slightly meaty flavour so can be used in a number of dishes as a substitute. I like them in a stir-fry with thinly sliced green peppers, mange tout and onions, seasoned with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.
Bruschetta is a long time favourite. This one consists of tomato and onion with chilli oil, served on an olive or other Mediterranean bread and topped with Parmesan…so tasty ! The topping accompanies a baked potato just as yummily! This is one meal I do not make – bruschetta is Husband’s forte! I’d be happy with a few black chopped olives in it but Husband doesn’t like them.
Green/brown lentils are also adept at fooling the palate. Husband likes a ‘proper’ cottage pie but I like mine made with made with lentils instead of mince. Even if you prefer a meat version, replacing some of the mince with lentils makes it healthier and as a bonus, cheaper to make.
I love pastry and a pie or quiche is a favourite (though not for the waistline unfortunately so it doesn’t appear on my plate as often as I’d really like it to)! Any veg can be added to a quiche but if I want to make one quickly, I lightly fry the contents of half a bag of frozen roasted veg, mix with a couple of eggs, add enough cheese to taste and pop it in the oven. Stilton with broccoli and a few walnuts makes for a delicious filling too. I wrote a little while ago about the slightly nutty flavour of pre-made pastry cases. Since discovering these in my pre-lockdown shopping expedition, I’ve bought them regularly.
A few other no-meat suggestions: mini peppers stuffed with faro or freekeh (rice would do just as well but I don’t like it), Cheese & potato pie, a warm salad with feta, and battered halloumi – yum yum ( I buy this ready battered).
I often use up excess vegetables in a tortilla. Pour over eggs and top with cheese for the easiest meal ever. Bake until set. I grate and freeze any end bits of cheese in a box in the fridge and add to it – all varieties go in together.
I like an omelette too – so many variations.
I often make a vegi stir-fry. Using a variety of sauces to add flavour I serve this either on its own with crusty bread or use it as an accompaniment to protein. If I don’t have protein with it, I usually have a couple of ‘Babybel light’ cheeses afterwards.
Soup can be made from pretty much any vegetables and although we’re more likely to have it for lunch, we sometimes have a bowl for dinner instead of a more substantial meal. The only problem with this is that it just doesn’t taste the same when not accompanied by lots of warm, crusty bread but I do find that a slice of cheese on toast fills the gap quite nicely!