I am not a vegetarian but I really do like vegetarian food. I think that we probably eat a vegetarian main meal at least three times a week, sometimes more. Eating a vegetarian diet is linked with better health and it is usually much cheaper. I’d like to say that a vegetarian meal will have a much lower carbon footprint but I guess that depends on where your veggies come from. Apparently this week is National Vegetarian Week, so in honour of that, here is one of my most recent dinners.
I was inspired by this recipe at Attic 24, having used it quite a lot. I wanted an easy going meal, i.e. no last minute trip to the shops. Rummaging in my cupboard, fridge and freezer I found the following ingredients:
1 large Red pepper (capsicum)
1 Courgette (zucchini)
4 Spring onions (scallions)
1 Tin of Chick peas
1 Tin of Coconut milk,
1teaspoon Ground Coriander
1teaspoon Ground Cumin
1teaspoon Garam Masala
About a 2cm ‘squeeze’ of Garlic Puree
1 Vegetable Stock Cube
1 tablespoon of mango chutney
1 tablespoon of coriander leaf (frozen)
As you can see, I chopped up the veg, ready to fry it gently, in a large pan, with the lid on. I think this is what cheffy types call ‘sweating off’. I also added the garlic and spices at this point. If you like your dinners a bit hotter, you could add your preferred amount of chilli at this point. If I was making this for just me and The Husband I would probably add about a teaspoon of mild chilli powder and about a quarter to a half a teaspoon of hot chilli powder. I think using both types gives depth of flavour and a bit of ‘kick’.
When the vegetables were softened and the spices had released some flavour, I added the tinned chickpeas and coconut milk. I also added a vegetable stock cube and allowed everything to simmer for a while. Adding the mango chutney was an afterthought really that I remembered from the Attic 24 recipe. I just felt that more sweetness was needed. The last thing I added was the frozen, chopped coriander leaf. By the time that had defrosted I was ready to dish up.
I served it with boiled rice and steamed cauliflower. Again, if this had been a grown-ups only meal I would probably have added the cauliflower florets with the chickpeas and coconut milk but not all my children like them. I wish they did. We are experiencing a cauliflower glut at the moment. You can see them going to seed in the picture below.
A word about rice. I only ever use easy cook rice – 1 cupful of rice to 2 cupfuls of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until done. I have never had success when cooking basmati but if you want to try there are tips to be found here and here.
The thing is, a store cupboard recipe like this can be endlessly adapted. You can change the balance of spices for a subtly different flavour or add your own favourites. The vegetables you use will depend on what you’ve got to hand. I’ve used regular onion, spinach, butternut squash and aubergine for example. You could use a different kind of bean or lentil to provide the protein. It is also a good way to use up left-over meat if vegetarianism is not your thing. Finally, I think this qualifies as both vegetarian and vegan, being dairy free if you fry in a suitable oil, rather than butter.
So, happy National Vegetarian Week everyone!