I popped into the Vegan Fair in Stroud the other weekend. I’m not vegan but I went for three reasons: I love going to food fairs as a visitor, I’m always on the lookout for new products for The Cooking Plumber and last but by no means least, I love trying new food. After all good food is good food, meat or no meat.
I recently bought the River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and it’s proving a slow but thought-provoking read. He argues a good case for eating less meat but when we do, making sure it is better quality meat (if your budget allows) from animals that have been well-looked after. I couldn't agree more. We’re very lucky here in rural Herefordshire to be surrounded by excellent local butchers and great fresh meat and so we really have no excuse not to support them.
But what to do on those non-meat days? Well, meat-free meals have come on a very long way from just being the Sunday roast without the roast and there is some seriously good food out there that just happens to include no meat. Tempeh, jackfruit, tofu, roasted squash, seitan, paneer, Quorn….the list of good alternatives goes on. A meat-free meal really doesn’t have to be complicated or hugely expensive so here are five simple options that I think anyone can enjoy.
Panch Phoran Paneer
The recipe card says add chicken but this is one rule you can definitely break. Take Case for Cooking’s Panch Phoran Chicken spice kit and switch the chicken for paneer. Readily available at your usual supermarket and cheap to buy, paneer is easy to cook with, keeps its firm texture when cooked and really is delicious to eat. Trust me, you won’t miss the chicken.
Furious Quorn Stir Fry
Furious by name and furious by nature! This fiery sauce from Sorai makes a really tasty stir fry that's got a real kick. Follow this simple recipe to cook up a healthy meat-free dinner with Quorn and/or veggies.
Spicy Cheese & Onion Croquettes
This is a bit of a childhood throwback for me but you can’t beat a cheese and onion croquette. They are worth taking the time to make and they freeze well so make a load in one go. Great served with salad for a light dinner when it’s still warm outside. Find the simple recipe here.
Stuffed marrow with feta cheese
It’s that time of year again and if, like us, you’ve forgotten to check under every leaf, you may find you already have a few marrows to use up. Whilst they make great jam and great cake, they also make a surprisingly tasty – and fairly healthy – dinner.
Ingredients: (serves 2)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic
200g chopped tomatoes
100g feta cheese
3 tbsp cooked puy lentils
Handful of basil, shredded.
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Preheat the oven to 200C /180C Fan / Gas Mark 6.
Cut the marrow in half lengthways and sprinkle with 1tbsp olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until browning and cooked through. Scoop out the seeds and season. Whilst the marrow is cooking, gently cook the onion in the remaining olive oil for about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper and garlic and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and reduce until the tomatoes are thickened for about 10 minutes. Stir in the lentils and season. Spoon the mix into the marrow. Sprinkle with feta cheese and shredded basil. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
If it’s a bit more heat you’re after, then Case for Cooking's vindaloo-style paste is just the ticket. Follow the simple recipe on the side of the jar, switch the chicken for Quorn and you'll have another meat-free dinner on the table in no time.
And as to whether I discovered anything new back in Stroud, well let’s just say I came away with far more bags than I went in with so watch this space to see how I get on!