As a vegetarian myself, I know that meat-free cooking is just as easy, delicious and crowd-pleasing as any meat dish. Yet, I also know that complete vegetarianism has the reputation of being a bit daunting, so Meat Free Monday is the perfect middle ground. Here are five delicious and easy recipes to get you started.
1. Sweet Potato Spanish Omelette
You can use this method with normal potatoes, just cook them in the water a bit longer. But the
sweet potato adds a lovely vegetabley sweetness to this classic dish. It’s lovely with a simple green
salad dressed with olive oil and plenty of pepper and sometimes I spread some pesto on top
before serving which is superb.
- 1 medium sized sweet potato
- 1 onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 eggs
Start by prepping your vegetables. Peel your sweet potato and slice into roughly 1cm discs. Half and
slice your onion into crescent shapes, I like them thickly sliced to add texture, but slice how you like
them. Then dice your garlic into small pieces.
Heat a frying pan, the deeper the sides the better, on a medium heat with enough oil to cover the
base of the pan well. Add your onions and fry till they begin to colour slightly. Now add your potato,
toss with the onions evenly and cook for a couple of minutes to get some colour. Then pour in some
water from a boiled kettle, enough to just cover the potatoes. This speeds up the cooking process a
lot and means you have to use much less oil. Once the water has nearly all evaporated, add your
garlic and season the mixture generously with salt and pepper. Whilst the garlic cooks and the rest
of the water evaporates, beat your eggs well with a fork so you get a smooth yellow mixture with no
streaks of white.
Now raise your heat slightly, add another drizzle of oil and add your eggs to the pan. Once the eggs
are in, shake the pan slightly and move your ingredients in the pan around a bit to ensure the egg
gets distributed evenly. Once most of your egg looks set you have two options: either pop the pan
under the grill for about 30 seconds or flip your omelette out onto a plate, rawer side down, then
slide back into the pan for another minute to cook the rest. I much prefer the plate technique, it’s
very easy and under the grill, the omelette can bubble and won’t be as nice.
Once the omelette the cooked completely, slice into quarter or half pieces and serve.
2. Creamy Mushroom and Pesto Pasta
With this method, you get a lovely creamy sauce, rather like a carbonara but without the ingredients and tricky method. I make this all the time, it requires basic, store cupboard ingredients and takes barely any time.
- Spaghetti, or any long pasta
- 10 mushrooms, chestnut or regular, thinly sliced
- 1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tsp of mixed herbs
- 2 heaped tsp of green pesto
- 300ml milk, dairy or plant based
First, boil your water for the pasta in a kettle then pour into a saucepan, along with half a teaspoon
of salt. The best way to measure your spaghetti is, per serving, gather the spaghetti to meet the
width of the face of a 2p coin. So, in this case, do this twice.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and whilst it’s cooking heat some oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and fry your mushrooms till brown. Make sure they don’t overlap otherwise they won’t crisp well. Then add your garlic, fry for a minute then sprinkle in the mixed herbs. Now add the milk and pesto and reduce till the sauce is a thick consistency.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. At this point, the pasta should
be cooked (after 8 to 10 minutes). Drain the pasta but reserve about half a cup of the pasta cooking
water. Then add the pasta and water to your mushroom pan and cook for another 30 seconds,
stirring and tossing the pasta as you do so.
Now decant into two bowls and serve.
3. Feta Stuffed Peppers
These are best done cooked on a BBQ, but oven baked is very nice too. They’re lovely served with a green salad and some sort of potato, like potato salad for example, which works very well.
- 2 large red, sweet pointed peppers
- 150g feta cheese
- 2 tbsp of milk
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tsp of smoked paprika
- Salt and pepper to season
If you’re cooking these in the oven, preheat it to 180 Degrees Celsius and, if you have one, place a wire rack on the tin you’re going to cook the peppers in. This way the heat will circulate around the peppers better.
Now, take your peppers and, leaving the stalks on, slice each one in half lengthways. Then brush the outside of each pepper half lightly with oil.
Get a bowl and, with a fork, mash together all the remaining ingredients. Then, put a quarter of the mixture in each pepper half.
At this point, if you’re BBQing place them on and cook for about 5-7 minutes. If you’re using the oven, place them on your tray and cook for 15 minutes, or until the pepper is slightly soft and the feta mixture is forming a slight crust and is colouring. If, for presentation purposes, you want to sprinkle each pepper with some extra paprika do this right before serving.
Now serve with your sides of choice.
4. Vegetarian Meatballs
What I’m doing here is just giving you the recipe for the meatballs, so you can take this method and add these meatballs to any dish you’d like. I have them in pasta sauces and stews but I think they can really be added to loads of things as a wonderful meat substitute for a Meat Free Monday.
- 2 vegetarian sausages, Linda McCartney works best
- 1/2 an onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 tsp of mixed herbs
- Some oil for frying
First, you need to defrost the sausages. I have tried microwaving the sausages in moments of impromptu meatball making but for some reason, it stops the method from working, no idea why. So get the sausages out to defrost half an hour to an hour before cooking.
Now, place your sausages on a large chopping board or plate and mash them with a fork until they form a chunky paste.
Then sweat (to sweat means to cook and soften but without browning) your onions and garlic on a low heat in some oil. At this point, however, what I do is, if I’m making a bolognese or some sort of sauce to have with the meatballs which at some point required some frying of onions, I take a wooden spoonful of the onions out and reserve for the meatballs.
Next, you mash your onion mixture and mixed herbs into the sausage mixture until thoroughly combined.
Now, take heaped teaspoons of the mixture (I’ve always thought that, with meatballs, you should have them small and more of them) and roll in your palms to form little balls.
Then fry in some oil on a medium heat, shaking the pan regularly, for about 5 minutes until the meatballs are golden all over. Now, serve with your chosen dish.
5. Jacket Potato and Gourmet Mushy Peas
Despite its title, method wise this meal isn’t gourmet but really rather easy. The mushy peas are a perfect accompaniment to a jacket potato, which can seem rather regular and unexciting as a meal. Depending on how hungry I am I either have this with a salad or some sort of meat substitute, like a veggie sausage.
- 1 large baking potato, Maris Pipers work very well
- 1 large cup or mug full of frozen peas
- 1 clove of garlic, diced
- 1/2 tsp of mixed herbs
- 1 tsp of green pesto
- 1 heaped tbsp of mayonnaise
- Seasoning to taste
To begin, preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Then take your potato and prick it all over with a fork and rub some oil on it and sprinkle the outside with salt and pepper. Then, place the potato directly onto the top oven shelf and cook it for about an hour and a half, or until when pierced with a knife, is soft in the centre.
Once the potato is nearly cooked, take your peas and put them in a bowl with a large pinch of salt, the mixed herbs and the garlic. Then cover them with some boiling water and put in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until the peas are defrosted and soft.
Next, drain the peas, but leaving the garlic in. Now, if you have one take a handheld blender and blitz the peas into a mush, or take a masher and mash them.
Then add your remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Finally, take out your potato, slice it open, it should be fluffy, steaming and beautiful. Then top with your peas and serve.