Now we are nearly three weeks into January, New Year’s resolutions are being abandoned left, right and centre. Bar and pub owners around the country breath a sigh of relief as people realise just how meaningless their lives are without alcohol, drop the “dry-january” facade and neck a double whiskey on the way home from work. Likewise those friends whose instagram feeds were overflowing with smug pictures of brightly coloured salads, meat substitutes and the veganuary hashtag have gone conspicuously quiet. After all it is hard to type with fried chicken grease all over your hands.
But fear not my will-power deficient friends, here is a recipe for something veganish that is actually pretty tasty and may just restore your faith. Also, you may not believe me but, much like the proverbial puppy, veganism is not just for January. Yes that is right you don’t just have to be a vegan for a month then go back to gorging yourself on steak for breakfast. You could make this recipe all year round, and (and here’s the big one) you don’t even have to be a vegan to cook it. The only real difference from a normal risotto is that it doesn’t have any parmesan in it but the courgette pesto means it still tastes creamy and delicious. After all, most of us do very little for the environment except throwing the odd wine bottle in the recycling, so skipping the grated cheese on a couple of dinners is the least we can do.
I am a big fan of East Asian cuisine whether that be convenience sushi, underwhelming looking Vietnamese restaurants or greasy, hate-yourself Chinese takeaway at 2 in the morning. Having said that, I always shy away from making Asian food at home. In my head to make a proper stir-fry or a Vietnamese/ Thai curry I would either have to invest a vast amount of time and money sourcing all types of specialist ingredients, most of which come in bottles large enough to live in and which I would never use again; or give up and get it out of a Blue Dragon sachet, in which case I might as well sack the whole thing in and get a takeaway.
However, this is not always the case. In my search for more varied and interesting vegan and vegetarian dinner ideas I stumbled across a recipe for thai green curry which seemed to mostly use ingredients I already had (here is the original). And, being skint and lazy I decided to make substitutes for anything I didn’t have (eg. palm sugar). The end result was surprisingly easy to make and delicious. This recipe is really versatile so is great for using up any leftover veg and even those slightly more exotic ingredients can be bought fresh from most supermarkets meaning there is very little waste or extra cost.
Recently I have decided to heavily cut back on the amount of meat I eat. I do not possess any where near the requisite will power to become a vegetarian full time but I have pretty much stopped buying and therefore cooking with meat. This is in part a money saving venture but predominately I just enjoy being able to smugly reflect on the microscopic sacrifice I am making for the good of the environment every time I get on a plane or accidentally put some plastic in the normal bin.
Actually cooking without meat is pretty hard, especially if you like trying out new things in the kitchen. At first it was an exciting challenge, but after about a month of the same 5 vegetables variously disguised as curries, chilli and stew, I was starting to get pretty bored. This shepherds pie, despite not exactly reinventing the wheel, does provide a bit of a contrast. The lentils are a good alternative to mince and give a fairly similar texture and the whole dish is comfortingly familiar; perfect for a chilly winter night.
Yesterday was one of those days that revolved around food. in the office, it seemed like all anyone could think or talk about was food. We talked about what to have for lunch, what we were having for dinner, what we used to love as children, our weird and wonderful food creations (apparently cheese and banana toasties are about to sweep the nation), and somewhere between the best sandwich (pastrami with sauerkraut, pickle and mustard mayo on rye) and the worst spicy sauce shocker stories (a devilish burrito from wrap it up!) we talked at length about stuffed vegetables.
Stuffed mushrooms we decided left a lot to be desired unless done perfectly, they are too often soggy and tasteless. Stuffed courgettes are good (I love courgettes) but theres not enough space for the filling. And so the price for the worlds best stuffed vegetable goes to the pepper. We passed on to chillies, chilli con carne, burritos but still the thought of stuffed peppers stayed with me. I had to have them.
This is one of my favourite recipes for stuffed peppers as, although there are quite a lot of ingredients it is really quick and easy to make and super filling. I usually have these on their own but they are great as a side too, perhaps with a tomato and chicken bake or meatballs. They are also perfect at a BBQ as they go well with the meat but are nice and filling for vegetarians. Remember to use vegetable stock though if serving to vegetarians.