Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Why Are You Vegetarian?

I’ve been asked this (and variations of it) more times than I care to remember, even by complete strangers at corporate dinners!  I suspect if you asked 100 veggies the same question you’d get 100 different answers.

I usually give people a short answer: I just didn’t want to eat meat any more (the questioner usually takes this as a criticism of their own eating habits and generally starts to mutter about humans needing to eat meat!)

However, there’s a lengthy background to that short answer: I was always picky about what meats I would and wouldn’t eat; I would never eat fish on the bone and I wouldn't go anywhere near offal, veal or game of any description, then during the 1980s I stopped eating beef because of the first instances of CJD. Sometime in the early 1990s I was watching a magazine programme on TV where a veggie was putting forward reasons for not eating meat; unsurprisingly, she took a fair amount of stick from the studio audience and, completely exasperated, she finished by saying “I’m sure you wouldn’t eat your dog, so why do you find it OK to eat any other animal?” Bonnie, our much loved Cairn terrier (now sadly deceased) was asleep in her customary position on my lap at the time. She was my shaggy-coated shadow, my four-legged friend; I would no more have eaten her than I would have eaten my own leg.

The woman on TV had unknowingly struck a chord in my subconscious; I started to think a bit more about what I was eating and I set off on a train of completely stupid irrational behaviour…

I started by not eating any red meat, but chicken and fish were still alright; this led on to my not eating any meat I could identify, so e.g. a sausage was OK, but a roast chicken wasn't; I then had several months where I only ate meat that I could identify, so a roast chicken was OK but a sausage wasn’t! There was even a short period where I would cook a casserole or a curry for the rest of the family but I’d pick all the meat out of my portion and only eat the sauce!! Yes, I know, I know.…utterly pathetic!

Eventually, about two years after seeing that TV programme and after a lot of faffing about, I knew that all meat and fish had to go. I had one last omnivorous Christmas dinner, and that was the end of that...

I’ve never knowingly eaten meat or fish since Christmas Day 1995 and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I do not and have never missed it. I’m completely at ease with my dietary choices and I never judge other people about what they eat, because it’s none of my damn business. It’d be nice if I was afforded the same courtesy, though.

So, in order to draw this rambling post to a close…..

Do I think vegetarianism is a good thing? Yes; for me, unequivocally.

Would I encourage anyone else to go veggie? No; absolutely not. Everyone should make their own decisions and eat whatever they’re comfortable with.

Will I ever go back to being an omnivore? Not a chance!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Slow-Cooker Caramelised Onions

I saw a comment on a forum last week where a poster said she’d caramelised onions in a slow-cooker. To be honest I was very sceptical; surely you need the direct heat of a hob to get a good result? Won’t they just steam and go soggy? How does all the liquid evaporate? There was only one thing to do – have a go!

I had a look on the web, but although there were plenty of people who said they’d done it, no-one seemed to give definitive instructions. They generally seemed to go along the lines of “Add some butter to your onions and cook until done” Yup…really helpful, thanks for that!

So, as usual, I made it up as I went along and, having done it, I can definitely say…it works!

The hardest part was peeling and slicing all the onions, my eyes were streaming like mad, but it's a great way to get a decent quantity of onions caramelised, which you can then portion up and keep in the freezer until you need them. I use them regularly in nut roast, on pizza, in toasted cheese sandwiches, quiches, French onion soup and a zillion other ways so having them ready-to-use is a real time-saver.

2½ kg onions (you may not need them all)
50g butter
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
a few grinds of black pepper

Peel and slice enough onions to fill your slow-cooker right to the top. Sprinkle the sugar over the onions then cover with the butter cut into thin slices and a few grinds of black pepper.

Cook for two hours on ‘high’, stir the onions well, then cook for nine hours on ‘low’ (I left it overnight – the smell when we woke was lovely!) In the morning there was much less liquid than I expected, only about ½ cm, so I gave it all a stir and propped open the lid a little to let the steam escape then turned it up to ‘high’ for another two hours. That’s it!

It made six 200g pots which are now tucked away in the freezer, ready for use. I think I can feel a cheese and onion quiche coming on at the weekend….   

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Spiced Cauliflower and Almond Soup

I’ve rarely met a soup I didn’t like and I liked the look of this one as soon as I saw it! It was the perfect lunch for a damp chilly January day with a chunk of fresh seedy bread followed by yogurt and fruit.

Needless to say I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter (I never do!) but I always think the odd tweak here and there is a good thing. I added a large chopped onion and two crushed cloves of garlic to the pan before adding the cauliflower; I also needed to add quite a bit more stock than the recipe stated, probably about another 500ml, it would have been the consistency of cake-mix otherwise!

Mr Simply Veg has been struggling with a cold for the past week or more; he said this warmed him up nicely and the harissa helped clear his head. So there you are - food and medicine all-in-one, what more could you ask for? 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Mushroom Pâté

I was really quite pleased with this mushroom pâté, it’s one of those things that’s so easy to do but, inexplicably, I’ve always bought it (at ridiculous supermarket prices!) instead of making it.

I used ground almonds to give it texture and a bit more body and chestnut mushrooms to give a more intense flavour. It was really handy to have in the fridge over the festive period. We had some with grilled ciabatta; it was great with rocket in a sandwich and it was also nice with crackers, a few tomatoes and a dollop of red onion marmalade. Multi-talented, easy and inexpensive…what more could you want?

I have to be honest here, this isn’t the pâté I made at Christmas, it’s the one I made this morning! On Christmas Eve I took some nice pics of it on the dining table with the Christmas tree in the background, but somehow I managed to delete the images before I’d uploaded them onto my laptop. Duh…muppet! Anyway, this is such a great recipe it was a good excuse to make it again just so that I could take its picture.

50g butter, divided into two 25g pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
100g cream cheese
25g ground almonds
2 pinches of cayenne
¼ tsp of paprika
a couple of grinds of black pepper
1 tsp brandy

a few mushroom slices sautéed in butter

Heat the first 25g of butter in a saucepan and fry the onion gently for 5 minutes; add the mushrooms, turn them in the butter, put a lid on the pan and cook gently for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until almost all the liquid has bubbled away. Take off the heat, stir in the second 25g of butter and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Put the cooled buttery mushrooms, cream cheese, ground almonds, cayenne, paprika, black pepper and brandy in the food processor and blend until smooth.

Scoop the pâté into two large or four small ramekins and top with a couple of sautéed mushroom slices. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours before serving with ciabatta, crackers, grissini or crudités.

Serves 4

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Lentil and Chestnut Soup

I can’t believe it’s the 1st of January today and the start of another New Year; I’m still wondering where 2011 went, I seem to have blinked and missed it!

There are lots of superstitions centred on the first day of the year and, although I don’t usually have much time for that sort of mumbo-jumbo, I was taken by the fact that many of these beliefs focus on prosperity. I don’t know about you, but I think anything that might bring me a bit closer to winning the Lottery sounds like a very good thing, so I thought I’d join in, just in case!

Apparently lentils, as well as peas and beans, are symbolic of money, so I scouted around for a nice lentil soup recipe and came across this one from Nigella. I’ve changed it slightly to accommodate the ingredients that I had to hand but it still tastes brilliant and it also made a goodly amount which will give at least six portions. It had the added benefit of using up half a bag of chestnuts lurking in the freezer.

Now then, I’ve had my bowl of lentil soup, when does all that good luck and prosperity start coming my way…?

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
200g red lentils
200g frozen chestnuts
1.5 litre stock
crème fraîche and chopped parsley, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, carrot and celery for five minutes, add the garlic and cook for another minute then add the lentils, chestnuts and stock. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to the merest simmer, put the lid on and leave it to murmur away for half an hour.

Take off the heat and blitz with a stick blender.

Top with a spoonful of crème fraîche and chopped parsley to serve.

Happy New Year!


☆…Happy New Year…☆

Wishing you Peace, Prosperity and Good Health