As some of you may know, for health (rather than ethical, an important distinction, as I've come to find out) reasons I became a vegan/vegetarian last year; trying to keep to a ratio of approx 80/20. I have vegan breakfasts and lunches and then dinner is at the very least vegetarian, sometimes vegan-able for me, and sometimes pure vegan.
I think that I would, in all honesty be happiest as a vegetarian, but, as it turns out, I have huge ethical objections to dairy production know that I know what really goes on. Don't talk to me about the poor dancing Anchor cows in the latest advert; it makes my blood boil! Our milk consumption, I am delighted to say, is less than a quarter of what it was and I drink no milk at all, it's just that old demon cheese that we are all struggling with! And when I say that "we" are struggling, I mean me: I am strict with myself, but have discovered that cheese is like a dangerous lover, you know it's not good for you, but you can't resist the odd flirt! As for the boyf and the 10yr old, if I suggested a ban on cheese, they would disown me! Again, however, consumption is way down and those lovely cheese board, bread and wine dinners are definitely a thing of the past.
The boyf and the 10yr old have gamely stuck with me all these months but I was starting to feel a little as though I was letting them down as, more and more, our dinners were coming out of a box! Vegan food in particular seems to take an age to cook and we don't have that long in the evenings, but long before I gave up meat, I was giving up on packaging. Now, in doing one good I was failing in my attempts to do another - why has eating well, both tastefully and ethically, become so complicated!
Good vegetarian cookbooks seemed to be hard to find, I went through all the libraries offerings and found not one I would buy. Online vegan websites are particularly good, as is The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, but being primarily American in origin, there were often ingredients that are hard to track down in the UK and I have terrible trouble accurately converting measurements. Dry good in particular, a half cup can vary by nearly 100gms depending on the "good" - it lead to some pretty funky eating!
Then a dear friend gave me a copy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's, Veg Everyday! and my cooking is transformed! Everything about this book makes me smile, from the forward, to the photos, to the beautiful illustrations, and the wealth of easy to cook and delicious recipes. My friend recommended that I read the forward, he thought that I'd like it and he was right. HFW has such a good way about him and his journey to eating more veg is very similar to mine; you start of just eating, then you think about what you are eating, then you think harder about where it comes from and how it gets to your plate, then you think about the impact of all of that on our beautiful planet, and yes, suddenly, you want to eat more veg! Plus, you don't really want to eat stuff that looks and tastes kinda like meat, because what's the point? If you have got to the place where you know that you need to eat more veg, then you eat more veg! A third of the recipes are vegan and he says that another third are adaptable to vegans (who "will know what to do"!) I would disagree, the majority of the recipes can be made vegan, without too great an adjustment.
Looking for dinners that I could get used to and thus knock up quickly once we were all back at work/school, over the holiday I picked 4-5 recipes a week, shopped for them and jumped right in. Shopping is a treat, mounds of veg piling up the basket and so little else; cooking is (always) good fun; and the dishes have been without fail interesting and delicious. I love picking next weeks recipes and now have some new favourites that can be rotated in. Of particular note have been the Macaroni Peas (very good), the Kale and Mushroom Lasagne (as events transpired I ended up eating the whole 6 portion lot over a couple of days!), the "fiery" bean Chilli, stuffed peppers, Fennel and Lemon Linguine, various risottos (especially the Mushoom and Chestnut one) and tonight I have high hopes for the Swede Speltotto... We're all eating veg that we normally wouldn't too, it's lovely to test the taste buds again, and I am slowly working up to the Beetroot Tarte Tatin (pictured) as it would be my idea of heaven if, currently, no-one else's!