Vegetarian Week offers the chance to try meat-free eating – just for a while!

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The organisers are asking people to swap one meal or eat vegetarian for a week. Rather than cutting meat from our diet we should concentrate on buying better quality meat on a smaller scale. A little of some carefully reared rare breed beef or pork is going to taste infinitely better than mass produced varieties. Cheaper cuts of tasty meat will permeate through vegetables. For example use a small amount of beef mince and eke it out with lentils or beans. Or a ham hock is cheap and will give you unctuous meat and the bonus of a flavourful stock.

Vegetables themselves should be treated more creatively than boiling or steaming. Roasting root vegetables caramelizes their natural sugars. Add a glaze and you raise it to another level. Another way of giving your vegetables a bit of va va voom is to bake them in coals. When I was younger we always embedded potatoes wrapped in foil in the dying embers of a fire to delicious effect. Now I place whole beetroots, onions, celeriac and turnip in the coals of the barbecue. It gives them smoky notes and enhances their natural sweetness. Peel them to reveal sweet, soft flesh. If you want to get this effect in an easier way scatter some charcoal on a roasting tray lined with foil, add what you want to cook, cover with foil and bake in the oven. You get a similar smoky flavour without having to light the fire.

The first recipe this week pairs coal baked beetroots with quinoa, tomato confit and horseradish yoghurt in a warm salad. Quinoa is a seed and is pure protein so will satisfy your hunger and keep the cravings off for a while. Confiting the tomatoes is a good way of giving shop bought cherry tomatoes a bit of a lift – they’re given a drizzle of oil and vinegar and a scattering of sugar and salt and cooked slowly. If you have good green house grown tomatoes later in the season they be good to go as they are. Try and source fresh horseradish for this recipe – your green grocer should be able to help. It keeps well and gives a zingy heat to root vegetables, beef and oily fish.

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Concept of healthy food- fresh vegetables

Beans, like quinoa, are a good source of meat free protein. The other recipe this week is for Korean style black bean cakes. They’re flavoured with gochujang a fermented chilli paste. It gives a great, not too hot, umami punch to dishes. You can buy it on line, in some supermarkets and in Asian shops. The base is a tin of black beans with aromatics added, crumbed and fried. They’re served with a spiced coconut rice and chilli mushrooms – it might even convert the most avid meat eater, no matter how temporarily…

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