Eating meat ethically means, in part, eating less of it. So, we’ve instituted Meat-Free Monday in our house, although we’re aiming for more than just one night a week. Being a fairly carnivorous cook by habit has posed some challenges, but I’m gradually building up a repertoire of go-to non-meat dishes. And I’m certainly not feeling deprived in any way; on the contrary, it’s been fun to experiment with some new tastes and ingredients.
One option is to use your familiar recipes and simply replace the meat with another protein, like tofu or legumes. For example, I’m now pretty happy with my tried-and-true Thai curry made with firm tofu instead of chicken. I also use shop-bought curry pastes to save time, but I highly recommend sourcing them from Asian grocers for authentic flavour and kick. Another brilliant discovery I made some years ago is that you can use tinned Carnation coconut-flavoured milk in your Thai curries; it tastes just as good as real coconut milk and contains a fraction of the fat!
A favourite summertime meat-free staple is my own invention, the Mexican tuna salad; see my post from earlier this year for the recipe. As with meat production, however, there are many problems with aquaculture, which have been documented recently in the excellent SBS TV show presented by Matthew Evans, What’s the Catch?. My tuna salad post suggests a Greenpeace-endorsed, responsibly caught brand of tuna you can buy from supermarkets.
If Mr T is out, I’ll sometimes just have eggs (free-range, of course), poached, on toast with baked beans and maybe some fried mushrooms, all things that Mr T dislikes and I love! I’m also very partial to a good skakshuka, and on Monday night this week I improvised this dish with some pre-made ratatouille that I spiced up with a squirt of harissa paste. I cooked two eggs in little hollows in the sauce, spooned the somewhat messy result onto sourdough toast and sprinkled with sea salt and chopped coriander leaves. This dish is too good to have to wait for weekend brunches!
Yotam Ottolenghi, Israeli-born London-based chef of the moment, is credited with sexing up the vegetable, so who better to turn to for some veggie inpiration! Here’s a simple and delicious recipe from his new book Plenty More, which I’ve adapted slightly – adding baby spinach and chickpeas – to make it more of a light meal than a side-dish. The contrasting flavours – sweet, spicy, garlicky, fresh – and colours are just wonderful!
Pumpkin with chilli yoghurt and coriander sauce
(Serves 4 as a light meal)
- 1 butternut pumpkin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 90ml olive oil
- 50g coriander, leaves and stalks, plus extra leaves to garnish
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 20g pumpkin seeds
- 200g Greek yoghurt
- 1½ tsp Sriracha (or another savoury chilli sauce)
- 4 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
- 1 tin of good quality chickpeas
- Salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220C, or 200C fan, or gas mark 7. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Chop into wedges about 2cm wide by 7cm long. Toss in a mixing bowl with the cinnamon, two tablespoons of the olive oil, ¾ teaspoon salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Spread the pumpkin out on two baking sheets, skin side down, and roast for 35-40 minutes or until tender and slightly singed at the edges. Remove from the oven and put aside to cool. Meanwhile, to make the coriander sauce, put the coriander leaves and stalks, the clove of garlic, the remaining 4 tbsp of olive oil and a good pinch of salt into a food processor and pulse to form a smooth paste. Alternatively, as I do, pound these ingredients in a pestle and mortar for a slightly rougher texture. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C, or 160C fan, or gas mark 4. Put the pumpkin seeds onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6-8 minutes. (You can also toast them in a heavy bottomed pan on the hob-top, but watch them like a hawk!) When you’re ready to serve, put a handful of spinach leaves on each plate, divide up the pumpkin wedges between the plates, and scatter with chickpeas. Swirl the Sriracha into the yoghurt and drizzle the mixture over the pumpkin and chickpeas, followed by the coriander sauce. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and reserved coriander leaves, and serve.