It’s easy to find ourselves in a tired routine where we churn out daily meals without thinking. When we’re busy and have to conjure up menus that are not only quick to make, but healthy and balanced too, what was once a pleasure can soon turn into a chore as the same dozen or so recipes are recreated throughout the month. I remember Jamie Oliver suggesting we all try cooking one new recipe a week, giving us 52 new dishes a year and I promised myself I’d try it, but of course never quite saw it through as day-to-day life and activities took over.However, that may have changed following the arrival of my sister, brother-in-law and two young nephews for their first holiday in Ireland last weekend, as it forced us to trawl through the vegetarian cookbooks on the bookshelf. My Canadian family have been vegetarian for thirteen years and all of them vegan at home for three. Despite us rearing free range pigs for our table, strangely my sister and I have more in common now than we ever have as we both share a desire and passion for locally sourced, unprocessed, chemical free food and a love of the great outdoors.
My sister grows her own food in the front garden of their urban house in Ottawa, avoids buying tins by bottling all their own tomatoes and drying beans, and preserves as much as she can for their lightweight, backwoods camping trips by cooking and dehydrating food. They arrived with a fist-full of their favourite recipes for us to try in the hope that we might at least cut the amount of meat we eat each week, and I can happily share that they were successful. Vegetarian or even vegan cooking might be different, but it’s flavoursome once you get the hang of spicing it up or adding handfuls of fresh herbs and it can be a very cheap way of eating nutritious food.
If you’re looking for vegetarian dinner ideas, the following Chickpea and Walnut ‘Wellington’ Roast Recipe is one of my sister’s family favourites. She usually cooks it for them all on Christmas Day and I can see why as despite being a simple dish to prepare, it makes a great vegetarian/vegan dinner party meal that we really enjoyed too. We doubled the recipe below so that we had enough to pack for lunch and snack on cold during our Blackstairs Mountain hike the following day.
Ingredients, Serves 4
450g chickpeas, soaked overnight and boiled for a couple of hours
1 tsp Marmite
150g chopped walnuts
150g fresh breadcrumbs
1 onion finely chopped
100g sliced mushrooms
50g sweetcorn and/or 50g peas
2 garlic cloves, chopped
60ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp chopped coriander
*2 tbsp coconut milk or regular milk
*225g frozen puff pastry or if vegan, there’s a recipe for puff pastry on veganbaking.net that looks easy to follow.
*egg yolk (omit for vegan version)
*adjust for vegan/vegetarian
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 7 and line a baking tray.
Whiz the chickpeas, walnuts, Marmite and breadcrumbs in a food processor until roughly chopped, then sauté the onion and mushrooms in a large frying or sauté pan until lightly cooked. Add the blended ingredients to the mushroom mixture then stir in the sweetcorn and/or peas and the garlic. Stir in the vegetable stock and coriander and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you prepare the pastry.
Roll the pastry into a rectangle shape, fill the centre with the chickpea mixture then wrap the pastry around it so that it resembles a plump loaf of bread, sealing the edges with damp fingers. Place it on the baking tray, seam side down and score the top. Brush with the coconut milk for vegan version or the egg and milk mixed for vegetarian.
Bake in the oven for about half an hour until the pastry is golden.
Serve hot or cold with a good dollop of cranberry sauce on the side.
I must admit, it was a toss-up sharing this recipe with you or the tofu, chard and kale lasagna we cooked the following evening, particularly as we were harvesting the vegetables from the garden, but perhaps that can wait for my next recipe post as we will definitely be cooking that one again too.