Flexitarianism & my top 5 veggie recipes

As we have descended into the month of January otherwise known as the month of resolutions, it seems that the the V word is on everybody’s lips. Whether it’s someone declaring their vow to stop eating meat, or people furiously arguing over a Gregg’s ‘sausage’ roll, if I had a pound for every time I heard the word vegetarian or vegan during this month, then I could at least buy a pair of designer shoes or a swanky handbag. I mean, this post alone would get me a pretty penny. Overall I see this as something really positive and I think it’s great that people are willing to make changes for either the benefit of their health, animal welfare or the environment!

Growing up, I don’t think it would be an understatement if I said ate meat literally every single day, it was just normality for me and my family. I had thought briefly about vegetarianism but always shunned the idea almost as soon as it came into my head. It wasn’t until this past year when vegetarianism and veganism grew massively that I started to reflect upon my own eating habits, particularly how they are affecting the environment. Living with one of my best friends Estelle , I noticed how the majority of her meals didn’t actually involve any meat, yet they all still looked delicious (follow her Instagram foodie account @goodguiltlessgrub for inspo). It made me realise that meat isn’t actually essential for great food.

Like I said, meat had been a huge part of my life since I can remember, so I didn’t think it was realistic for me to cut it out entirely, (plus France is actually one of the least vegetarian friendly countries ever) so instead, I turned towards the flexitarian lifestyle. Ugh I can almost see you rolling your eyes. Yet another foodie fad. What rules and regulations are involved this time? Well actually, very few indeed. Flexitarianism doesn’t have any strict standards about what you can and cannot eat, it simply means that you actively try to reduce your meat consumption in daily life without cutting it out altogether: as the name states, it’s flexible. 

I have been doing this for a few months now and the main reasons for it are environmental. I have read so many articles about the environmental benefits of cutting out meat, particularly red meats such as beef, and the little voice of guilt in my ear told me that it was time I started playing my part for the planet. I’ll make no secret of the fact that I’m not a full time vegetarian, and I’ll still eat meat some of the time, but when cooking for myself at university I have drastically reduced my meat consumption, and living somewhere like France where meat is pretty expensive, this decision didn’t turn out to be all that difficult.

It definitely took me a while to get used to cooking meals without meat, but now my bank of recipes is ever-growing and I have favourites that I cook over and over again. I wanted to share a few of them in this post for any budding vegetarians or flexitarians out there who, like me a few months ago, don’t really know where to start.

 

Mushroom Risotto

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This meal is sometimes a hit and miss because not everyone is a fan of risotto texture. But if you’re a mushroom lover like me then this is a perfect light meal that is really easy to make! I often like it eat more than just a sandwich at lunchtime so this is a great alternative and requires just as little effort.

Ingredients (1 portion)

  • Handful of mushrooms
  • Onion
  • 1-2 cloves Garlic
  • Risotto rice
  • White wine
  • Veg stock cube
  • Cheese (grated mozzarella or parmesan) to garnish

Method

  • Chop up your mushrooms, onion and garlic and place in a frying pan with a bit of oil on a medium to high heat. Fry them until the onions and mushrooms are soft and you can smell the garlic cooking. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add a portion of risotto rice along with one glass of white wine. Stir together and allow to cook for a minute or two.
  • Whilst the rice is cooking in the wine, boil 500ml of water and dissolve a vegetable stock cube into it.
  • Gradually add the veg stock a quarter at a time, stirring until absorbed by the rice. Repeat until it is all absorbed.
  • Serve up with a sprinkling of the cheese of your choice and another pinch of salt and pepper. Voilà. 

 

CHEAT’S SWEET POTATO CURRY

 

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Curry was always such a quick, staple meal for me when I was at university in the UK, so I was suitably devastated when I realised that my local French supermarket just didn’t really sell any curry products. This was until, after weeks of searching, I found the ONE curry sauce that is sold in Carrefour, hidden away in the top right hand corner of a tiny shelf, phew. Of course, you can make your own sauce, but I’m a lazy student and this is just infinitely quicker and easier.

Ingredients (2 portions)

  • Curry sauce of your choice (I chose Tikka masala)
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Spices: cumin, paprika, chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 sweet potato
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • 1/2 bag of spinach
  • 1 cup of lentils
  • Rice

Method

  • Start by chopping up all of your ingredients: onion, garlic, mushroom and sweet potato.
  • Next put your sweet potato chunks on the hob in some water to boil for just under 10 minutes.
  • Whilst the potato is boiling, fry your onion, garlic and mushrooms in some oil. Season with spices of your choice, I tend to use whatever we have in the cupboard which is usually paprika, cumin and a little bit of chilli powder. However, this is optional as the sauce is readymade so will already have spices in it!
  • Drain the sweet potato and add to the frying pan to give it time to soak up the flavours before adding the sauce.
  • Add the sauce and turn the heat right down, leaving it to simmer for around 25 minutes.
  • The lentils I buy need to be cooked in boiling water for 15-20 minutes, so I use this time to boil a full jug of water, adding half to my lentils and half to a pan of rice (cooking to packet instructions).
  • Once cooked, drain and add the lentils to the pot along with the spinach. Stir and leave to simmer for a few minutes until all the spinach has wilted. Then drain the rice and place in a bowl with one portion of your curry. If you want something on the side then you can buy a naan bread…unfortunately I am yet to find this at my supermarket.

 

 

VEGETARIAN CHILLI

 

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Ingredients (2 portions)

  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/4 bag spinach
  • 1/2-1 tin of kidney beans (the ones in chilli sauce are the best)
  • Chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 Tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • Rice

Method

  • Once again, start by chopping all your ingredients: onion, garlic, carrot, courgette. Add them to a deep pan with a little oil and some chilli powder, salt and pepper. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes before adding your chopped tomatoes and tomato purée. Season again.
  • Next add your kidney beans, if you purchased ones in chilli sauce then do not drain beforehand, as this adds flavour.
  • Stir together and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes. I like to add a teaspoon of sugar to sweeten it, but this isn’t essential.
  • 15 minutes before time is up, cook your rice according to the packet instructions.
  • Once the rice is cooked, drain and place in a bowl, adding a portion of your chilli. It really is that simple.

P.s. I also like to use the leftover chilli for lunches in the week, place them in a wrap with sour cream, guacamole and packet rice and it’s a quick, delicious and filling lunch!

 

 

MUSHROOM MAC & CHEESE

 

This is another easy lunchtime/ light dinner recipe. Whilst living in the country of cheese, I thought it would be rude not to incorporate le fromage into at least one of my recipes.

Ingredients (1 portion)

  • Macaroni pasta
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Mozzarella / cheddar cheese
  • Handful of mushrooms

 

Method

  • Start off by cooking your macaroni according to the packet instructions. Whilst your pasta is simmering, chop your mushrooms and fry them in a little butter until cooked through.
  • Once the pasta and mushrooms are cooked, drain the pasta and combine with the mushrooms in an oven proof dish. At this point you can preheat the oven to around 180 degrees.
  • Next melt a large knob of butter in a pan and add a teaspoon or 2 of flour, mixing together to make a pasty consistency. Then add one cup of milk and stir slowly until the sauce thickens and becomes glossy. Season with salt and pepper. (I’m sorry I don’t have exact amounts for this as I usually go by eye).
  • Once you have the glossy sauce, add two handfuls of your grated cheese and stir quickly and continuously until melted into the sauce.
  • Now add the sauce to your macaroni and mushrooms, stirring well to combine. Top with a dusting of cheese and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese on top has browned.
  • Serve immediately out of the oven for heaven in the form of a molten cheese mountain.

 

CREAMY VEGGIE SPAGHETTI

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So I agree that this photo doesn’t look all that appetising, but when you make portions as big as I do, it can be hard to fit it all on a plate and make it look presentable, so this is the best I could do. This dish tastes great and best of all, it gives me the opportunity to use my spiralizer (easily pleased I know).

Ingredients (2 portions)

  • 1 onion
  • 1 courgette/courgetti
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • Spaghetti
  • Broccoli
  • Creme fraiche
  • Splash of milk
  • Garlic cream cheese

 

Method

  • As usual, start by chopping your onions, broccoli and mushrooms. Then use your spiralizer to make your courgetti (if you don’t have a spiralizer you can buy pre-made courgetti at the supermarket.
  • Measure out your spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions. (For this recipe I advise to cook less spaghetti as usual because you will have courgetti as well.
  • Whilst the spaghetti is cooking, fry all your veg in a pan with a little oil, except for the courgetti which you will add later.
  • Once the onions are soft and the mushrooms are golden, you can begin the make the creamy sauce. Add a couple of tablespoons of creme fraîche and mix well, seasoning with salt and pepper. Then add a few teaspoons of the garlic cheese and combine together.
  • Once it has been simmering for a few minutes, add a small splash of milk and stir until you have a smooth sauce that isn’t too watery.
  • Next, add in the courgetti and leave to cook in the sauce for a few minutes.
  • By the time the courgetti is soft, your spaghetti should be cooked. Drain and add to the pan, reserving a splash of cooking water should you need to thin out your sauce.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve straight from the pan, with a little cheese on top.

 

Those are five of my favourite vegetarian recipes that I always make for myself. To be honest, I still have a long way to go in terms of learning vegetarian recipes, but for a student, I don’t think I’m half bad at it. This post really isn’t intending to moralise people’s eating habits, it’s more to try and give some inspiration for anyone out there who is trying out the flexitarian lifestyle, because take it from a born and bred meat eater, it is easier than you think!

If you have any recipes you can recommend to me I’d love to hear them!

*disclaimer: I used the Joe Wicks book for the cover photo, but these recipes aren’t actually from that book! Still, I highly recommend it.