Veg-ing out

wpid-20140730_200027-1.jpgI have flirted with vegetarianism on and off for about thirty years, particularly when I lived alone – which I have done, not unhappily, on and off, until I finally settled down with Tom.   One of the first, if not the first, recipe book I bought, was the A – Z of Vegetarian Cooking in South Africa.  And two of our favourite quiche fillings (leek & onion, and spinach & feta) are based on recipes from this book.  I do confess that I work very hard at not thinking about the journey that meat must take to reach my kitchen.

Consequently, entertaining friends who are vegetarian is fun! Well, I think so, anyway.  For some, it’s a challenge, so I thought I’d share with you what I did when our neighbours joined us for a long overdue dinner, a few weeks ago.

It was a Friday evening and Fridays are my day in the kitchen, preparing for the market.  This particular Friday, I was really in the mode, so it was in for a penny, in for a pound.  The broccoli was ready to pick and we had ripe gooseberries, so there were two ready ingredients.

That said, it was cold and miserable and had the makings of becoming even more so, and what is more warming than cottage pie, I thought.   So, instead of the beef mince, I used beautiful green lentils, soaked and cooked, that were added to sautéd onions and mushrooms.  This was seasoned with chopped garlic, some tomato paste, a twig of fresh rosemary and a good glug of red wine.  A lesson I learned, and which I had forgotten, was that it’s really easy to let this mixture dry out – watch it and add water and/or vegetable stock so that it stays nice and moist as the flavours develop.  Transferred to an oven proof dish, this was topped with a potato and butternut mash, dotted with knobs of butter and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes to half an hour.  The butter is what gives you the crispy, caremelised crust on the cottage pie which was served with a garden salad.

100_2974 100_3150So, we started our dinner with broccoli soup, made with the first picking, and discovered to my delight, that not only does Ant enjoy soup,  but particularly loves creamy ones.

For dessert, we had a gooseberry tart with jam I had made earlier in the day.

No meal is complete without wine.  We don’t really do the wine-pairing thing.  Although we do take the menu into consideration, we choose what we like, and what we think our guests will like.  As usual, we chose beautiful wines from our valley:  Tanagra‘s Heavenly Chaos (isn’t that a wonderful name for a wine?), a lovely red blend, which is beautifully different every year, and Springfield’s Life from Stone, one of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Pat and Ant, it was fun – we’ll do it again! 100_3151


12 thoughts on “Veg-ing out

  1. We are vegetarian and used to make shepherds pie with lentils. Years ago my partner substituted ground nuts – perfect. I really recommend it. And I love broccoli soup, it’s a great mix of a delicate yet distinctive flavours.

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    1. That’s very interesing – coarsely ground? I have to say that I am not partial to peanut butter or ground groundnuts, so avoid things like satay sauce, so I’d be interested to know how it was done.

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      1. Coarsely? Hard to say. No, I don’t think so. No distinctive nutty bits. I’ve rarely used peanuts. I’ve used Brazil and walnuts sometimes, but tend to mostly use almonds or hazelnuts in cooking. Depends on the recipe. If you have a look at roughseas last post, I’ve got a pic of ajo blanco (Spanish) which uses almonds, there is a link to the recipe too. I don’t have a food blog, but I do have some recipe pages, and post about food from time to time. Back to the pie, I think nuts give a totally different texture to lentils. Green lentils wd be better than red, but I found the nuts both a better taste and better texture. But if you don’t like nuts…

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  2. That’s really helpful. Ground nuts confused me – some people use the term for peanuts. Love nuts, just not peanut butter, and am particularly fond of Brazil and Macadamia nuts. I’m certainly going to give nuts a try and yes, the texture would be completely different. For this pie, I did use green lentils… large ones.

    Thank you for the recipe link, I will certainly look at it and experiment.

    And, I fell in love with Spain and Spanish food (and wine) when I stayed in the old city of Palma for three weeks about 14 years ago…

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