I 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.
So, 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.