Cooking For Vegetarians

I am going to admit that I am not a great fan of vegetables. Or rather, I like veg but I love meat and a meal for me pretty much always includes some kind of meat. Less meat is more healthy, I know, but there we are. I just like meat.

So when our guests arrived last week and I discovered that one of the group is veggie, I knew it was going to be a challenge. Particularly as my children are big meat eaters – or rather my son is. My daughter is more likely to eat the side order and the veg.

The first evening I had to improvise, and so our veggie guest gorged on tomato pasta salad, homemade coleslaw and green salad while the rest of us worked our way through half a BBQed cow.

I signed up for the veg box last week and was very pleased with the first delivery. I prepared coleslaw by grating the carrots, cabbage and chopping a handful of spring onions then adding olive oil and balsamico bianco and a tub of sour cream. This made a lighter dressing than using mayonnaise and meant that you could taste the vegetables better.

The interesting thing about a veg box is that you suddenly have veg in the house that you might not normally choose to buy, and sometimes even have to google to find out what it is. This was the case with the green leafy veg that I eventually identified as “chard” (in German – Mangold, in French Bette). Chard is “second only to spinach” in the Healthiest Veg list according to this website.

After a bit of humming and hawing, I decided to make a pasta bake with chard and tomatoes. When I have guests I like to make dishes that are either quick to prepare, or can be prepared in advance. Why should I stand in the kitchen for an hour while our guests chat with my husband? I am far too nosy to do that. So my favourites are dishes like chicken and ham pie, or lasagne.

First I finely sliced the stems of the chard and sautéed in olive oil, before adding garlic and the roughly chopped leaves, some fresh thyme and rosemary and a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes. I had cooked and drained the pasta so added that before stirring in a tub of sour cream and a splash of white wine.

Put the mixture into a oven proof dish and stir well to distribute the sauce, cover with some cheese (I used Gruyere, but you can use whatever you have handy) and bake in oven for about 25 mins until the cheese has melted.

You can serve this as a side dish or as a dish in its own right. We had baked chicken with it but it would have been fine without the chicken to be honest.

The other meals I have served have been:

Chicken and Ham Pie / Veggie Mushroom Pie (in cute little individual Le Creuset dish)
Spaghetti Carbonara / Pasta with Courgettes, Tomatoes and Olives
Pizza (some with ham/salami, some with just cheese and veg)

I tried to do dishes that I could adapt to veggie option without much hassle, so I wasn’t cooking two complete separate meals. Tonight we shall have a BBQ with veggie burgers and beefburgers. It has been a lot less stressful than I expected, and I have discovered that veggie options don’t have to be boring, and can in fact replace a meat-based meal.

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