Over 15 years ago I decided to stop eating meat. My decision to do so started a few years before this when the literature I was reading suggested that it was healthier. And then I read that it's better for the environment to eat less meat,but it wasn't until I moved to the farm and heard the neighbours cattle bellowing for their calves who had been sent to the market, that I actually stopped. Now there's a point to me telling you all this. For me it wasn't an easy decision. I had 3 small children at the time and I knew that I couldn't just continue to cook the same meals and just leave the meat off. I actually had to replace the meat, and I wasn't sure how to do that. I was brought up on the meat and 3 veg type of meal and my repertoire was pretty limited.My readings had shown me the importance of pulses and legumes, but what to do with them? I then came across a handy hint, well a couple actually, which I have expanded on over the years. But the original hints made it easy.
First of all I read, that most people have just a few recipes that they serve up to their family each week. I thought ,Yeh that's true for me. Meat and 3 veg, a couple of pasta dishes, a roast, soup, Shepherds pie, as I remember. Now all that I needed to do was replace those with a healthy vegetarian alternative, and so I came up with about 6 easy family style dishes. Lentil roast, spaghetti bols with kidney beans instead of meat,Spinach and ricotta canneloni, Kitchari, rissotto and Gardeners pie. The 2nd hint was to have canned legumes and pulses on hand because it takes a certain amount of pre planning to use them dried .I now use them dried nearly all the time.
This all happened when my girls ages ranged from 10 to 15. I didn't enjoy cooking, I worked full time and I was still struggling with the whole meat replacement thing. Needless to say I wasn't very welcoming of the girls in the kitchen at this time. And they have all moved away without really getting any cooking hints from me apart from the one where I said cooking wasn't fun, an idea which I got from my mum! Since they have flown the coop I have grown, not to love cooking but certainly appreciate it much more and have ventured out into different areas with my cooking to the point that we make most things from scratch including sourdough bread, pasta, pizza dough, yoghurt, cheese and all our biscuits,cakes and desserts.
Meghann and her partner are vegetarian and can throw together some pretty good meals. Her partner has quite a love of cooking and they manage quite well. Sarah and her partner are also vegos and are aquiring a love of cooking and I was able to give Sarah a few hints while I was down in Melbourne last week. Rhonwyn lives here in the Hunter with her new husband who is not a vego.and she is struggling a little with what to cook that will please them both, so we have started a weekly cooking day, today being the first. I went to her place and we discussed menu options and worked out what groceries we needed, and then went shopping keeping in mind not to buy one off ingredients but basic all round ones that can be used in various recipes.
Back home again to start on a Lentil roast from "Vegetarian Main Meals" by Kathryn Hawkins. This book was given to me by a friend when I first decided to stop eating meat and has been very useful providing me with at least 4 of my mainstay meals.We made 2 of the roasts. One for Rhonnie and Scott and one for me to take home for our dinner.
1 cup red lentils
1 bay leaf
2 cups grated cheese 1 leek or onion chopped
handful mushrooms, chopped
11/2 cups breadcrumbs
2 tblspns fresh parsley
2 eggs beaten lightly
1. Boil lentils, stock and bay leaf gently until liquid is absorbed
2. Grease loaf tin with butter and sprinkle with some breadcrumbs
3.Stir cheese, leek(or Onion) mushrooms, breadcrumbs and parsley into the lentils.
4.Bind together with lemon juice and eggs. Spoon into tin and bake at 190C for 1 hour.
Loosen loaf and turn onto a serving plate. Serve with roast vegies.
Rhonwyn is only cooking for 2 so there should be enough left for tomorrow night and maybe a few slices for sandwiches as well. When we have this we slice the leftovers, and shallow fry them and eat them with steamed vegies the next night. I calculate the cost of the loaf at about $5. This would be less if you made your own breadcrumbs.For dessert we made apple crumble which is a variation of Rhonda's rhubarb crumble using just apples instead of rhubarb and berries at this time of year .Next week we'll try something different.