Written by Lydia in Healthy Meals

On the back of Hayley’s last ‘foodie new year’ post,  I have decided this year I am going to eat less meat.  You will have no doubt been hearing a lot in the news and media recently about how we need to change the way we eat to help save our planet and our health.  Maybe very naively, I haven’t always thought about what I am personally eating and how it fits into the bigger picture in an environmental sense.  I am very fortunate in that I have good food knowledge and 90% of the time cook from scratch, have always eaten responsibly and seasonally where possible and chosen high animal welfare foods but it didn’t really compute to me that eating meat and animal products was having such an impact on the world.  After reading various articles and listening to podcasts on this topic, it has really opened my eyes and highlighted that this is a much more serious issue than veganism being the latest food fad. I am not going to label myself as a vegetarian or ‘flexitarian’ but am choosing to go down the more planetary diet route which in a nutshell will mean eating much less meat and fish generally, particularly red meat which should be viewed more as a luxury food, eating more fruit and veg, increasing wholegrain carb intake and obtaining the bulk of protein from pulses and legumes like beans, chickpeas and lentils.  Hopefully this will mean better animal welfare, better body health and most importantly, help save the environment.  I know not everyone can do this but for me, if I make a small change, hopefully it will make some sort of difference in the long run.

James and I have been following this throughout January and we must admit, we are feeling much better for it and what’s more, it’s actually really easy to do and has been fun researching into more plant-based eating.  I have also discovered the world of nut butters – I am one of those in the minority that doesn’t like peanut butter so I always thought this was something I couldn’t get on board with but I have since found almond and cashew butter and my taste buds have been transformed! We have been making veggie noodle stir fries the last few Fridays and making dressings out of nut butters, tamari, lemon and miso paste which has made them taste incredible and really different to just eating a bowl full of fried vegetables.

I have listed below a few easy veggie swaps that you can incorporate into your everyday lives if this is something you are thinking about doing too.

Lentil Bolognese

Swap your minced beef for green lentils.  This would also work well with as cottage pie filling.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can use any veggies you need to use up in the fridge, just chop and chuck them in!

Ingredients

Serves 6

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 courgette, chopped
250g mushrooms, sliced
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
1 red pepper, finely diced
2 tbsp tomato puree
200g dry green lentils
2 x 400g cans of tinned tomatoes
500ml water
1 vegetable stock cube
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 -3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
600g of spaghetti

Method

  1. Place the onion, garlic, carrots, courgette, mushrooms, celery, red pepper, salt and pepper in a large pan with the olive oil over a medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until soft.
  2. Stir in the dried herbs. Then add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes, stock (dissolved into the water), Worcestershire sauce and lentils, cook for 45-50 minutes, adding the water throughout to ensure it doesn’t dry out.
  3. Once the lentils are really soft, cook the pasta in a separate pan of boiling water until al-dente, drain it and mix it into the bolognese.

Curry

This is a recipe from Deliciously Ella’s plant-based cookbook for Sri Lankan curry and tastes delicious.  As she says in her write up, curries are a good one to start with swapping out meat for as they have big flavours which feel familiar to us.  Aubergine is the meat of the vegetable world and would also lend itself excellently in curries.

Ingredients

Serves 4

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (no bigger than 2.5cm)
½ butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (no bigger than 2.5cm)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp curry powder
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 large red onion, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
2 green chillies, deseeded and sliced into small pieces
1 × 400g tins of coconut milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
Juice of ½ lime
100g baby spinach
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 240ºC (fan 220ºC).
  2. Place the sweet potato and butternut squash in a baking tray with a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil, the turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder and curry powder. Roast in the oven for 30–35 minutes, until soft, adding the sliced pepper for the last 10 minutes. Once ready, remove and leave to one side.
  3. Meanwhile, place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat and the remaining coconut oil. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and black mustard seeds and cook for 30 seconds, until they begin to pop. Add the red onion, garlic and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the coconut milk and maple syrup. Cook for a further 15 minutes, adding the lime juice during the last 5 minutes.
  4. Add the roasted squash, sweet potatoes and peppers and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring continuously to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Finally, stir through the spinach and leave to wilt before serving.

Five Bean Chilli

Another favourite of ours from Deliciously Ella’s latest cookbook.  The flavours really develop overtime and the cornbread that goes with it is really yummy.  I also picked up Sainsbury’s magazine this month who did a similar recipe but with a cobbler topping which looks really tasty and is on my list to do next.

Ingredients

Chilli serves 4, Cornbread serves 10 (it also freezes well so you can wrap it up to have another time)

For the corn bread:
750g drained tinned sweetcorn
450ml almond milk
150ml sunflower, rapeseed or vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
25g coriander, chopped
1 x 400g tin of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
Pinch of pepper

For the dry ingredients:
90g plain flour
400g polenta
1tbsp corn flour
1tsp baking powder
2tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the chilli:
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
3 tbsp tomato puree
2 x 400g tins of mixed beans (you can buy Napolina 5 bean mix in tins which is what I use)
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp maple syrup/sugar to taste

Method

  1. Start by making the corn bread. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan 180°C). Line a deep 35 x 25cm baking tin with baking parchment. Place three-quarters of the sweetcorn in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Once smooth, mix together with the rest of the whole sweetcorn kernels.
  2. Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Once mixed, add the almond milk, oil and apple cider vinegar and give everything another really good stir until well combined. Next, add the coriander, black beans, chilli, salt, pepper and sweetcorn, giving it all one final mix.
  3. Once the mixture has come together, pour into the lined baking tin and bake in the oven for 50–55 minutes until golden and cooked through. To test if it is cooked, insert a knife into the corn bread, it should come out clean. If not, place back in the oven for five more minutes to cook through.
  4. While the corn bread is baking, prepare the chilli. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil, the onion, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  5. Now add the chilli, rosemary, thyme and tomato puree and cook for another five minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, 150ml water, maple syrup/sugar to taste and some pepper and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and leave to simmer for 25–30 minutes, at which point it should have a thick consistency.

 

If you really want to up your veggie intake too, then get out your spiralizers once again and start making courgetti.  Cauliflower rice goes excellently with curries and we have also made ‘beanguine’ using runner beans in the summer and slicing them up with a pasta sauce.  The hairy dieters have a genius recipe for a lower calorie lasagne using leeks instead of pasta sheets and you could also do something similar using thinly sliced sweet potato.

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