I grew up not eating a lot of meat – particularly red meat. We would usually have chicken or turkey on a Sunday, but we mostly ate lots of vegetables, pulses and beans. When I was about fifteen my mum started using Quorn instead of minced beef and swapped cow’s milk for plant based alternatives. Perhaps, it was due to finances with having so many children to feed, but I feel it was mainly due to the health benefits. I never felt like I was missing out on anything – it’s one of those things that you’re not really aware of as a child.
The world has never been more health conscious and with slogans like ‘meat free Monday’ and ‘free from Friday’ popping up all over social media, it has never been more ‘en vogue’ to care about your body – inside and out. We’re being advised to reduce our meat intake and avoid processed meats for so many reasons – to reduce the effects on the environment, to reduce water usage, to curb obesity and reduce risks to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. I’m not going to pretend that I’m an animal rights activist (because I’m really not), but nor do I think that it’s good to eat meat every day.
When I met Jared I was a pescatarian, and had been for about 5 years. It was something I decided one day, but he found it very strange that I didn’t eat red or white meat for no credible reason. I was pescatarian for about 2 more years, and then I started eating chicken again – which to be honest, I’d really missed. Over the last few years I have tried sausage, ham, turkey, gammon, beef, pork and lamb, but I don’t particularly like any of them, so I don’t eat them unless it is going to cause someone offence!
Vegetarian cooking has always felt very normal, and often I have to remind myself to buy fish and chicken. For me, balance is important, as well as ensuring that Win and Ru are informed about health. I want them to grow up with lots of variety, having tried lots of different foods, and to not be labelled as fussy or difficult. I know they like sausage, beef, lamb and pork, but they’re not things I would cook for them myself. Win won’t touch potatoes, cheese or eggs, which I find totally bizarre considering all the other foods he will eat. I’m really trying to work on them – particularly potatoes.
I would definitely say that we eat vegetarian most of the week, and here are some of our favourite meals:
Bean chilli is a staple in our house – we probably have it once a week. In the past I have just used different types of beans with vegetables, but more recently I have swapped in things like quinoa and puy lentils. There are some ‘ready to eat’ puy lentils available in supermarkets and I find them really handy. Peppers, courgette, onion, mushroom and carrot work really well grated or chopped in. We serve this with rice, salad, wraps or potatoes.
Sweet potato curry
I have tried lots of recipes out for sweet potato curry over the last few years (mostly because I can never remember the recipe I used the time before) but the outcome is always very similar. You can add all sorts to this – pepper, spinach and chickpeas are probably our favourites. I’m thankful that the boys don’t seem to mind spicy food, because I like to add lots of chilli. It is Jared who is usually the one left struggling! Chickpea curry is also a firm favourite.
I always think that homemade pizza sounds like it takes ages. Of course, it takes longer than shoving a ready made one in the oven, but it really doesn’t take long at all. Chopped tomatoes, pesto, sun dried tomatoes and artichokes are all things I keep in my cupboards that taste great on homemade pizza. It is also a great way to use up whatever needs eating in the fridge, such as pepper, mushroom, onion and cheese. The boys love arranging everything on top of the pizza.
We usually have pasta if I can literally think of nothing else to cook. We usually have it with pesto, or a tomato based sauce with loads of vegetables grated in for good measure – usually carrots, onion and courgette.
I love lasagne. There really is something so comforting and delicious about it. We have one of two versions – one much like a standard lasagne using Quorn, or one using just vegetables. I always use gluten free lasagne sheets, and puréed sweet potato mixed with coconut milk instead of traditional white sauce. It is less greasy and has more flavour.
The kids love these. We chop the top off, stuff them with cous cous, replace the ‘lid’ and then roast them in the oven. Served with houmous, roasted sweet potato or raw vegetables. I like them with a bit of feta in too.