Food & Fun: Lose the meat, not the taste

Food & Fun: Lose the meat, not the taste
Get children involved so that they are less resistant to vegetables in their food.

Vegetarian diets have increased in popularity over the years but this page is not about trying to convince carnivores to ditch meat: it’s merely to show how versatile and delicious vegetarian alternatives can be.

Losing the meat doesn’t mean losing the taste.

You may just want to cut back on your meat consumption or just try something new with some extra health benefits.

Not only has a diet high in vegetables proven to have a myriad of health benefits, it also is good for the environment and our pockets.

It doesn’t have to be complicated either. Michelle Darmody’s yellow pepper omelette couldn’t be simpler to make and Darina Allen’s courgette and basil lasagna is packed full of so many simple, succulent ingredients you will barely notice the lack of meat.

Get the whole family involved. Children can be resistant to vegetables but rather than push spinach or cabbage, get them to try juicy vine tomatoes, red peppers, and sweet potato.

All of the recipes by renowned chefs and food experts Darina Allen, Michelle Darmody, Derval O'Rourke, and the Currabinny Cooks (James Kavanagh and William Murray), have been published previously in the Irish Examiner Weekend supplement.

Couscous salad (Derval O’Rourke)

Derval O'Rourke's quick and simple couscous salad
Derval O'Rourke's quick and simple couscous salad

This dish can be pulled together in no time at all. It’s also gorgeous with a dollop of hummus and served for lunch or a light dinner.

Prep time: three minutes Cook time: 12 minutes

    Ingredients:

  • 280g couscous
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 pepper (crushed)
  • Chopped 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 80g sultanas
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Freshly ground pepper

Method:

Place the couscous in a large bowl. Place the chicken stock, garlic, olive oil, salt, and spices in a large measuring jug and whisk until combined. Pour the stock over the couscous and stir to combine.

Scatter the raisins over the couscous. Place clingfilm over the bowl and leave the couscous to cook for 10 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and add the pepper. Stir in the lemon zest.

Season with pepper and divide the salad between serving plates.

Yellow pepper omelette(Michelle Darmody)

Michelle Darmody's delicious Yellow pepper omlette is very simple to prepare
Michelle Darmody's delicious Yellow pepper omlette is very simple to prepare

    Ingredients:

  • 2 small yellow peppers, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 8 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 tsp of milk
  • A bunch of chives, finely chopped
  • A dash of olive oil
  • 4 handfuls of spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp of salad dressing
  • Walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • 2 tsp of pink peppercorns, lightly crushed

Method:

Toss the peppers and onion in the oil. Season and place into an oven at 180C, until they are cooked to your liking.

Whisk the eggs, milk and chives. Heat the pan well and add a dash of oil. Pour in a quarter of the egg mixture.

Work quickly, drawing the egg to the centre of the pan as it begins to cook. This allows the liquid from the sides to reach the base of the pan. Continue until it is cooked to your liking. Set aside, and repeat to make three more omelettes.

Roll the pepper mixture into each omelette. Can be sprinkled with feta. Toss the spinach in the dressing and then toss the nuts and peppercorns through.

Serve the salad on the side of each omelette.

Courgette and basil lasagna (Darina Allen)

Darina Allen's courgette and basil lasagna
Darina Allen's courgette and basil lasagna

    Ingredients:

  • 9 sheets of lasagne (choose the thinnest lasagne possible)
  • 900g courgettes, thinly sliced and cooked for 3–4 minutes in extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano,
  • freshly grated 20–30 basil leaves, depending on size
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    For the Béchamel sauce:

  • 900ml whole milk
  • a few slices of carrot
  • a few slices of onion
  • 3 small sprigs of thyme
  • 3 small sprigs of parsley
  • 9 peppercorns 105g roux

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Blanch the lasagne in boiling salted water for a minute or so if it is homemade, or according to the directions on the packet. Drain and lay on a tea towel until needed.

To make the Béchamel sauce, put the milk into a saucepan with the carrot, onion, peppercorns, thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4–5 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Strain out the vegetables and herbs, bring the milk back to the boil and whisk in the roux to thicken to a light coating consistency. Allow to bubble gently for 4–5 minutes. Season to taste.

Taste the cooked courgettes and make sure they are delicious and well-seasoned.

Spread a little Béchamel sauce on the base of a lightly buttered 25.5 x 30.5cm gratin dish, sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan, cover with strips of lasagne, more Béchamel sauce, a sprinkling of Parmesan, half the courgettes and a layer of basil leaves.

Next add another layer of lasagne and repeat the previous layer. Cover the final layer of lasagne with sauce and a good sprinkling of Parmesan. (Make sure all the lasagne is coated with sauce.)

Bake for 10–15 minutes or until golden and bubbly on top.

If possible, leave to stand for 5–10 minutes before cutting to allow the layers to compact.

Serve garnished with extra basil leaves and a good green salad.

Grilled aubergine salad with walnuts (Currabinny cooks)

The Currabinny Cooks' Grilled aubergine salad
The Currabinny Cooks' Grilled aubergine salad

This is a really easy salad consisting of grilled aubergine, dressed simply with lemon juice, oil, and honey.

Grilling sliced aubergine is the quickest way to get the desired results, which should always involve getting the flesh as tender as possible without it turning to mush.

The actual seasoning is minimal here because the other components will give you the punch. Just a little sea salt, black pepper and good olive oil, soaked into the flesh will bring out everything you need.

Be careful to turn the slices at the right moment, you don’t want the flesh to turn black or to fall apart, you are looking for a nice golden, brown surface on each side.

    Ingredients:

  • 2 medium aubergines, sliced into 1-inch rounds
  • 1 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp of pomegranate seeds
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Handful of mint, chopped
  • Handful of walnuts
  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil plus more for cooking
  • 1 tbsp of honey
  • Method:

    Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and arrange the walnuts on it. Toast the walnuts in the oven for around eight minutes until golden and fragrant.

    Whisk together the lemon juice, red onion, oil, chopped mint, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper to make a super quick dressing. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over a medium high heat.

    Add the aubergine slices, season with salt and pepper and cook each side until golden brown and starting to caramelise slightly. This should take around eight to 10 minutes.

    Transfer the aubergine slices to a plate or platter and add the walnuts and pomegranate on top. Drizzle generously with the dressing and finally the tablespoon of honey all over.

    Garnish with fresh mint leaves and serve.

More on this topic

From roadside stalls to supermarket shelves: The remarkable growth of Ireland's strawberry industryFrom roadside stalls to supermarket shelves: The remarkable growth of Ireland's strawberry industry

Twin ambition: The Happy Pear on life, love and lockdownTwin ambition: The Happy Pear on life, love and lockdown

The Menu: From whiskey tours to secret trails, some great events happening around the countryThe Menu: From whiskey tours to secret trails, some great events happening around the country

Tönnies took 50% of Ireland's cull sows before shutdownTönnies took 50% of Ireland's cull sows before shutdown


More in this Section

Baby's arrival leads to more adventures as the Young Offenders returnBaby's arrival leads to more adventures as the Young Offenders return

Learner Dad: A week in the sun wasn’t worth all the second-guessing about green listsLearner Dad: A week in the sun wasn’t worth all the second-guessing about green lists

Bitesize: Forget about snacks think about mini meals insteadBitesize: Forget about snacks think about mini meals instead

Tuesday's TV highlights: The Plot Against America, classic soccer and moreTuesday's TV highlights: The Plot Against America, classic soccer and more


Latest Showbiz

Mr Depp is suing The Sun’s publisher News Group Newspapers and journalist Dan Wootton over a 2018 article which labelled him a ‘wife beater’.Johnny Depp’s ex-fiancee Winona Ryder to appear on video link at libel trial

More From The Irish Examiner