Vegging out: thousands to unearth joys of food fair

THOUSANDS of people will be “vegging out” and celebrating all things from the good earth this weekend.

The Vegetarian Society of Ireland, which has 400 members, will hold its 13th annual World Day fair in Dublin’s Temple Bar today.

The fair, which is being held at the Cultivate Centre in Essex Street, is the biggest event in the vegetarian calendar in Ireland.

Up to 2,000 people are expected to visit the centre where they will be treated to a variety of food served by some of the country’s top vegetarian restaurants.

There will also be cookery demonstrations on how to make tasty and tempting meat-free meals.

The society’s spokeswoman, Ita West, said people from all over the country would be travelling to Dublin to attend the fair.

“While we do not know how many people are vegetarians in Ireland, there is always a huge turnout for World Vegetarian Day,” she said.

The fair ran annually until last year when exorbitant insurance forced the organisers to cancel just three weeks before the event was due to be staged.

The organisers made sure there would be no last minute hitches this year and with the fair being centrally located are expecting a greater throughput of visitors throughout the day.

“Sometimes being a vegetarian in a family of meat-eaters can be a bit lonely so it is good that they know they can visit the fair and meet other people like them,” said Ms West.

And while some people might not relish the idea of giving up meat altogether, they could always try having a vegetarian meal just once a week, she suggested.

Margot Brennan from the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, said a vegetarian diet must be carefully planned so the body gets what it needs.

She was concerned that teenagers were deciding to give up meat at a time when their iron requirements were high, risking anaemia.

And she pointed out that osteoporosis and bone health are big issues for vegetarians who cut out dairy products.

“You can lead a very healthy and balanced life as a vegetarian if the diet is carefully planned. The main nutrients we could be concerned about are iron, calcium and omega 3,” she said.

“Anything of plant origin requires the body to work harder to get the nutrients it needs so there are downsides to being a vegetarian.”

Going green: tasty recipe to get the mouth watering

Gratin of roast pumpkin, leeks, sweet corn and hazelnuts with a Gabriel cheese cream.

For four persons

80g hazelnuts

40g fine breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 tablespoon chopped chives

salt and pepper, to season

120g Gabriel cheese, grated

400g leeks

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons butter

half-glass white wine

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 sprigs thyme

120mls cream

600g pumpkin flesh olive oil

2 ears of sweetcorn

50mls vegetable stock

50mls white wine

200mls cream

Roast the hazelnuts in a low to medium oven for 30 minutes or so, until they are toasted through but only lightly coloured. Rub the nuts in a damp towel to remove the skins, then break them gently under the side of a knife or a rolling pin.

Stir the nuts into the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and chives, and season well with salt and pepper.

Finally, add 40g of the grated Gabriel cheese. Wash the leeks carefully, and cut them in half lengthways, then across into slices about 1cm thick. Melt the butter in a large pan, and cook the leeks and garlic in it, over high heat, until the leeks are just tender but still bright green. Add the wine, mustard and thyme, and cook for three minutes more, then add the cream and boil it for two minutes.

Pour the leeks into a wide bowl to cool. Peel the pumpkin, unless the skin is very thin, and chop the flesh into dice of about 1.5cm.

Toss the pumpkin pieces in a little olive oil and roast them in a moderately hot oven until the pumpkin is tender. At the same time, boil the sweetcorn until tender, then use a sharp knife to scrape the kernels from the core.

Break up the very big pieces but don’t fret about breaking it all down to individual kernels. Gently stir both the pumpkin and the sweetcorn into the leeks.

Place your four steel rings on an oven tray lined with baking parchment. Fill each with the leek and pumpkin stuff, gently pressing it in. Spoon some of the hazelnut crumble over each one and press it down firmly.

Bake the gratins in an oven at 190°C/375°F for 15 to 20 mins. The top should be lightly browned and the filling heated through.

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