Being vegetarian doesn’t mean giving up the joy of eating good food. In fact, some of the world’s most delicious and comforting foods are completely meat-free.
Macaroni cheese, mashed potatoes, chocolate cake – all of these favourite recipes are completely vegetarian.
So if you’re trying to convince your carnivorous friends that not every plate needs to have meat to be complete, there are plenty of spectacular recipes to draw on. Here are some that we love.
Depending on which region of Italy you’re in, Italian food can be meat heavy. But some of its most iconic dishes are completely devoid of meat – a classic pizza margherita, for example. This spinach and ricotta cannelloni recipe from Jamie Oliver is another Italian vegetarian recipe that will definitely impress meat-eaters. It requires a little assembly – the cannelloni tubes need to be filled and then arranged on top of tomato sauce before being baked with mozzarella on top – but the result is a fresh, delicious and truly memorable. To make the recipe a little easier, try using frozen spinach instead of fresh. And if you can’t find cannelloni tubes, fresh lasagne sheets rolled up will also do.
A vegetarian lasagne can also be a great alternative to the normal meatier version of the dish. Delia’s Mediterranean vegetable lasagne is a particularly good recipe, in which aubergines, courgettes and peppers become the star of the show.
A very vegetarian Christmas
If you’re sharing your Christmas table with meat-eaters, now’s the perfect time to show them how a vegetarian festive meal can be every bit as good – if not better – than turkey with all the trimmings. Felicity Cloake runs the Guardian’s How to Cook the Perfect… series, and her How to Cook the Perfect Nut Roast is a triumph. Most standard nut roasts are stuffed into loaf tins, while others are covered in pastry. But this nut roast is encased in an outer wrapper of blanched savoy cabbage leaves, a bit like a vegetarian, pastry-free wellington. It looks fantastic, and it tastes out of this world.
Allegra McEvedy also has an excellent meat-free Christmas recipe that features savoy cabbage. Dubbed ‘Strata of Savoy‘, this recipe uses savoy cabbage leaves to separate layers of butternut squash, mushrooms, cauliflower and beetroot – a bit like a veg-filled, wintry British lasagne. There are several stages to the dish, but the result is spectacular and it’s the perfect centrepiece to rival a turkey.
Recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi
He’s not a vegetarian himself, but London chef Yotam Ottolenghi has slowly built up a reputation one of the best purveyors of meat-free recipes – largely thanks to his erstwhile column in the Guardian, The New Vegetarian. His vegetarian cookbooks Plenty and Plenty More are great sources of impressive and inventive vegetarian recipes.
Ottolenghi’s caramelised garlic tart, for instance, is a wonderful mix of flavours, without a hint of meat in sight. He blanches about three heads of garlic – each clove peeled and separated – before glazing them in balsamic vinegar, sugar, rosemary, thyme and salt. These cloves are then added to a puff pastry case with a delicious mix of cream, crème fraiche and goats cheese before being baked like a quiche. It’s a tantalising mix of flavours – and destined to become a mainstay in any home cook’s repertoire, whether they’re vegetarian or not.
So tell us: what are your favourite vegetarian dishes? Could you go meat-free?