Con­vinces us that veg­e­tar­i­an­ism is pretty darn de­li­cious

Be­ing veg­e­tar­ian – or, at the very least, em­brac­ing #meat­freemon­day – is far FROM A SAC­RI­fiCE. EX­PLORE GLOBAL CUI­SINE AND THE WORLD IS YOUR OYS­TER (MUSH­ROOM)

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - DELICIOUS - Matt Pre­ston:

HOLD on a sec­ond there, buddy. I know that you’re all a-flut­ter about plan­tbased cui­sine,and name-drop­pingly cool and po­tently on-trend words like ‘ve­gan ’,‘ re­duce tar ian’ and‘ flex it ar­ian ’. But how much of the food you’ve been eat­ing for the past few years ac­tu­ally al­ready con­forms to be­ing ‘veg­e­tar­ian’?

You see,veg­e­tar­ian cui­sine isn’t all lentil burg­ers and nut roasts. It doesn’t need to re­volve around cau­li­flower ‘steaks’, tofu mas­querad­ing as chicken, or a‘ fen­nel par mi­gia na ’. Veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan recipes don’t even need to be healthy. If they re­volve around co­conut fat, they quite pos­si­bly aren’t.

In fact, through­out my past five cook­books, I have sought to slip in a size­able num­ber of veg­e­tar­ian recipes that had so much flavour they’d pass by with­out the Meat Po­lice alert­ing such prom­i­nent vego haters as Gor­don Ram­say and Tony Bour­dain to my sub­terfuge. It’s vego health by stealth.

Well, apart from all those but­ter­laden veg­e­tar­ian desserts. Yes, dessert is al­most al­ways veg­e­tar­ian – and when it’s not can I sug­gest it’s usu­ally not worth eat­ing? May I present, as ev­i­dence to sup­port this claim, Ex­hibit A: that Turk­ish blanc­mange made from pound­ing chicken breasts to a paste; and Ex­hibit B: that Chi­nese soup made with snow frog ovaries, an ac­quired taste you prob­a­bly won’t miss not ac­quir­ing.

So, here are some of my favourite vego dishes that you might not think are ac­tu­ally veg­e­tar­ian. Dessert not in­cluded.

CURRY

In­dia abounds in amaz­ing vego street food such as cau­li­flower pako­ras, pea-and-po­tato samosas, and crispy, paper-thin dosas filled with spiced po­tato. But it is with all man­ner of cur­ries that In­dian veg­e­tar­ian food re­ally makes its place at the din­ner ta­ble, whether it’s a rich veg­etable ko­rma, In­dian paneer cheese braised with spinach, a dark, sour and hot Andhran

hard-boiled egg curry or pota­toes and cau­li­flower in an aloo gobi.

PUMP­KIN SOUP

Use a good veg­etable stock and a few pepi­tas toasted with maple syrup, and smoked pa­prika, and it’s as good meat free.This is just the tip of a huge and very de­li­cious veg­e­tar­ian soup ice­berg.

CHICKPEA TAGINE

The North African and Mid­dle East­ern kitchen also abounds with great vego dishes, from the silky de­light of egg­plant

imam bay­ildi or any num­ber of dips, to snacks like haloumi nuggets or falafel with hum­mus, pick­led cab­bage and turnip. Meatier still, is a tagine made with all the usual spices but chick­peas in­stead of lamb or chicken.

MELTED CHEESE

There is so much to love here, from cheese toasties, jaf­fles, grilled cheese melts and pan-fried saganaki to Swiss na­tional dishes like fon­due or raclette. It is, how­ever, my be­lief that melted cheese is never more no­ble than when slathered across Aussie na­chos with sour cream and a limey av­o­cado gua­camole.

PIZZA

Pizza doesn’t need meat or seafood to make me happy. It could be all cool and trendy and be topped with slices of po­tato, melted Ta­leg­gio and rose­mary. It could be all French and be a pas­try­topped pissal­adière with sweet caramelised onions and black olives. Or, best of all, it could be all Neapoli­tan and ask for noth­ing more to dress its puffy dough than a bright tomato sugo and some milky melted moz­zarella.

NOO­DLES

I’d love to put some­thing stir-fried and Chi­nese in here but the noodle dishes that re­ally sing to me use ev­ery­thing from sliv­ers of liver, crispy pig skin, char siu pork – or a combo of ran­dom

ex­tra­ne­ous piggy bits in a sack – to chicken, cow or at least a little bit of sauce made from oys­ters. From the ‘poor kitchen’ of Italy, how­ever, comes a uni­verse of noodle dishes that are all-veg­e­tar­ian, whether it’s pesto spaghetti, ri­cotta-stuffed ravi­oli, or penne with a tomato and chilli arra­bi­ata.

EGGS WITH CHEESE

They might be a little old-fash­ioned now but maybe it’s time to re­visit the quiche, the frit­tata, the cheese souf­flé and those frit­ters with feta and peas or zuc­chini.

RISOTTO

This is the per­fect home for roast pump­kins and leeks, or beet­root with feta and crushed wal­nuts, but it reaches its zenith with a mush­room risotto loaded with parme­san and per­haps hid­den un­der an au­tum­nal cov­er­ing of crispy kale crisps. Make sure you use veg­etable or mush­room stock to keep things nicely vego.

There are, of course, so many other con­tenders, such as pig-free baked beans, corn cakes, egg­plant parmi­giana, any num­ber of spring rolls and rice paper rolls, Egyp­tian kushari, Si­cil­ian tray bakes of pump­kin, red onions, cur­rants and pine nuts – sticky with a sweet vine­gar re­duc­tion – Ethiopian cab­bage and lentil cur­ries served on a pan­cake of sour and springy in­jera bread, Korean tteok­bokki (a chewy rice cake doused in a spicy sweet gravy), Sichuan spicy mapo tofu, In­dian dahl, gnoc­chi – per­haps baked with spinach, gor­gonzola and eggs – baked dauphi­noise pota­toes, Is­raeli baked eggs, In­done­sian

gado gado, Ja­panese nasu den­gaku (mis­oglazed egg­plant), Greek spanako­pita, or huevos rancheros, that Mex­i­can break­fast of smoky chipo­tle-spiced,

fri­joles ne­gro (black beans) with eggs, av­o­cado and co­rian­der.

For more of Matt's favourite veg­e­tar­ian dishes, and recipes, visit de­li­cious.com.au

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