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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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