March 24, 2015
March is an exciting month for me, because it marks 6 months of my pescetarianism.
No, I haven’t started a new religion.
I’ve been growing closer to a meat-free diet for some years now. I’m not a big fan of preparing meat, I have a lot of vegetarian or pescetarian friends, and slowly but surely, as I’ve progressed through my twenties, I’ve enjoyed the taste of meat less and less. On top of all of this, and most importantly, I love animals – and it’s hard to reconcile that with meat-eating. As I’ve grown up I’ve become more and more attuned to the lack of differences between, say, dogs and pigs – or horses and cows. Nobody can teach you that, or convince you that the animals we eat are worth saving and that they all have a capacity to love and be loved – I think it’s a realisation that you need to come to yourself, and for that to happen you need to be open to it.
These feelings have been developing for me for some time – until, six months ago, I made a very spur-of-the-moment decision to kick meat altogether, and try vegetarianism for 2 weeks. 2 weeks turned into 4, which turned into 6 – and eventually I lost track of how long I’d been doing it; it just felt right.
After a few months of eating no meat at all, I decided to re-introduce fish into my diet (making me a 'pescetarian'). Of all meats, I’ve always enjoyed fish and seafood most; and I missed it – not just the taste of it but the protein it offered, the texture and the variety it added to my food. I still struggle with the fact that I’m eating an animal, when that’s something I’ve decided I don’t want to do. One of the things that placates me is the quality-of-life issue – the fact that fish generally enjoy a much greater level of freedom and quality of life before they’re killed; as compared to chickens, pigs or cows who are bred for meat.
Now, I eat fish around once a week. The rest of the time, I maintain a vegetarian diet. I haven’t eaten chicken, beef, lamb or pork in over six months – and I don’t miss them at all. Honestly.
I don’t think vegetarianism is for everyone – and for me, the health effects have been minimal. I feel much the same as I did when I ate meat; if not slightly better. But that doesn’t mean everyone will have the same experience, and I certainly don’t advocate it as the ‘right’ way to do things, or the ‘perfect diet’. Everyone’s different, with different needs.
But, for those of you who are considering going vegetarian or who’ve already made the jump – I wanted to share not just my experience so far, but some of my favourite recipes which have fast become staples for me. Read on for my top three quick, easy vegetarian recipes. I hope you enjoy them!
*Note - all of these recipes can be made vegan by omitting the cheese/sour cream on top. The Honey Soy Eggplant recipe is vegan as-is.
This is SO easy. Whenever I do this, I always make lots of extra ‘stuffing’, then I freeze it. Weeks later when I can’t be bothered doing anything for dinner and I’m about to drive to the local kebab shop (for a felafel kebab), I remember I’ve got the mix in the freezer and I pull some mushrooms or capsicums out of the fridge, defrost the mix and stuff them. SO. EASY.
The basic premise here is that you start with a grain (I use quinoa or brown rice, but you could use couscous or freekeh also), then add to it any variety of the following:
- Corn - Spices (cumin, turmeric, paprika, ground coriander, ground cardamom, etc)
- Chopped tomato/capsicum/zucchini
- Kidney beans or any other kind of bean
- Sunflower/pumpkin seeds
- Fresh or dried herbs (basil, oregano)
- Chopped garlic
Then, you wash some capsicums or mushrooms, and stuff them with the mix, before putting them in the oven for around 30 minutes.
You can top each stuffed vegetable with cheese & nuts if you wish, to give it a crunchy topping.
When I use mushrooms for this, I give them a light coating of olive oil & balsamic vinegar before I stuff them, to make sure they retain their juices.
Honey soy eggplant
Again – this is as easy as recipes come. It’s basically the vegetarian version of honey soy chicken. You can serve it with rice if you wish, or on its own.
With rice, one large eggplant will feed 4 people easily.
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp minced garlic (or two crushed cloves)
- 3 Tbsp honey, mixed with 3 Tbsp soy sauce (I use a mix of light & dark soy, but it doesn’t matter which one you go with)
- Some chilli flakes if you like it hot
- Heat the oil in the pan on high heat. Once hot, add the garlic and eggplant
- Once the eggplant has started to soften and looks ‘cooked’ (four or five minutes), add the honey soy mix and the chilli if you’re using it
- Continue to cook until it looks sticky (not long – a minute or two).
- Serve up!
The meatless take on chilli-con-carne, this is perfect for those evenings where it’s cool outside, or you just need some hearty comfort food.
The basic premise is that you replace the mince meat with quinoa. But, I go one further in that I pack as many vegetables into the sauce as I possibly can.
Generally, it goes something like this:
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 each of a red and yellow pepper
- 1 small jalapeno pepper
- Half a zucchini
- 2 large field mushrooms
- 2 onions
- 4 cups of cooked quinoa (you'll get this from 2 cups of uncooked quinoa)
- A bottle of tomato-based sauce (my favourite is Sugo Al Basilico by Italian brand Bella Lucia. You can get it from fancy supermarkets)
- Chop all the vegetables really finely, into small cubes.
- Heat the potato and peppers in the microwave for around 2 minutes, or the oven for around 10 (be sure to stir them half way through), then add them to the rest of the chopped vegetables.
– Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry all the chopped vegies in a variety of spices (whatever you usually use for chilli con carne. My go-to’s are ground chilli, cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon and ground cumin. Use half a tsp of chilli, 1 tsp each of the cayenne and cinnamon and 1.5 tsp of the ground cumin.)
- Once the veggies are nearly-cooked, add the cooked quinoa and the tomato-based sauce to the pan
- Stir the mix for another 2 minutes or so until heated through.
- Serve with sour cream and some chopped coriander leaves.
Let me know how you go with these - and if you have any of your own quick & easy meatless meals, please share - I'd love to try them!