Love meat? You and several billion of us, but nonetheless there are plenty of compelling reasons why even the most ardent carnivore should at least consider giving the meat a rest, if only for a few days. From a health perspective, although lean protein is great, it is never a bad idea to feed your system with primarily high-fibre, nutrient-rich, water-packed treats for a while, which is far easier on a vegetarian diet.
Also, the environmental impact of eating meat has been much discussed in the past few years. According to studies quoted in The Guardian, when compared to potatoes, wheat, rice and other staples the environmental impact of beef per calorie is significantly extreme, requiring 160 times more land and producing 11 times more greenhouse gases, a shocking statistic.
Finally, it may be worth entertaining the thought that giving up meat, even just for a few days, could be fun! Just think: no more slabs of meat and two veg for a while – you can feast on quinoa and halloumi, or buttery spinach, or butternut squash with chilli oil drizzle instead.
Butternut Squash and Chickpea Curry
This mild and warming curry contains earthy chickpeas and sweet golden squash that complement each other beautifully.
200g brown basmati rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 butternut squash, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 tbsp mild curry paste
300ml vegetable stock
4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt
Small handful coriander, chopped
Cook the rice in boiling salted water, as per pack instructions. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the butternut squash for 2-3 mins until lightly browned. Add the onion and the curry paste and fry for 3-4 mins more.
Pour over the stock, then cover and simmer for 15-20 mins, or until the squash is tender. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, then gently cook for 3-4 mins, until the tomatoes slightly soften.
Take off the heat and stir through the yogurt and coriander. Serve with the rice and a couple of wholemeal chapattis.
Enjoy these delicious fresh ingredients when you go vegetarian for a week, in this simple, hearty, high-fibre casserole.
250g cooked lentil
250ml vegetable stock
2 x 400g tins tomatoes
1 tbsp dried thyme
3 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium sticks celery, finely sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 courgette, sliced thickly
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic clove, sliced
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cumin
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the onions and cook gently for 5 – 10 mins until softened.
Add the garlic, spices, dried thyme, carrots, celery and peppers and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, stock, courgettes and fresh thyme and cook for 20 25 minutes.
Take out the thyme sprigs. Stir in the lentils and bring back to a simmer. Serve with wild and white basmati rice or quinoa.
Mushroom and Camembert Hotpot
This hotpot offers all the earthy savoury goodness of delectable vegetarian cheese melded with mushrooms. Great on colder days when you are trying to go vegetarian for a week.
3 leek, trimmed, washed and roughly sliced
large knob butter
½ small Savoy cabbage, shredded
8 chestnut mushroom, sliced
4 tbsp crème fraîche
3 medium potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small vegetarian Camembert or other rinded soft cheese, sliced with the rind on
1 tbsp thyme leaf
In a shallow microwavable dish toss the leeks in half the butter and cook on High for 5 mins until they begin to soften. Stir in the cabbage and mushrooms and add the crème fraîche. Lay the potato slices over the vegetables pressing them down with a fish slice.
Dot the potatoes with the remaining butter and microwave, uncovered, for 15-20 mins on High until they are done. Scatter over the cheese and thyme, and either microwave on high to melt for 2 mins, or grill until crisp and brown. Leave to stand for a few mins and serve straight from the dish.
1 large onion, chopped
2 courgette, diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 tbsp chilli powder
100g red lentils, washed and drained
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
195g can sweetcorn, drained
420g can butter beans, drained
400g can kidney beans in water, drained
Heat the oil in a large pan. Cook the garlic, ginger, onion, courgettes and peppers for about 5 mins until starting to soften. Add the chilli powder and cook for 1 min more.
Stir in the lentils, tomato purée, tomatoes and 250ml water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15-20 mins.
Add the sweetcorn and beans, and cook for a further 10 mins.
A colourful carnival of a dish that is very versatile when you go vegetarian for a week you could eat it for dinner, lunch or breakfast… or all three if you fancy!
1 tbsp olive oil
2 or 3 courgettes, chopped into small chunks
200g/7oz pack cherry tomatoes, halved
1 garlic clove, crushed
A few basil leaves, to serve
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, then add the courgettes. Fry for 5 mins, stirring every so often until they start to soften, add the tomatoes and garlic, then cook for a few mins more. Stir in a little seasoning, then make two gaps in the mix and crack in the eggs. Cover the pan with a lid or a sheet of alumnium foil and then cook for 2-3 mins until the eggs are done to your liking. Scatter over a few basil leaves and serve with warm and crusty wholemeal bread.