Have made it throughout the first week of Lentveggie quite happily without meat or fish, although our fairly busy schedule and a belated birthday celebration for the Boywonder meant that I didn’t cook for two meals, substituting Carluccio’s gnocchi and Waitrose vegetable curry, both of which were delicious in their own way. Sunday supper was my favourite butternut squash and wild mushroom risotto, based on a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s Italy book.
So far the most successful recipe has been Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pasta with new potatoes, green beans and pesto from his Veg Everyday book.
Making my own pesto was a revelation. I suppose I could have gone all traditional and used a pestle and mortar to pound out the ingredients, but why do that when one can use a Magimix, a kitchen gadget that is turning out to be one of my best buys of 2011. I cheated and bought the pine nuts ready lightly toasted from Waitrose, but the pesto took about a minute to whizz up. The veg and pasta are cooked in the same pan and it’s all very relaxed.
I’ve always avoided pesto because the stuff you can buy in jars always seems to me to have an unpleasant taint to its taste and smell but home made pesto was just so fresh-tasting. The Boywonder, in particular paid many compliments and said it just tasted of Italy. I was, however, vexed and conflicted when having to buy Kenyan green beans for the dish. I would normally avoid buying fruit and veg that’s airfreighted from so far away because of the issue of food miles and their carbon footprint, and food loses its taste through hanging around waiting to be transported. These beans, for example, have travelled approximately 4237 miles to arrive here, which would create approximately 1525 Kg of airfreight CO2 emissions.* I also ponder how about how much farmland in Kenya is given over to planting and nurturing labour-intensive cash crops for self-indulgent Westerners when it could be used instead to plant food crops for undernourished local people, but perhaps this is a patronising fantasy and the people in Kenya are fed well through their earnings from exports of luxury crops. The same goes for Peruvian asparagus, of course.
The trouble is that Lent is a spectacularly bad time to go vegetarian if one lives in chilly Northern Europe. Eating only locally grown vegetarian food at this time of year would be very hard indeed unless one had a limitless appetite for root vegetables. My compromise is to use all the locally grown (or non-airfreighted) vegetables from my regular Abel&Cole veg box and supplement with exotically grown produce if and when necessary.
On Tuesday I made my first recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty book. The bulgar wheat pilaff was easy enough but I chose to make leek fritters as well, which have about a thousand ingredients. Although I am reasonably skilled as a cook, and the recipes weren’t complicated, there were a few too many steps to the fritters to make it in a hurry without the aid of a sous chef. I don’t have a sous chef, but I do have a Darling Daughter to take to and collect from ballet at exactly the same time as I’m cooking the meal. Add to that a husband who comes home at a random time between seven and nine every evening and a quiz night starting at eight thirty, and the kitchen was somewhat chaotic for an hour or so. With hindsight, this menu was probably rather foolish for a Tuesday. Thank goodness for the Magimix. I know, I know, I’m incredibly overprivileged. There was a mixed reaction to these dishes. My husband loved the different spices in the pilaff, whereas the offspring seemed to like the leek fritters but also said that they had “had a big lunch,” which I thought was rather sneaky. The fritters were very filling though.
Wednesday night’s offering was a mushroom risotto made with rice-like pasta, again from Hugh F-W. We found it all rather bland, to be honest, and Darling Daughter thought this especially true of the orza pasta. Ah well.
I must say that I appear to be eating more chocolate since I have given up meat and fish. I don’t know whether this is a comfort thing. Ironically, I would normally give up eating chocolate for Lent. Perhaps next year I’ll eat lots of meat to make up for eschewing chocolate again. Who knows?
Watch this space for more Lentveggie next week.
*Source: Organic Linker