Lentveggie – the third week

We are still doing the veggie thing, hanging on in there. Actually it’s not too much of a strain at all and we are really enjoying sampling all sorts of food that we’d never even noticed before, such as Payoyo hard goat’s cheese and bulgur wheat.

Highlights of this week have, for me, been Sunday, when my husband decided to cook with a flourish. He did squash and fennel lasagne, which was absolutely delicious and contained the aforementioned Payoyo.

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Lasagne of squash, fennel and goats' cheese

He followed this at supper time with delicious vegetable tempura. The beauty of these recipes on Sunday were that they used up all the vegetables we had in the fridge that had arrived from Waitrose during the week or in our Abel and Cole organic box. And it seems that, having purchased things like bulgur wheat and spelt, which aren’t actually expensive, the vegetarian thing is working out an awful lot cheaper than buying meat and especially fish. This means that we can afford to pay more for specialist goats’ cheese or asparagus, for example, with the food miles reservations that I expressed before. And I think we’re all actually feeling a lot healthier, although I’m not sure we’d necessarily feel this way if we didn’t include lots of cheese in our food as a protein source. When I say “all,” I actually mean “most.” Unfortunately, Darling Daughter has felt constantly dizzy for more than a week now. Several people consulted on this (including one GP) seemed to think it was all down the the vegetarianism and looked at me as if I had turned into some sort of crank. I was genuinely surprised at what I took to be a bizarre reaction. Vegetarians are ten a penny these days, aren’t they? Well, actually they aren’t. According to an 2009 Report by the Food Standards Agency (Public Attitudes to Food Issues survey 2009) only 3% of people in the UK are completely vegetarian in that they consume no meat or fish. I’m amazed at how low this figure is (although some market research surveys have given estimates as high as 11%) even though it is the third highest rate in Europe, apparently. Worldwide it is estimated that a quarter of people are vegetarian. It seems a further indication of the polarisation of society and how far removed our suburban middle-class community is from life as most people live it. Anyway, it appears that Darling Daughter’s illness is not directly related to the change in her diet as blood tests have shown that she is not anaemic. I cooked her a rib-eye steak on Wednesday, just in case.

The recipes we are using call for a lot of olive oil and we seem to be buying this by the gallon at the moment. Interesting isn’t it, how fat adds flavour to meat, and olive oil is its counterpart for vegetarian food? And garlic. I was explaining the Lentveggie project to a friend the other week and told her “My house must reek of dog and garlic,” to which she replied only with an enigmatic smile.

With this veggie cooking has come a shift in wine preferences from red to white. Normally I’m a huge fan of those sunshine-packed huge flavours of red from the South of France, where I learned to drink red wine at 16, but the veggie dishes call for much lighter flavours. We are finding that Sauvignon Blanc wines such as Sancerre or Puilly Fume go brilliantly with this sort of food. Which means we are enjoying more wine. Hm.

Last week we tried vegetarian sausages.I thought they were OK, but no-one else in the family really liked them so I don’t think I’ll buy them again. I do like the odd veggie burger from time to time, but we’re not really keen on food that pretends to be something it’s not, like Quorn or vegetable protein that one can find in the vegetarian section in supermarkets. Talking of these, the veggie section in supermarkets is deeply disappointing isn’t it? And buying veggie sandwiches is difficult. It’s usually a case of egg, cheese or salad.

Anyway, other standout recipes this week, for me anyway, have been the Puy lentil Bolognaise, cooked in an effort to increase our protein intake, and obviously, Mac Cheese, with added leeks, one of my real favourites. One dish I shall not be making again is swede speltotto, cooked on Wednesday with steak accompaniment for Darling Daughter. Not good, especially in juxtaposition. Sorry Hugh!

I repeated the lovely tomato and mozzarella risotto on Thursday, which is fast becoming my very favourite type of risotto, and last night the offspring made polenta with mushroom ragout. This is best eaten freshly cooked and not when it has stood around waiting for the most recent late arrival of the husband.

Tomorrow is, of course, Mothering Sunday and we are going out to lunch. I don’t know where yet but it’s somewhere in London so I shall report back on that in my next Lentveggie instalment. I think I’m over half way through now. I think I have lost a little weight although, to be honest, it would have been more had I not spent a lot of time gorging myself stupid on chocolate during the week. I’m going to try and be better next week. I have plenty of energy and have spent some decent energised sessions in the gym. I’m still really enjoying this veggie thing!

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Puy lentil Bolognaise

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