I know, I know…. vegetarianism is now so very 90s and all the cool kids of today are dabbling in the more punitive vegan realm. But what can I say, I like to keep things a little retro, and tbh I am just not ready to live in a world without cheese. Not yet anyway. Maybe when the weather gets a little warmer and my taste-buds need a little less comforting I will tackle a week of veganism. But for now, or at least for the past 7 days, as a little foodie January challenge, I pledged abstinence from all things meat and fish for one full week. And I was not alone. I dragged a work buddy along for moral support – someone to share recipes and experiences with and make this little challenge just a bit more social. Well you need to be able to share your zany vegetarian antics with someone, now don’t you?
Sick of listening to us drone on about potential main courses designed around cauliflower or broccoli, exasperated workmates queried the point of this lunacy. Health? Well, given that white bread, cheese, wine and chocolate are all veggie friendly, accruing health benefits were likely to be minimal. So no. Weight loss? See aforementioned list and add in pasta and spuds and it will be clear that dropping a dress size was also unlikely. So weight loss was not the motivation either. The reasons were a little murky but basically a food challenge involving so many exclusions makes you think far more about what you eat, prioritise the frequently marginalised veggie component of a meal and stretch your recipe repertoire a little further. In general I think I did eat healthier this week and I felt great but the fact that I am currently imagining that my husband’s head is a Big Mac may suggest that committing to a meat-free life as opposed to just an odd week is unlikely.
But here’s a little synopsis of how the food part went.
This was the easy part. I rotated between porridge made with almond milk and pimped up with berries and eggs on wholegrain toast for weekday mornings, and then raised my breakfast game with blueberry pancakes at the weekend. I included a mug of warm water and lemon every morning before my coffee and generally loved that I had something warm and filling to start every day. So yes, I think I could live my life as a vegetarian breakfast eater….. if they would only allow an odd bagel with bacon and cream cheese. Oh bacon, I do miss you. Has it really only been a week since my last rasher????
This I must admit was made very simple by the proximity of my work to a really, really healthy cafe where the produce is not entirely vegetarian but I would say 90% of it is. So for the entire week I either had leftovers in a lunchbox from the previous evening’s dinner or a salad box from Eat Unique. My personal favourite combination is broccoli, feta, carrot, courgette, and Asian noodles. Now I have no idea how these people do it but I swear that raw vegetables never tasted so good. And it’s really filling – I think because you are so long eating it your brain feels it must be full! On a day where I needed a little more sustenance I changed things up with a large falafel bowl. They make their own, they are really well flavoured and you can feel positively smug when your lunch is made out of chickpeas.
Veggies for Dinner:
So breakfasts and lunches being fairly straightforward and generally very satisfying, dinner was the real challenge. Here’s a little run through my week in main meals.
On Monday I made a “clear out the fridge” pasta with courgettes, mushroom, pesto and creme fraiche. Topped with freshly grated Parmesan and black pepper. It was delicious, no poultry required.
Tuesday, Kate from the stunning Cookie + Kate came to the rescue, as I followed her vegan friendly Thai Red Curry recipe. I was a bit dubious, it looked liked it really needed chicken but it was actually very tasty, and provided plenty of leftovers. It did however affirm something I have long been sure of, that kale is a weird radioactive food, sent by the devil to torture innocent health conscious eaters. Three days and three reheats later and its texture remains completely unchanged…. completely unchanged!!!!! And the bag is ALWAYS FULL. No matter how much you eat, it is full. Now you tell me there is not something very weird about kale!!! From now on Champagne in a Teacup is advocating a spinach substitute in all recipes containing kale!!!!! There you have it, the week I broke up with kale.
Midweek arrived and I literally had no time to cook, so I opted for a slice of Goat’s Cheese and Pepper Quiche with a beetroot salad – now this is meat free living I can get on board with. Yum!!!
Thursday was cauliflower day!!!! My veggie mate decided we should experiment with a dinner based around one of nature’s blandest vegetables – and then forgot to buy his own bloody cauliflower. Mmmmmm! So having started as a team, there was now only one of us actually struggling with making cauliflower tasty without drowning it in cheese – but I was stoic and rose to the challenge. I opted for a Gordon Ramsey’s Crunchy Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin and served it with a jacket potato topped with cheddar cheese. While not my food heaven, I didn’t feel it was food hell either and if you are cooking on a budget, this is not a bad option.
Friday was an epic fail. I had a hankering for pizza and the plan was to make my own on a pre-bought base. But the base didn’t look good, and the supermarket deli had a pre-prepared margarita that looked quite tasty. Yes, it was horrible (cheap, overly salted cheese and bland sauce). Yes, I should have known better. Yes, I have learned my lesson.
And then came the weekend proper. We ate out in a really good restaurant and while it was unquestionably well prepared food, I was really disappointed with the meat-free options. I thought we had moved further along… but it was salad or cheese or both!!! I had a fried brie with sauté potatoes and a side salad. Like myself, perhaps a little stuck in the 90s. And while there was nothing to complain about I would have liked just a little more imagination from such an accomplished kitchen.
And so here we are at Sunday…. my husband wants chicken, “pandy” and gravy. I reiterate the entire concept of vegetarianism and the issue therein with roasting a chicken and presumably then eating it. He rolls his eyes, resisting the urge to remind me that I am not a vegetarian and will happily consume said bird tomorrow. But that is so far beside the point, the unspoken argument will not be dignified with an audible response. We decide to go out to dinner, where chicken for one seems very likely. And although we are going somewhere with roast lamb to dream about, I just hope for some decent options for the temporarily meat averse. Wish me luck….
All in all, I think I need to eat less meat. I enjoyed the challenge. I would like to make two days a week veggie week for the rest of the year. Let’s see how it goes xo