GREAT meals without meat
Hello folks and happy autumn.
Funny isn’t it how some foodies now use the word ‘protein’ when they’re actually talking about eating meat and fish. Well, this autumn I’m giving you some easy recipes that don’t have meat or fish in them. They’re vegetarian meals ... full of vegies and other goodies!
Which reminds me ... A few years ago Jack, an old mate who lives near here, saw a Woolies advert calling vegetables ‘veggies’. So he wrote them an angry letter. If they had to abbreviate the word ‘vegetables’, he insisted, it should be ‘vegies’ because that’s the accepted abbreviation in Australia’s very own dictionary – Macquarie. Woolies’ bosses on the mainland wrote back to Jack in Tassie. They agreed and they instructed their advertising agency to change the spelling.
Where was I? Ah yes, vegetarian meals.
Now I’m not saying, dear reader, that you should become a vegetarian, but a couple of vegetarian meals a week can be good for you. They’ll probably save you some money too.
A recent survey found that 5% of Australians said they were vegetarian. Another survey found that 44% of Australians eat at least one meat-free evening meal a week, and 18% say they prefer vegetarian meals.
Now I don’t want to start a debate, but many people will argue that a true vegetarian diet excludes eggs and dairy products, as well as poultry and fish and of course red meat. So let’s hear from the well-respected organisation Nutrition Australia. This group of nutritionists says there are five major types of vegetarian diets:
I Semi vegetarian – eats poultry and/or fish, dairy foods and eggs, but no red meat;
I Lacto vegetarian – eats dairy foods, but no meat, poultry, fish or eggs;
I Lacto-ovo vegetarian – eats dairy products and eggs, but no meat, poultry or fish;
I Pescetarian – eats fish and other seafood, but no meat or poultry, while eggs and dairy foods may or may not be eaten;
I Vegan – eats only foods of plant origin.
The recipes I’m offering are ‘lacto-ovo vegetarian’ – they include eggs and milk products, but no meat, poultry or fish.
Vegies of course are a key component of vegetarian meals, but there are many other additions to make nutritious meals full of flavour. Vegetarian meals can include pasta or noodles, pulses and lentils, and grains such as wheat and rice. Then there’s a whole range of sauces, vinegars, oils, spices, herbs, olives, honey, sugar, cocoa, carob ... And, of course, fruit – fresh and dried.
Nuts are an especially rich sauce of protein, vitamins and calcium and oils. They can be eaten fresh, crushed, roasted and even pickled (especially good are pickled walnuts). Way back in history the Egyptians used almonds and pine nuts to thicken sauces. In India crushed nuts are used in rice dishes.
Pine nuts are often used in Mediterranean cooking, especially in stuffed vegies. They combine well with raisins and rice and are used with fresh basil to make delicious pesto sauce.
The possibilities for creative cooking without meat are endless. Let my recipes inside – and your imagination – be your guide!
HIT THE TRACK, Jack . . . and Jill
It’s good to write to you for the first time in what has hopefully been a great 2015 for you so far. It was a great summer again, although for southern Tassie the first of the hot days didn’t happen until early February. Let’s hope the warm days keep happening into autumn.
That’s even more reason to (you guessed it) get out there and enjoy the good weather while it’s here.
With this in mind, today I’m offering two alternative options to a jog to get you into your stride, if you’re in the mood.
These exercise sessions both only take 20 odd minutes plus a bit of warm up/stretching at the start and can be done by people of all shapes and sizes, from those who have done no exercise in a while to active sports people at the beginning of a season preparation. They don’t require a maximum effort sprint, more of a good solid rhythm that will allow you to complete the whole session.
For more mature aged people or those who are seriously unfit but who would like to have a go, just get out there and do what you can. No matter what you do, you’re still a winner.
I Measure about 80m at a park. The actual distance isn’t important and even half a soccer pitch or any stretch of grass will do.
I Run in a straight line from one end of this distance to the other at a pace that’s solid and faster than a jog but not sprinting flat out – there are no expectations so do whatever you can.
I Wait 30-45 seconds after this is done, then run back from the end point, finishing where you started.
Take the 30-45 second break again and repeat.
I When you first give this a go 6 reps (runs) will probably be enough to get an effect. The beauty is that this is a session that you will be able to see progress as it takes place. When it gets easier, run the reps harder or take the number of reps to 8, then 10, then 2 sets of 6 (or even 8) and so on.
This is a routine I do when I first come back after injury or a break. It is as easy or as hard as you want to make it. There is no timing for the run parts, so in the end it is just you against yourself (unless you do it with others of course).
I Measure a longer distance. At the aths track this will be done at 200m but at a soccer pitch it could be one end plus a side, or on a footy field it’s about the distance from one point post, around the boundary, to the one on the opposite side. Again the actual distance isn’t too important, just estimate a distance that you think you can manage.
I Run the 200m. Again this isn’t a maximum effort sprint, more a good solid rhythm that will allow you to complete the whole session.
I Walk back to the start. This walk should take a few minutes.
Repeat up to 4 or 5 times.
These are two sessions that I give to teens who come to Canberra on aths camps and are good because there is no pressure to reach any standard. It’s completely up to how much you want to put in.
LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS
Every new year gives us all a chance to start some great new habits. When it comes to giving something a go there are two things that can get in the way. These are excuses and social pressures.
Excuses are everywhere. Whether it’s about homework, housework or going to the gym, there will always be a reason to not do something if you want to let it. I’ve heard some pretty creative ones and I’ve made a few myself, but in the end we are only cheating ourselves.
Social pressures from stereotypes can also disrupt our physical wellbeing – for instance, when some girls feel like it’s ‘uncool’ to play sport.
Sport or exercise is for everyone, not just males. I hate it when I see pressure on girls to not play sport or hear people quoting those magazines that makes it sound like the latest fad diet is everything.
So girls, the fun way to get healthy is to join the local netball (or other sporting) team. I find people love being around those who are motivated, so go out there and don’t let the boys hog the fields.
I’d love to see more women’s sport on prime time television. The best way to make people take more interest is to show them what girls can do.
If it help any of the girls in Brighton little aths club, women in athletics actually make more money than men (unless we talk about Usain Bolt, that guy makes millions).
EAT your vegies . . . and enjoy!
Mums around the world know what’s best for kids ... and that certainly includes what you put in your mouth. On the family shopping list and in the kitchen, vegetables – fresh or frozen – are high on the list of the necessities of life.
Vegies come in many shapes, colours and sizes. Some are soft like mushrooms, some are as crisp as a carrot. Mums know best: they are essential to a healthy diet.
Here are some of my favourites. They’re easy to prepare and you can adjust the vegies, depending on what you like and what’s in season.
MUSHROOM barley soup
500 g mixed mushrooms sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.5 litres vegetable stock
3⁄4 cup pearl barley
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic squashed
2 carrots diced
2 sticks celery sliced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar salt to taste
Warm the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the stock, balsamic vinegar and mushrooms and barley. Bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer for about an hour, check and stir as it is cooking.
When the barley is soft, remove the pot from the heat and cool a little, then add salt as required. Serve the soup in individual bowls.
VEGETABLE crepes For 8-10 crepes:
200 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml half milk and water
100 g melted butter
Mix the flour and salt, add 200ml of the milk/water and whisk until smooth. Whisk the eggs and add to the mix, cover and rest for 30 minutes.
In a pan warm the butter, add small amount of the batter so it just covers the pan thinly and bake until underside is done and comes free from the pan. Turn over and finish, then keep warm on a plate in very low oven (around 80C) while you prepare the vegetable filling.
For the filling, in a pan heat:
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1⁄4 teaspoon cumin seeds
When seeds open add:
1 small chopped onion
1 small aubergine (eggplant) julienned
1 small cauliflower cut in small rosettes
2 small zucchini julienned
2 large tomatoes peeled and deseeded and cut in cubes
Reduce the heat and cook on low for about 25 minutes.
180 ml cream is added, but make sure it doesn’t boil, just kept warm.
Fill the crepes with the vegetables and serve decorated with parsley or dill.
FUNGHI al limone
750 g mixed mushrooms sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter heated in a pan, 4 shallots chopped
2 cloves garlic squashed
2 bunches of chopped italian parsley zest of a lemon
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch of cayenne
100 g mascarpone or crème fraiche 400 g green fettuccine
Heat oil and butter in a pan, then add the mushrooms and cook while stirring for about 3-4 minutes. Add the ingredients except for the fettuccine and mascarpone and cook for about 10 minutes. Season and pour in the mascarpone and season with salt and pepper, according to taste.
Boil salty water in a large pot, add the fettuccini and cook al dente (firm to the bite). Drain the pasta through a sieve and place in a large warmed bowl. Blend in the mushroom mix and serve garnished with fresh parsley.
1 teaspoon saffron strands
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 sticks of celery sliced
350 g arborio rice
1 tablespoon paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
700 ml vegetable stock
2 zucchinis sliced
1 bunch asparagus cut in
2 cm pieces 150 g frozen peas
1 can of chickpeas
250 g cherry tomatoes
50 g goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the saffron strands in100 ml warm water while you prepare the following:
Heat the oil in a paella pan or wok. Add the onions and garlic. After about 2 minutes add celery and fry till glazed. Then add the rice, the soaked and drained saffron, paprika and cayenne. Then add 400 ml of the stock and bring to the boil while stirring. Add the zucchinis, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes and the rest of the stock and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the cubed goat cheese and taste for flavor by adding salt and pepper. Cover and let stand for about 10 minutes with the heat turned off.
INDIAN spiced potatoes
To make the spice mix:
1⁄2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 1⁄2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1⁄2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1⁄4 cinnamon stick
1⁄4 teaspoon turmeric
1⁄4 teaspoon ginger powder pinch of nutmeg
Grind all the spices and put aside
For the potatoes:
1 tablespoon butter or ghee
750 g potatoes, dutch cream or pink eyes, unpeeled and cut in half
250 g of pickling-size onions, peeled 3⁄4 of the spice mix
Heat the butter or ghee in a pan, add the potatoes and onions with the spices and fry till tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a sauce made with:
180 g natural yoghurt
100 ml cream
1 can chopped tomatoes the rest of the spice mix
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Put the yoghurt and cream in a small pan, put on stove, mix and bring to just before boiling. Add tomatoes and spice mix, season with salt if needed, serve separately or pour over the potatoes and decorate with fresh coriander.
POLENTA gratin with tomatoes
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic squashed to a paste
200 g polenta
600 ml milk
300 ml cream
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
75 g mozzarella cheese grated
1⁄4 bunch basil sliced
20 sliced black olives
Warm the butter in a pan, add garlic and glaze, add polenta and stir for about 3 minutes. In a small pan heat the milk and cream and stir until it comes to the boil. Add slowly to the polenta and cover and cook on very low heat for about 45 minutes. Add mozzarella and mix well, add the rest of the ingredients, then pour the mixture in a greased oven dish.
4 tomatoes halved
1⁄2 bunch of basil finely sliced
12 chopped black olives
2 squashed cloves of garlic
50 g grated parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
Put the halved tomatoes on the polenta and cover them with the mixture. Bake in the upper part of the oven for about 15 minutes on 220 C.
PASTA with mint
400 g fettuccine
Sprigs of mint and parsley
In a large pot of salted boiling water add the mint and parsley and cook the fettuccine until al dente. Drain the pasta and remove the herbs.
2 bunches of radishes cut in small pieces 8 leaves from the radishes and some mint leaves chopped in fine strips.
1 tablespoon peanut or walnut oil
200 g frozen peas
200 ml cream
1⁄4 teaspoon salt and some pepper
In a pan heat the oil, add the radishes, chopped leaves from radishes and mint and simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the frozen peas and cream and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
Blend the sauce into the pasta through it and serve on plates and garnish with chopped roasted hazelnuts and thinly sliced mint leaves.
VOL AU VENT with vegetables
Purchase 8 vol au vents at the supermarket and heat in a low oven.
While they warm up, make the vegetable filling:
1 tablespoon butter
1 bunch spring onions
400 g snow peas
250 g sliced mushrooms
1⁄4 lemon zest and juice
250 ml sour cream or crème fraiche
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
Melt the butter in a pan, add the chopped spring onions and sauté. Then add the sliced snow peas and cook until soft. Add sliced mushrooms and the lemon zest and juice and cook until soft, then add the sour cream and season with salt and pepper.
Take the hot vol au vents and fill them with the hot vegetables. Serve garnished with some parsley.
SWEET and sour rice burger
This recipe makes about 16 burgers:
200 g sticky rice
500 ml water
50 g plain flour
100 g grated parmesan
2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch of chopped parsley, dill and basil
1 teaspoon salt and some pepper
oil or butter to fry the burgers
Rinse the rice and boil it in the water for about 5 minutes. Cover, remove from heat and rest it for about 10 minutes. Sift the flour on to the warm rice and mix.
Add the eggs, butter and parmesan and mix. Add the chopped herbs and season with salt and pepper. With wet hands form the burgers and fry them in the heated oil or butter or half oil/half butter.
In the meantime make the sweet and sour pepperoni:
300g sliced capsicum
1 red chili
2 teaspoons salt
150 ml white wine vinegar
1 1⁄2 tablespoons honey
8 cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Deseed the capsicum and chili, slice finely and put in a bowl. Mix the vinegar and salt, pour on to the sliced peppers and chili and let stand for 30 minutes.
Drain off the liquid. In a pan warm the honey, add the sliced capsicum and chili to the pan and simmer for a few minutes. Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters, place in the pan and simmer for about
30 minutes. Serve together with the rice burgers.
VEGETABLE pilaf with herbed rice
350 g green beans, blanched in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, then refreshed in cold water. Cut in diagonal pieces and put aside.
2 tablespoons oil
400 g sweet potato peeled and cut in cubes
1 green chili deseeded and cut in rings
1 clove garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
1⁄4 teaspoon cumin powder
8-10 leaves of fresh mint chopped
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
200 ml vegetable stock
6-8 leaves peppermint chopped for garnish
Heat the oil in a wok, when hot add the sweet potato and fry until cooked, then remove and keep warm.
In the same pan add chili, garlic, turmeric, cumin, peppermint and glaze gently. then add the stock. Add the beans and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the sweet potato and sprinkle the chopped peppermint for garnish over the top.
Cook 250 g of basmati rice in 500 ml of water flavoured with 4 leaves of peppermint and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt for 10-15 minutes on low heat. Loosen the rice with a fork, mix in the pilaf and serve.
GNOCCHI with spinach
200 g spinach blanched in boiling salted water 2-3 minutes and cooled in iced water then chopped finely
375 g ricotta cheese
75 g parmesan
75 g semolina
3 tablespoons plain flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper and nutmeg
Mix the ricotta, eggs, parmesan and chopped spinach in a mixing bowl.
Mix in the flour and semolina and salt and pepper and nutmeg. Put mixture in a piping bag and pipe them about 2cm logs and poach them in boiling, salted water until they come to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Reserve water.
100 ml of the reserved gnocchi water
2 tablespoons almond puree
1⁄4 lemon zest
50 g butter, cubed
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons of roasted almond flakes
In a small pan add the water, almond puree and lemon zest and bring simmer. While whisking, slowly add the cubed butter, and keep whisking. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve the gnocchi on individual plates, garnish with almond flakes and pour the sauce over it.
CABBAGE roulade with couscous
225 g couscous
450 ml vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion cut in half then sliced
150 ml white grape juice 50 g dried currants
50 g chopped walnuts 1⁄2 orange zest only
salt and pepper to taste
Add couscous in a small pot then cover with the boiling stock, put on the lid and leave for 20 minutes.
Heat the olive oil and add the sliced onion until soft then pour on the grape juice and dry currants until liquid reduces by half. Add the chopped walnuts and orange zest, season with salt and pepper.
Boil a big pot of salted water to blanch 12 large cabbage leaves.
Blanch for 2-3 minutes, then cool them down by immersing them in iced water, remove and pat them dry.
Form the roulades by putting the filling in the middle of the cabbage leaves and fold them like envelopes.
Arrange them in a pan, add 200 ml stock and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. Serve the roulades on plates. Add 50 g butter to the pan and warm. Add2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts. Pour over the roulades to garnish. You could also use the peeled orange segments for garnish.
POTS of goodness
But I don’t like expending too much effort and perspiration if I can possibly avoid it.
That’s why I grow as many herbs, fruit and vegies as I possibly can in pots.
Pots are easy because you don’t have to dig all those beds before you whack your plants in. It’s generally just a matter of dumping some potting mix in the pot or container and away you go.
And if you’ve got concrete-like soil like I have, you save heaps of energy. No hours of back-breaking spade work or jack hammering (I kid you not) needed with pots – and there’s not a lot that won’t grow in them.
Another plus: it’s way easier to control weeds when using pots, and you don’t need that much space, watering and fertilising are easier, and you can move your garden wherever you want it.
Of course, you can’t be a complete lazy- bones. Some effort is needed. Thankfully, most of it is at the start when setting up your pots. Place some broken terra cotta or gravel over the drainage holes. You need to fill the containers with a good potting mix. Don’t waste your time using garden soil or an el cheapo potting mix.
Potting mix is designed to be used in pots -- soil isn’t. And the cheapie potting mixes inevitably don’t contain all the necessary goodies for good plant growth. If in doubt, ask your nursery which mix is best, or play it safe by only buying potting mix that carries the
Australian Standards set of ticks.
Good potting mixes contain a wetting agent that helps moisture to move through the mix, plus water-storing granules that keep the water down near the roots where it’s most needed.
There’s also a good supply of fertiliser.
Even so, it pays to top up all three of these ingredients after three or four months because they don’t last forever.
While good looking pots will add to the appeal of your garden, you don’t need to spend heaps on them. So long as they are big enough and have good drainage holes in the bottom, most containers are good for growing herbs and vegies.
Among my favourites are polystyrene boxes. Get a few from your local supermarket or greengrocer and you will be in business.
Old sinks and troughs also do a good job, and for character there’s little better than an old wheelbarrow, but if it has a metal base, puncture a few holes in the bottom for drainage, otherwise you’ll have a barrowful of sludge.
There are few vegetables that can’t be grown in pots or containers – but some are better than others.
As a guide things like peas and beans need a container at least 26cm deep, while carrots require about 30cm.
With tomatoes, you’ll want 22cm for the dwarf type and about 50cm for the tall- growing ones.
You will get away with 20- 25cm for lettuce and leafy greens.
Other vegies right for containers include broccoli, chard, cucumbers, eggplants, capsicums, miniature beetroot, onions, radishes and squash. Even spreading plants such as zucchinis are right for pots and containers.
Some good vegies to grow from seed in March are carrots, cauliflowers, leeks, onions, spinach and lettuce.
When it comes to fruit, there’s a good selection now of miniatures just right for pots – and no garden is complete without a lemon or two growing in a pot. They look stylish and how easy is it to pluck a lemon off a tree whenever you want one. But make sure they don’t cop strong winds – they need a sheltered, sunny spot.
Many herbs are even less demanding. Good ones to try are marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme and sage.
Most herbs and vegetables grow best in spring but because you are growing them in containers you have a little leeway.
You can move the containers around so they get the best conditions – preferably in a sun-trap area protected from frosts and wind.
One of my all-time favourite flavouring plants to grow in a pot is a bay tree. Don’t be alarmed by the “tree” bit. While it’s a tree in the wild, reaching maybe 8m tall, growing it in a pot has the effect of turning it into a miniature.
Give it an occasional clip and it will reward you for years to come, adding fabulous flavour to stews and casseroles. Simply pluck a couple of leaves and chuck them in the saucepan.
Keep the bay tree away from heavy frosts and ensure it’s well watered over dry months. Otherwise, it’s a little ripper. And it looks fabulous in a pot, too.