If you’re a vegetarian, you know how to eat well but help may be needed when cooking for a carnivore. Sometimes you need to be a flexible vegetarian and a book with that just that title promises to come to your rescue.
The author of “The flexible vegetarian” is aiming to satisfy not just those who find themselves having to cater for meat-eaters but anyone who wants to cut down on the meat and fish they eat by occasionally going vegetarian but with the option to add meat and fish should the need/desire arise.
Each one of the book’s recipes works independently as an all-vegetarian idea for a meal to suit various occasions.
They are divided into breakfast/brunch, soups, small plates, big plates and dips.
So, for instance, one of the ‘small plates’ is roasted tortillas accompanied by smoky, spiced potato and beans, chunky avocado salsa, fresh coriander, a squeeze of lime and big dollops of sour cream. An added ingredient, designed to bring extra zest to the food, is a tablespoon of chipotle sauce paste that gets stirred in with tomato purée and water.
Such sweet potato and chipotle bean tacos make a tasty repast but – this is the flexible bit – the kidney beans or black-eyed beans that were used could be simply swapped for diced chicken breast, pork fillet or lamb steak, adding it to the pan with the sweet potato.
As an example of a ‘big plate’, there is a recipe for a mushroom, leek and chestnut pie that feeds six. Combining the two vegetables with the nuts is not unusual but adding tofu as a wildcard is clever, reducing the fat content compared to the more orthodox use of cream and boosting the protein value of the meal.
The flexible component to the pie is the author’s suggestion to reduce the mushroom quantity and stir in diced ham – or left over roast chicken or turkey – to the sauce towards the end of the cooking.
It seems a shame to do this to a delicious vegetarian pie but there are carnivore fundamentalists out there who feel victimized if meat is missing from their meal; humour them.
With this in mind, at the back of the book there are recipes for perfectly roasting chicken, pork or lamb, as well as frying a steak and various ways of cooking fish.
A valuable addition to the book is a set of vegan alternatives to basic ingredients not uncommon in vegetarian recipes: milk, yogurt and cream.
I didn’t realize that chia seeds mixed with water produce just the kind of gelatinous and stretchy substance that is needed in making cakes or any recipe that calls for eggs. Another useful tip is that egg white can be replaced by whisked aquafaba (liquid drained from tins of cooked chickpeas); perfect for vegan pancakes.
“The flexible vegetarian”, by Jo Pratt, is published by Frances Lincoln.