Thursday, 25 April 2013

V is for Vegetarian Cookery

Before I was born, in the mid-seventies, my parents decided to become vegetarians. They were appalled by intensive farming methods and decided to try a new way of living. Although history paints the sixties and seventies as times of, (in the words of Neil from The Young Ones), 'vegetable rights and peace' - this was still something of a novelty at the time.

When I came along in 1979, they decided to raise me as a vegetarian, too. Despite the concerns of my Gran - who was a little worried to hear I was being fed yoghurt, or sour milk as she saw it - they persevered and raised both my brother and I on a vegetarian diet. This was not easy when we were young, in the days before Quorn or Linda McCartney boxed vegetarian meals. We bought strange and exotic products from health food shops, celebrated the discovery of vegetarian restaurants wherever we found them and ate vegetables grown on our own allotment. I remember once, during National Vegetarian Week or something similar, Dad cooked up a range of different veggie meals we used to have at home and brought them in for my friends at Junior School to try. It was really great, actually, seeing their reactions to Dad's cooking - whether it was recognition that it wasn't some alien fare that we ate, but something similar to their own home-cooked meals or joy (or, indeed, displeasure) at a new taste or flavour.

My Asparagus and Leek Quiche - recipe link.
Yes, I know the cliches about vegetarians and quiche.
Yes, I still love its cheesy, eggy goodness.

Often, when I meet lifelong carnivores, they are keen to list all the meat products they couldn't do without if they turned vegetarian. I can relate to this as I am appalling at any kind of diet - as soon as something is off the menu, I want it - badly! I am happy to admit that I find vegetarianism easy because I have always been used to it and, as I've never really eaten meat properly, I don't really know what I'm missing. People go into raptures about bacon and steak and sausages, but, although I've tried these things, I didn't really like them, so I don't feel like I'm being denied anything.

I turned vegan for about 4 years, some time ago, and I took this very seriously, ruling out all animal products from my diet. Whilst I highly respect anyone who maintains this lifestyle, I have to admit that in time I came to realise that I couldn't really find a sustainable ethical argument against eating truly free-range eggs. The same was true of cruelty-free honey and several other substances that I had sworn off simply
My Mushroom and Dolcelatte Salad - recipe link.
because they were a product of a living thing. I still have qualms about the way that milk is produced and I have to admit, this is something I am almost deliberately keeping myself un-informed about, just because the vegan diet did eventually make me feel so exhausted and drained.

Nowadays, I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian and I greatly enjoy experimenting with new flavours and ingredients in my cooking. Whilst I don't always find cooking the relaxing experience some might, I do enjoy greatly creating new recipes, learning and developing new skills and techniques and sharing what  I've made with other people. As my hips will attest, I love my food, and I take great pleasure in sharing and eating meals I've created myself.

I'm an avid Pinterest fan and store recipes and ideas I find all over the internet on my pinboard Nom, Nom, Nom. I have also recently started uploading and sharing my new recipes on Recipefy. I love the opportunities the internet has to explore recipes, ideas and the endless culinary experiences to be had out there. Below is my own recipe for Creamed Spinach Gnocchi which I wrote up to send to a friend, to prove how quick and tasty gnocchi could be. It is, like all my favourite recipes, easy, delicious and quick!

Creamed Spinach Gnocchi

Serves two people.

Total time of prep and cooking - about 12 minutes and it only uses one pan!


  • 1 pack of ready made gnocchi (you can make your own - I've used this recipe but it isn't really worth it in my opinion
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach, chopped and steamed / 1/2 a can of prepared spinach / 12 blocks of frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 tub of mascarpone
  • Splash of single cream / milk
  • 1 tsp of green pesto
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder
  • Small block of parmesan / gran padano

  1. Put a big pan of water on to boil- you can use this time to defrost frozen spinach if using / grate the cheese etc.
  2. Once water is boiling add the bouillon and once it is dissolved, add the gnocchi
  3. The gnocchi will need about 8 minutes (check the packet!)
  4. Once it is ready (it will float to the top of the pan) you can put it in a colander to sit whilst you whip up the sauce
  5. Put the spinach back into the empty hot pan and back on the stove to boil away the extra liquid (needs attention so it doesn't stick)
  6. Once it is quite 'dry' and sticking together add all the other ingredients and stir whilst it warms up - its better to avoid it boiling.
  7. Tip the gnocchi in to the sauce, stir well and serve with parmesan sprinkled over it!
  8. Scoff the lot!


  1. My cousin and his wife are raising their kids vegan. Nothing makes vegetarianism seem easy-peasy like spending a week with vegans. I could live without meat (but don't plan to) but I couldn't live without butter, milk, cream, cheese, yogurt, eggs, etc.

    1. It was eventually blue cheese and milk chocolate that made me cave in. I pride myself on checking carefully what is in the food products I buy, but nothing was more depressing than the ever-growing list of things that had milk products or egg white or honey or shellac or whatever in it that was therefore verboten! I can't imagine how hard it would be to do with kids as well - good on your cousin!