Monday, 15 January 2007
Exercise Your Options
It has been a long standing opinion of the most voracious of carnivores that vegetarians simply cannot have any life when it comes to their cuisine of choice. Mocked by the current TV chefs of the moment (in particular Mr Ramsay), 'veggies' have had a pretty hard time of it over the years. From public humiliation to having to contend with ubiquitous and predictable choice in most restaurants, I don't think it is easy to go a whole week without somebody having a dig at you if you are of this culinary nature. Take restaurants. "I'll have the vegetarian option please, what is that today?". "That will be the Mushroom Stroganoff or Goats Cheese Pasta Sir". Sound familiar? The choice simply isn't there. As for getting grief for simply wanting to not have a meal of our domestic friends, it is for these reasons alone that I am glad that I am a headstrong carnivore in this fickle and inconsistent world of food choice.
I will leave the virtues of eating meat for another day. This week I have decided to sing the praises of vegetarian choice, for this evening I made a meatless dish that will live in my memory for a long time. It was after eating it that I decided to never laugh at or mock our veggie friends again as it was simply delightful. It made me think quite morally on the past grief I have given my vegetarian friends and of the shame I have bestowed upon myself in restaurants, laughing as yet another mushroom stroganoff is wheeled out to the poor choice-less ones.
Seriously though, it is about time the eateries that litter our streets looked at their menus and really thought hard about their vegetarian options. The dish I will describe was simple, good to look at, beautiful to eat, filling and nutritious. I would take a dish like this over most high street meat choices any day and would feel proud talking about it (which I am of course). Peppers caramelised to perfection, just a hint of colour to add depth to the juicy flesh. Stuffed with rice jewelled with sultanas, currants and nuts, just enough spice to make it exotic and sprinkled with a herb that lifts any lingering blandness. Amazing.
There is simply no excuse for no choice on a menu no matter what kind of 'vore' you are. Especially when vegetarian food like this can make you feel as good as I did whilst eating it. So vegetarians, please take some advice from a stubborn old meat eater. The next time a waiter announces, ''That will be the Mushroom Stroganoff Sir", ignore the laughs of carnivores, hold your head up high and head straight for the exit. Then back home to make this cracking little number.
To serve 2
1 Red pepper
1 Yellow pepper
25g pine nuts
200g Basmati rice
2 Clove garlic
1 Cinnamon stick
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
400ml Vegetable stock
1 - Preheat oven to 190 degrees C, GM5
2 - Keeping the stalks intact, half the peppers and carefully pull out the seeds. Put into a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkling of finely chopped garlic, plenty of freshly ground pepper and a dash of salt and roast for 30-40 minutes until coloured.
3 - Whilst they are cooking, finely chop the onion and garlic and soften in olive oil. Add the pine nuts until they obtain a bit of colour, then add the sultanas, currants, cinnamon and chilli flakes. Stir in with the rice until coated then pour in your hot stock. Stir then put on a lid and at the lowest flame or setting possible, cook for 15 minutes.
4 - Remove lid and stir to check the rice is cooked through. Pile into the peppers, sprinkle with chopped coriander and mint and feel proud to be a vegetarian of choice.