I’ve been a vegetarian for twenty-four years. I’ve not always been a perfect vegetarian. There has been the odd consumption of goat kebab (in deepest Burundi), three months of eating British Army rations, beefburgers included, in Siberia where the only other “fresh” food was rice, and the occasional happy chicken when omelettes got too much in France, where I have genuinely been asked whether “a little bit of ham” is OK.
I’m not perfect. I wish I were. But I have been a good and consistent vegetarian for a while now. I’m also a runner, and I need to eat right to run well. So most of my food is home-cooked and I think pretty healthy. Also, much of it is unplanned. You see, I take exception to two things: one, the assumption that vegetarians eat nothing but lentils and cheese. And two, that at the other extreme we have glossy Daniel Galvin hair, a contract to write a wellness book and that we object to gluten.
I don’t object to gluten. I like bread. I eat cheese. Sometimes a chip butty is the best thing on earth (usually after a fell race). My hair is quite glossy if I can be bothered to hair-dry it but my cheekbones are normal. And my vegetarian lifestyle is normal too. So this blog will be about my home cooking, which I have inherited from my mother, and which I call the “what have I got in the fridge and cupboard tonight” style of cooking. I don’t have Yotam Ottolenghi lists of endless exotic cupboard staples. I do keep the following, usually, in my cupboard and fridge:
- good oil, olive or feta
- rice vinegar
- white wine vinegar
- soy sauce
- sea salt
- smoked paprika
- sumac (OK, that’s a bit Ottolenghi but you can get it in an Asian grocery pretty easily)
- feta cheese (sold by the tin, again in most Asian groceries)
- Thai curry paste (the kind without fish sauce)
- Jalfrezi curry paste (or any other, because I’m not the kind of vegetarian who gets home and whips together a Thai or Indian paste from dozens of dry ingredients. It’s perfectly good, bought in jar-form, and a lot quicker)
- Chia seeds (expensive, but a good form of protein for vegetarians)
- Brown rice
- Wholewheat pasta
Plus sundry spices. Ginger, garlic and onion, celery and spring onion: these are essentials and I use them a lot.
I also have an allotment. It’s glut time as I write this, so there are broad beans and beans galore, as well as blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries. Soon there will be potatoes. But I am trying to have at all times kale, chard and spinach growing. I love greens. I could eat greens until the cows come home and try to steal the greens. I’ll also have broccoli. See above, for greens.
As for inspiration, my favourite cooking books are:
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: Veg Every Day. Ironic, that a meat-eater has written the best vegetarian book, but he did. It’s uncomplicated, easy, straightforward. No endless ingredients, nor nothing that you can only find in Muswell Hill.
- Madhur Jaffrey: World Vegetarian. Just brilliant. No pictures, but every vegetarian dish you’ve had abroad and liked is in here
- Anna Jones: A modern way to cook. Terrible title, and not a very good cover, but the recipes are great. They’re a little more esoteric, but maybe only because I haven’t cooked them (chickpea flour pancakes).
- In blogs, I like Veggie Runners (“running, fuelled right”) and Green Kitchen Stories.
I’d also like this blog to be a chronicle of my own improvement. There are so many things that are easy but that I have never cooked, such as falafel. Aioli. Mayonnaise. Jam. Chutney.
I know. Jam and chutney is so easy. So here is to change.