The last couple of weeks have been rather expensive for me; I turned twenty-two a couple of weeks ago and inevitably cashed out a large amount of money on vodka jellies, Spanish tapas and train tickets home. So, after very quickly glancing at my bank balance, I’ve decided to cut down on my decadent splurging. Of course this meant I had to take a step back from the scenes at Gin’n’Juice and instead spend a bit more time sifting through Ulysses…and catching up on the latest series of True Blood. I also had to cut back on my groceries. So much for Friday Steak Night!
To minimise my usual Morrisons bill I thought I’d cut down on meat for a week or so, and I’ve certainly noticed the difference in my purse. To be honest, I’m a vegetable lover through-and-through so I haven’t found it too difficult cutting back, but it’s meant that I’ve had to be a bit more inventive with my cooking.
But it’s not all about the money. There are so many articles out there trying to persuade people to cut back on their meat intake highlighting that we don’t need meat in every meal and emphasising health risks for those who eat too much meat, articles on sustainability and on the impact farming has on the environment. If these won’t do it then I don’t know what will. But I hope a couple of delicious recipes will help persuade you to go veggie every once and a while…
Butternut Squash and Leek Lasagne
This recipe is one from Jamie Oliver; a twist on the classic lasagne but with a medley of delicious butternut squash, leek and spinach. It serves 6-8 people and can be easily modified to make a smaller size.
Here is the recipe online: http://www.jamieshomecookingskills.com/recipe.php?title=butternut-squash-sweet-leek-lasagne
1 medium butternut squash (approximately 1kg)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic
1 small bunch of fresh basil
3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
200g baby spinach
500g ricotta cheese or any soft cheese to your taste
250g dry lasagne sheets
1 x 125g ball of mozzarella
100g Parmesan cheese
1 To begin preheat your oven at 190/Gas Mark 5. Peal the butternut squash and chop into squares, place the butternut squash in a baking tray, drizzle with oil and season. Cook in the oven until soft, approximately half an hour depending on the size of the squares.
2 Whilst the squash is roasting finely chop the garlic and the basil, and gently cook in a pan. Add the tinned tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and leave to simmer for ten minutes.
3 Trim, slice and wash the leeks, and wash the spinach. Place a pan on the hob with and add a drizzle of oil, begin to sweat the leeks off for about ten minutes, or until soft and sweet. Add the spinach to the leeks and cook until combined and wilted. Add the ricotta and mix.
4 In your ovenproof lasagne dish put a layer of tomato sauce at the bottom, approximately a quarter of the mixture, then cover with lasagne sheets. On top of the lasagne put a layer of leeks. Then scatter half of the butternut squash on the leeks, adding a little of the tomato sauce and placing another layer of lasagne on top. Add on top of this layer the remaining leeks and butternut squash. Place your last layer of lasagne sheets on top and cover with the last of the tomato sauce. Break up your mozzarella and scatter on top, and grate some parmesan over the surface.
5 Cover the dish with foil and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the lasagne is golden, bubbly and delicious. Serve with a fresh green salad.
Spiced Vegetable Lentils
This recipe is one I have borrowed from a friend, a perfect winter warmer for those cold stormy nights. Lentils are a versatile ingredient and can be used in soups, casseroles, and tagines, I absolutely adore them and therefore they take pride of place beside my porridge in the cupboard. This recipe is not from a book, so the ingredients are not specific, I am simply used to throwing it together and I hope you’ll do the same. Change the ingredients around, add whatever spices you fancy.
Half a red onion, diced
Chopped tomatoes, or tinned
Half a pepper
Half a courgette
Handful of mushrooms
A third of an aubergine
Chilli, fresh or dry
1 clove of garlic
50-100g of Lentils
Salt and Pepper
Bulgar Wheat or Cous Cous
1 To begin slice the onion, pepper, courgette, aubergine, mushrooms and chilli.
2 Place a pan on the hob and add a drizzle of olive oil, then add the onion garlic and chilli. Cook gently for a moment before adding the remaining vegetables. If using fresh tomatoes add them with the vegetables, and if you are using tinned add them after the vegetables have softened. Cook the vegetables for approximately 5-7 minutes or until soft.
3 Once the vegetables are softened I add the lentils. The amount depends on preference, but I would suggest using 50-75g to start. Stir the lentils into the vegetables and cook whilst you prepare the chicken stock. Simply add a stock cube to boiling water, approximately 500ml, and add to the mixture.
4 Bring to the boil and then let it simmer until thick. This can take between 20 and 30 minutes. Do keep an eye on your lentils as they soak up the stock very quickly, so add some additional water if necessary. When the lentils have formed and the mixture is thick add your spices, salt and pepper. I combined cumin, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper and paprika. But you can simply use curry powder, or gara masala.
5 Whilst the lentils are cooking prepare your bulgar wheat. Place half a cup of bulgar wheat in a sieve and wash. Then add the bulgar wheat to a pan of boiling water and cook for 7-10 minutes. When cooked drain and serve alongside your lentils. Enjoy.
These are merely two vegetarian dishes for you to try. There is an abundance of recipes online, at your finger tips, waiting to be tested out. I particularly love http://foodgawker.com/, an exciting website with an overwhelmingly large list of recipes. Check it out!
By Beth Marsh.