As you’ll find me buying new stationery in September as the new school year starts, you’ll also find me making intentions in January. Whilst it’s an arbitrary unit of measurement, the New Year, I value this collective goal setting and time of reflection to consider my own objectives. Every year it encourages me to reflect on goals both weighty and everyday and in 2018, veg-centric eating is on the list.
Because as a conscious individual, I’m aware that as a species we should be eating less animal products. But as someone who loves food, who obsesses over it, I can’t reject them in their entirety. So I didn’t opt into Veganuary for a month, but have made the solid resolve to adopt a veg-centric diet, for a whole year and hopefully forever.
With my hands up, I will admit that a resolution to do more ‘veg-centric eating’ sounds woolly. It’s not vegan, it’s not even entirely vegetarian, but it is a conscious resolve to eat less meat and further to that, not default to meat eating on special occasions.
I don’t struggle in the midweek. Most of our meals are vegetarian or vegan without my even trying. It’s when it comes to the weekend that my culinary brain regresses to the realms of meat. There’s something easy and familiar about a slowly, slowly cooked piece of lamb at the weekend, or a luxuriously rich ragù, or a chicken and ham pie as comforting and familiar as a grandparent.
However this unconscious bias, which is actually born mostly of nostalgia rather than preference, toward meat at the weekend has cast vegetarian food in an unfair light: practical, healthy, unworthy of weekend feasting.
L to R: Cheesy, smokey Kale and Mushroom Lasagne; batch cooked Red Lentil Cottage Pie and Swede, Spinach and Coconut Daal; Lentil, Bay and Chard Gratin; Savoury Porridge with Cavolo Nero, Shallots, Almonds and an Egg.
So rather than fall easily into my old preference of a meaty Sunday meal, I’ve been challenging myself to cook delicious, equally mouth-watering vegetarian dishes instead. I’ve tasked myself to stop confining vegetarian food to the weekdays where it has to be quick, nourishing but always practical to suit our Monday to Friday mood, and glory in the potential of veg at the weekend.
It’s been a delicious resolution. And the below cookbooks have been especially valuable when planning veg-centric meals that pull absolutely no punches on being bloody delicious:
The Modern Cook’s Year – Anna Jones
A satisfactorily thick cookbook, brimming with ideas for seasonal vegetarian and vegan cookery and containing some really remarkable recipes. This book is also a thing of beauty and is equally satisfying to own and read as well as cook from.
Much More Veg – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Practical, approachable and split into chapters like ‘Veg Feasts’, ‘Spicy Suppers’ and ‘Big Salads’, this one is perfect for down-to-earth vegetarian cookery.
Gimmicky and loud, but unapologetically delicious. This one doesn’t hold back on the flavour and is entirely vegan.
How to Eat Brilliantly Every Day
Not completely vegetarian, but the meat recipes are occasional and the focus on veg is incredibly encouraging. I’ve already spoken at length on this cookbook, I’m a fan.
Fresh India by Meera Sodha
Wonderful Meera Sodha gave us an entirely vegetarian Indian cookbook and it is a wonder. Versatile, exciting and one I turn to whenever I want to make Indian food.
For my birthday at the end of the month I’ll be serving Anna Jones’ mouth-watering Smoky Kale and Mushroom Lasagne to a family of routine meat eaters. There will be enough for seconds and hopefully thirds, my table will be generous with side dishes and drink and I’ll serve this lasagne without apology. I hope it will be delicious. I hope it will start to challenge and change what weekend eating means to me and to my favourite people. I hope it will be the beginning of more veg-centric feasts, enjoyed by everyone.
Here’s to a year of wholehearted vegetarian cookery. I can’t wait.