National Vegetarian Week 2012

Blog post by Monica Shaw

Monday 21st May 2012 marks the start of National Vegetarian Week, the UK’s annual awareness-raising campaign promoting inspirational vegetarian food and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle. To give us some inspiration for the week,  Monica Shaw, guest blogger at Great British Chefs, talked to two of the UK's leading vegetarian chefs to get their ideas for incorporating more vegetables into our lives.

We know most of you are committed omnivores, but we also know that even meat eaters are clamouring, not just for more veg, but for more veg that actually tastes good (the popularity of Yotam Ottolenghi's The New Vegetarian column in the Guardian and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg is testament to that).
To give us some inspiration for National Vegetarian Week, I talked to two of the UK's leading vegetarian chefs to get their ideas for incorporating more vegetables into our lives.
Rachel Demuth, owner of Demuths Vegetarian Restaurant and The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath, knows that one of the biggest factors in cooking with more vegetables is time, and it's no surprise that her "Fast & Delicious" course is one of her best-selling cookery classes. She explains that one of the keys is keeping a well-stocked cupboard of basic ingredients from which to build a meal:
"The basics should enable you to rustle up a risotto, tasty snack, or warming stew without having to go shopping for special items. For starters: olive oil, canned tomatoes, canned beans, quinoa, couscous, lentils, and a good spice rack. For a quick solo supper, I love couscous with stir-fried seasonal veggies, topped with halloumi or marinated tofu and a sprinkling of seeds."

Rachel suggests that a good place to start is with a simple vegetable frittata, which can be made with any variety seasonal vegetables - wild garlic, French beans, asparagus, courgettes, carrots, broad beans - whatever you happen to have. 
photograph by Monica Shaw
Daniel Acevedo, head chef at Mildred's vegetarian restaurant in London, suggests signing on to an organic box scheme: "I get my organic fruit and veg delivered by Riverford, which takes the guess work out of having to go to the supermarket and think about my food menu for the week.  I find if I always have a fridge full of fresh fruit and veg, throwing something together after a long day at work isn't a hassle."
But what to throw together? Here, Daniel's a big fan of soups and salads: "an easy way for even the biggest of meat eaters to get more veg into their diets is to start with more soups and salads, both quick and easy to make and don't require a lot of bother." 

For some inspiration, check out Daniel's vegan recipes for Borlotti Bean Soup with Pico de Gallo or Chunky Puy Lentil Dahl.
There are loads of events going on all over the UK to celebrate National Vegetarian Week, from special cookery classes to veggie menus at restaurants all over the country. Or if you're like me, take this opportunity to try a few new vegetarian recipes at home (I for one have plans for Wild Garlic Pesto and Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos).

For more vegetarian recipe ideas, visit Great British Chefs' Vegetarian Recipe Collection.
Look out for a competition to win a copy of  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Every Day! and Veg Patch River Cottage Handbook coming to Great British Chefs site soon. If you're not a vegetarian, how often do you eat vegetarian meals? For the vegetarians amongst us which dishes are favourites for your non veggie friends?  Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

Celebrating National Vegetarian Week 2012 - Great British Chefs