One thing I love about what I do is that it’s something everyone wants to talk about. We all eat. With the exception of a few of my close friends (who are tired of how being into food has become a bit of a badge of honour) almost everyone I meet wants to talk to me about what they have cooked, where they have eaten, and what they picked at the farmer’s market last Saturday. As someone who eats primarily plants I seem to draw out two types of conversations; the first a slightly guilt peppered admission of a late night burger or the second and preferred a more chipper chat about how they are eating less meat.
Over the past few years that these conversations have become more and more common from one a week to a couple a day. First and foremost there’s the news this week that 1 in 3 of us have reduced their meat intake in the last year. Friends who were early adopters Meat Free Monday are now vegetarian from Monday - Friday. Some diehard meat loving friends have moved to a veg centered dinner one night a week. Others jumped onto Veganuary and became vegan for January and a dear family I know are all vegan for Lent. And then there is my cousin who seems to delight in sending me pictures of her taking down a rack of ribs, which by the way, I don’t mind at all but more and more it seems she is in the minority.
It’s exciting. Not because I want to get preachy about eating but because people are getting the connection between what we put in our bodies determines how our bodies and minds feel and how the world around us looks. Despite the kind of better than thou headlines of these initiatives they doing something, getting us to think twice about what we put in our baskets, fridges, bowls and bodies.
Everyone I meet wants to eat more simple, seasonal, vegetable-led food. For me being vegetarian is easy and how I live; for you it might be different and more of a leap
Everyone I meet wants to eat more simple, seasonal, vegetable-led food. As the number of vegetarians and vegans in the UK slowly creeps up, the number of people reducing the amount of meat in their diet is skyrocketing. For me being vegetarian is easy and how I live; for you it might be different and more of a leap. Cooking with vegetables at the centre is a different way of looking at food, it’s not hard, it’s about building dishes in a different way, about layering flavour and texture and cooking the main event vegetables with the same care interest and consideration as you might give a steak, a roast chicken or a piece of halibut.
My cooking changed when I became vegetarian – all of a sudden I had to look at cooking in a completely different way. The building blocks that I had grown up with and the rules I had learnt as a chef didn’t quite fit any more. So the challenge to find new ways to add texture, interest and flavour to my food have meant using a new palette of ingredients and some new techniques in the kitchen. Below is my attempt to put on paper what happens in my brain every time I walk to the stove to cook. How I start with and ingredient or a feeling and end up with a great plate full of food; one that is flexible enough that you should be able to pull something together out of even the most barren fridge or cornershop dash.