October 29, 2020

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Foodies welcome

From cookbooks to recipe boxes, this is everything you need to go meat-free

Whether it's just one a week, or every day, eating less meat is good in many ways (iStock)
Whether it’s just one a week, or every day, eating less meat is good in many ways (iStock)

Meat-free Mondays has gained traction and solidified itself as a thing thanks to social media where people follow the hashtag, and of course, post pictures of their insta-worthy creations, but the call for embarking on a more vegetarian diet has long preceded these platforms.

In 1977, the North American Vegetarian Society founded World Vegetarian Day and every year on 1 October it continues to be marked worldwide.

Now in its 43rd year, the annual celebration is a time to promote going meatless in your diet and learn of the benefits to moving toward a plant-based lifestyle.

Whether your reasons for cutting out animal products are due to health, environmental or ethical reasons, there’s never been an easier time with more inspiration to be a veggie than now, as the food on offer is becoming ever-more exciting and adventurous, with no need to compromise on taste or cost.

So if you’re looking to cut down your meat consumption, or are looking for some inspiration to improve your meat-free culinary repertoire, we’ve rounded up ways to do so without compromising on taste.

From cookbooks to food boxes, this is everything you need to kickstart your efforts to incorporate vegetables as a bigger part of your diet.

You can trust our independent roundups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Cookbooks

Following a recipe is how most of us perfect a dish, as there’s few meals we can make without a little guidance on ingredient measurement, preparation and cooking time.

In our guide to the best vegetarian cookbooks, we loved Green Kitchen at Home: Quick and healthy vegetarian food for every day by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl (The Book Bundle, £16.17), a popular Scandinavian foodie couple.

In it you’ll find quick weekday breakfasts to speedy dinners, that’s perfect for busy parents.

Our reviewers especially liked the taste of the mushroom, goat’s cheese, pear and walnut fettuccine and the healthy baked donuts. And all the recipes are gluten-free and refined sugar free.

If you love Indian food, pick up a copy of Saffron Soul: Healthy vegetarian heritage recipes from India by Mira Manek (WHSmith, £16) which we found challenged stereotypical perceptions of Indian food as being rich and indulgent.

Instead, our reviewer found it offered healthier and lighter interpretations of classics that she has tweaked from recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother.

“The book is full of flavourful plant-based goodness such as mango and cardamom smoothies, masala grilled aubergine, avocado chutney and grilled maple pineapple with frozen coconut saffron yoghurt,” said our reviewer.

For those with a sweet tooth, you won’t be disappointed with Veggie desserts + cakes: Carrot cake and beyond by Kate Hackworthy (Amazon, £10.78) that proves you don’t just have to stick to soups and salads to be a veggie, they can also make tasty after-dinner treats.

Our reviewers commented: “If you think beetroot brownies and courgette muffins are old news, you’ll be delighted by the wealth of unusual recipes such as asparagus and lemon cupcakes, pea and vanilla cake, spinach and strawberry swiss roll, cauliflower and chocolate hazelnut filo sticks, and sweetcorn cookies, to name just a few.”

Food boxes

There’s a long list of reasons why we love recipe boxes; you can do a food shop without ever leaving your house, you only get the exact ingredients you need so there’s no waste, some are mostly pre-prepared and you can chop and choose between whatever fits your dietary requirements, rather than trawling every aisle of the supermarket.

One of our favourites is Pasta Evangelists (Pasta Evangelists, from £7.25) a letter-box friendly parcel that contains two different fresh pasta recipes. You can choose from 10 a week and get next-day delivery.

“It’s an incredibly clever idea because pasta is so easy to transport and takes so little prep – as the sauces are premade, you’ll never have to spend more than 10 or minutes cooking, and you get up with near-restaurant quality food”, said our reviewer.

We found dietary requirements are well-catered for too: we had vegetarian cacio e pepe and vegan orecchiette with pesto and a pistachio crumb.

Another impressive option is the Abel & Cole recipe box (Abel & Cole, from £12)  that will feed two to four people. You can get boxes delivered weekly, with subscriptions up to eight weeks apart if you prefer to have them less frequently.

Each week, there’s 15 seasonal recipes to choose from and our reviewer found the rosti-topped “shepherdess” pie – made with lentils and earthy mushrooms instead of meat – was fragrant and flavoursome, and brought an interesting update to a family classic . “While all the recipes we tested were good, this is a recipe card we’ve actually kept to make again later – which is a very good sign indeed.”

Prices start from £6 a plate and plastic packaging was kept to a minimum too, making this all around superstar in the world of organic food.

Supermarket Morrisons has also begun selling recipe boxes that can be delivered weekly, fortnightly or monthly, all without needing to book a delivery slot.

One of the boxes is a feed a family recipe box (Morrisons, £28.50) which will feed a family fof four for five days and includes dishes such as veg pasta bake and veggie chilli with wedges.

It’s vegetarian essentials subscription box (Morrisons, £33.25) offers both fresh produce and cupboard essentials to keep you stocked up for mealtimes.

In it there’s items such as pasta, butter, milk, soups, meat-free sausages, vegan tofu, cheese, meat-free mince, bread, sauces, cereal, potatoes, onions, carrots and even toilet roll.

Cookware

When you’ve go the recipes and the ingredients, all you need to do now, is cook them. So dust off your cooking skills and get equipped with the kitchen essentials that our IndyBest team of reviewers have tried and tested.

For whipping up tasty stir-fries, an easy and speedy way to perfect your veggie recipes, a wok will come in handy when you’re working with high heat and little time.

In our guide to the best, our favourite was the Netherton Foundry spun iron wok, 33cm (Netherton Foundry, £63.50, Netherton Foundry), a pricey, but worthwhile investment.  

It’s flat-bottomed and made from spun iron, which makes it as durable as cast iron, without adding the heavy weight, so flipping ingredients is no bother. Cleverly enough it’s also pre-seasoned with flax oil and has a non-stick finish.

“The wok is just 1mm thin, so it heated up quickly, gave egg-fried rice a perfect charred finish and cooked larger stir-frys evenly in the capacious 33cm body. The oak handle was comfortable to hold. It’s a flawless high-quality, handcrafted wok that will last for years,” said our reviewer.

All kitchen cupboards need a non-stick frying pan too, and this Salter megastone collection non-stick, 24cm (Amazon, £33.11) took the number one spot of all 10 our reviewers put to the test.

Our reviewers commented: “It heated very quickly but had a nice thick base, so crisped everything evenly and reacted well as induction hob controls were adjusted.”

You can also use it with metal utensils without causing an damage to the surface, and it’s dishwasher safe too.

For the rest of your culinary needs, a saucepan set is an easy way to curate everyday essentials in one purchase.

Of all the ones we tried, the Tefal Ingenio 10-piece set, stainless steel (Very, £149.99) impressed us the most, as it’s a space-saving collection that’s versatile and each piece is sturdy.

They can withstand oven heat of up to 250C and can be used on all hob types and bst of all, when you’re done, simply put them in the dishwasher to clean and save yourself scrubbing out the remains of a veggie chilli in the washing up bowl.

For more on food, read our guide to the best healthy cookbooks with delicious recipes to cook while working from home

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