If you're a new vegetarian, and aren't quite sure how to exclude meat and fish without missing out on flavour, the ideas below may help. You could also try the Vegetarian Society for information, recipes and advice.
My top tips for cheap and great-tasting veggie food are:
- Buy stores' own cheap fruit and veg...or shop at your local fruit and veg market.
- Look for marked-down products at the end of the day.
- Add plenty of herbs and spices - buy in a few basics such as garam masala, cumin, chilli powder, mixed herbs, oregano, black pepper, garlic and ginger. Don't buy these in the cute little jars that cost around £2 each...look in the stores' own range and the world/ethnic food aisle and buy larger packs for half the price (go for brands such as Rajah and East End). Fresh ginger can be frozen, and garlic will keep in the fridge for several weeks.
- Grow your own herbs either in your garden or in a window box ...basil, parsley, sage and rosemary are all easy to grow.
- Buy cheap tins (or dried packets) of pulses for a budget and nutritious protein source.
- If you like meat substitutes (Quorn etc.), bulk buy them when they are on special offer and freeze them until needed.
- Use up left-over veg, by making them into a soup and freezing.
- Make up one batch of tomato & vegetable pasta sauce, but omit the herbs.
- Use half of the pasta sauce in a vegetable curry - Fry 1 chopped onion in a little oil. Add 1 tbsp garam masala, or curry powder/paste, ½ a chopped green chilli, the pasta sauce, 100-200g of mixed frozen vegetables and a tin of drained chickpeas, lentils or mixed beans. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Serve with boiled rice.
- Use the other half of pasta sauce to make a chilli - Add 1-2 tsp mild chilli powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, ½ a chopped green chilli, ½ a small tin of drained sweetcorn, a few sliced mushrooms and a drained tin of red kidney beans, or baked beans. Add a handful of Quorn/veggie mince if available. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve with boiled rice, or wraps.
- Make a veggie pizza, using the bread recipe. Top with tomato puree, dried herbs, finely sliced vegetables, the remaining sweetcorn and a sprinkling of grated mozzarella. Serve with salad.
- Cook 1 large baking potato per person. Serve with left-over curry, chilli or tinned baked beans and a sprinkling of grated cheese.
- Cook a roast dinner with 1 veggie/Quorn sausage per person, stuffing and/or Yorkshire pudding. Serve with roast potatoes & parsnips, boiled seasonal vegetables and veggie gravy.
- Make 'bottom of the fridge' soup - Peel and chop all your leftover veg (you'll need around 500g-750g, including at least 1 onion or leek for flavour and some root vegetables to thicken). Fry the veg in olive/vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add 2 tbsp tomato puree and a good handful of dried red lentils, or ½ a drained tin of lentils/beans. Pour in about 1 litre of vegetable stock (use a stock cube). Season to taste with black pepper and herbs (½ tsp ground cumin, ginger or chilli powder will give it a kick). Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins, or until the vegetables are soft. Cool slightly and blend. Bring back to the boil before serving. Serve with crusty bread.
- Cook some dried pasta, drain and stir in ½ a jar of vegetarian pesto or 50g of cream cheese or soft goats cheese. Flavour with black pepper and fresh chopped herbs. Serve with garlic bread, seasonal vegetables and/or salad.
After boiling to remove toxins and soften the pulses, cook for:
- Lentils (don't soak), boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Black eyed beans, black beans 30-35 minutes.
- Kidney beans, flageolet beans, mixed beans, soya beans 45-60 minutes.
- Borlotti beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, haricot beans 60-70 minutes.
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