This week, 14th-20th May is National Vegetarian Week, a week when we’re encouraged to forgo meat in favour of vegetables.
The days of a nut roast as an alternative for non-meat eaters is long gone – exciting vegetarian food is now the norm for the veggies among us. There are lots of packaged vegan meats and meat substitutes you can buy and we’re looking at easy ways to create delicious meaty meat-free dishes to support this week and become part of the National Vegetarian Week movement. Here’s a guide to alternatives and substitutes that won’t leave you craving meat for your protein-hit.
Tofu has been a staple of Asian cuisine for ages, and is a great substitute for meats in recipes, including pork, chicken, beef, and seafood. It’s made from soybeans and is high in protein and calcium.
Tofu has a reputation for being soft, spongy, bland, and tasteless, but that doesn’t have to be true. Tofu can be as firm and chewy as meat. It also has an amazing ability to absorb flavours through spices and marinades, so be liberal with seasoning before cooking it.
Tempeh is firmer than tofu and has a grainier texture and a nutty flavour. Made from fermented soybeans, it’s packed with protein as well as fibre, calcium, and vitamins. Slice it, dice it, or grind it up in a food processor, tempeh has the perfect texture to emulate fish. It’s also a great substitute for ground beef in chilli, cottage pie or lasagna or bolognese.
Although unlikely to be found in your fruit bowl, this tropical fruit has a texture and taste that makes it a great substitute for meat. It has a slightly sweet taste, almost like pineapple, but is versatile enough to be used in any dish, with whatever flavours you like best. It’s also great for barbecuing.
Rich, earthy and meaty, mushrooms are a healthy and filling replacement for meat in any recipe. They’ll give you a savoury hit every time and the larger varieties such as Portabello make great alternatives for steaks and burgers. Try sprinkling a little garlic salt on during cooking for a really tasty meat-free option.
Lentils have been a stand-in for meat since the beginning of veganism. Lentils are hearty and can replace ground beef easily. Lentils come in a variety of colours to make your meals look exciting as well – green, red, brown, and black. They cook up quickly, are inexpensive, and a small amount goes a long way. Suitable to make into burgers, meatballs or sausages, they’re versatile too.
Beans and legumes are inexpensive, healthy and filling. There are so many to choose from too: kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, split peas, and black-eyed peas, to name just a few. Beans add heart to soups, bulk to stews, and warmth to chilli.