Monday, 23 May 2011

National Vegetarian Week 2011

Hello everyone! Well as you may or may not know, today is the first day of National Vegetarian Week here in the UK. I have been a vegetarian for (eek!) 20 years now and of course have my own vegetarian family that I am mainly in charge of cooking for. Sometimes Mr J has a turn but it always involves chips or potatoes and very little actual veg! I'm not here to preach or convert anyone, though the 13 year old vegetarian me would have had other ideas because the 13 year old me was a bit of a pain in the bum. I even live next door to a slaughterhouse manager and we get along just fine. As long as there is food available for me when I want to eat outside the home then it's all cool with me. Just don't get me started on people who think fish is vegetarian!

I'd like to use this week to expand my cooking skills and try some new things and hopefully blog about how I got on. I'll have to see if I last the week, I usually run out of inspiration around Thursday and end up getting a pizza. I do fall into the habit of using the same recipes over and over so I definitely think some new ones are in order. When I was a fledgeling veggie my parents said I had to cook for myself, which was probably to make being veggie less appealing to me. It didn't work, but I was a terrible cook and junk food eater for a long while and only really started to learn properly once I was a mother. Myself and Mr J decided to bring up our firstborn as a veggie and Mr J turned veggie too when our little one was 14 months old, mainly for financial reasons. Two more children later and we are a veggie family of 5. Of course once the children are older they will want to make up their own minds which is perfectly ok with me.

This is the first cookery book I owned, the Cranks Recipe Book from 1985. I have two copies now as the pages all fell out of my first one and have been shoved back in a random order which makes life difficult sometimes! I haven't actually made that much from it as some of the recipes do sound a little strange it has to be said and the names of the recipes are a bit on the unappetising side. Brandied prune mousse, anyone?

The format of the book is also weird as there is recipes for different base sauces or pastries and then on another page is the recipe to turn them into a meal so you end up flicking back and forth a lot. Having said that there are a few gems in there. It's also the home of the original 'Homity Pie' recipe which has always intrigued me, I may have to make one now I have a proper pie tin.

I chose 'macaroni in a tomato sauce' for tonight's dinner in the interest of challenging myself as we always have macaroni with cheese sauce, it's pretty much the law. Also the sauce is made with fresh tomatoes and I always use tinned as I hate de-skinning tomatoes even though the effort is worth it for the taste. Vine tomatoes were on offer in Lidl so I grabbed a big bag full. The original in the book adds the macaroni to the sauce but I preferred to make it as a bake as there is cheese involved! It was a winner all round and the kids even ate the courgettes which makes a change! I've been asked to make it again soon.

Macaroni Vegetable Bake
based on Cranks Recipe | Serves 4-5

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
350g/12oz tomatoes, skinned (score the skin and place in boiling water for 1minute) and chopped roughly
½ pint/280ml vegetable stock or water
2tbsp tomato puree
1tsp vegetarian Worcester sauce
Fresh Basil
280g/10oz macaroni
1 pepper, de-seeded chopped
1-2 courgettes, chopped
Olive oil and/or butter
100g/4oz cheddar cheese

First heat some oil in a small saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, puree, veggie worcester sauce, stock and season to taste. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. In the meantime prepare the macaroni, cooking it in plenty of boiling water until not quite soft. The pack instructions on the one I use (always Sainsbury's!) says 14 minutes and I cook it for 12 minutes. Drain the macaroni and leave in the colander to one side. In the same pan heat a small amount of butter or olive oil and fry the courgettes and peppers till softened. Add the macaroni and stir to coat it then place it in a baking dish and cover with the tomato sauce. Add the leaves of basil and cover with the cheese and bake at 180c/Gas 4/350f for around 20 minutes till the cheese is bubbling.

I won't win any awards for food photography but I will spare you pictures of my kitchen, I think it was installed back when the Cranks book was written!

If you would like any more information on National Vegetarian Week then pop over to the site here. Now what can I make for tomorrow?

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