Term has ended, I’ve been at home for approximately 36 hours, and I’m bored, man. Back on the blog we go.
But the holidays don’t just mean a few more experiments in the kitchen. For me they also signal a radical change in diet. Coming home means MEAT, and lots of it, for supper without a pork chop in sight ain’t supper down in Somerset. The one time I made pea risotto for my parents I busted my stepdad on a covert mission to the cereal cupboard but half an hour later.
For I am (shamefully? Proudly? Who knows) your typical, faddy, student veggie (that actually eats meat). My cupboards in Manchester were like Holland & Barrett Narnia. You name it, I had it – buckwheat, tofu (tastes just like chicken! But not as nice!!!), tempeh, and shed-loads of lentils.
So how did this go down back home? Hugely unsuccessfully to say the least. I came back for the summer holidays one year and declared, clad in Birkenstocks and hemp, that I simply would not eat meat ever again. I was, unsurprisingly, given my father’s penchant for ox-tongue and offal (is he for real?), met by furrowed brows and a bit of ‘Bad luck babe. Sausages for supper, so sit down and eat up’. So…down I sat and up I ate. Sausages it was.
For a little while I tried to defend myself. At first I tried to claim it was on ethical grounds, man, because thou shalt not kill etc. etc., but as I’d given up reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals on about page twelve, and considering I still eat deliciously, highly unethically-sourced fish nearly every day (I’m not proud, just poor), that excuse wasn’t going to wash. But wait! As I mentioned, I was just a poor little student, sir – my funds barely stretched to a pot of gruel a week, let alone a pork pie and a rasher of bacon…Pfffft. Tell that to the man behind the fish counter in Didsbury Tesco’s. He knew my name, and used to save me a tiny, blood-red, decidedly meaty and not very veggie tuna steak that I would buy at extortionate cost if I felt I needed to treat myself after my punishing 15-minute swim once every two weeks (pricey gym membership was, evidently, made the most of. Woopsy).
In truth, I don’t really know why, given the choice, I don’t eat meat. I think it may simply be that I just don’t like it that much. If you’d told that to my 18-year old self, I would have spat my bacon rind at you and laughingly tipped my bucket of KFC popcorn chicken down my gullet. I was a carnivore to the max, and loved it. But these days, for some reason, you couldn’t pay me to get my flexitarian ass down to Burger King. (That said, get a G&T in me and I’m anyone’s – Ronald MacDonald included.)
By and large though, I give the McMuffins a miss. And, except when spag bol’s on the table, I do pretty well – I even shared a veggie burger in Byron with my sister the other day, which I class as a pretty good effort. However, I mustn’t lie. At this point I have to admit that it didn’t go down that well. We got a mushroom. Not a burger; a mushroom. And a sad, floppy one at that.
But, sad and floppy though it was, at least it wasn’t some sort of nut-and-lentil patty masquerading as a delicious lump of horsemeat. For this is where my problem with true vegetarianism lies – not with those who choose not to eat meat, but with Linda McCartney et al., and their absurd efforts to trick people who don’t want to eat sausages into eating things that taste a little bit like what you think a sausage might taste like if you’d never heard of a sausage before. They also look more like a turd than anything else I can think of. These constipation cures are why, given the choice, I would always go for bacon over facon. Someone tell me, why on earth, if you don’t want to eat meat, would you eat something that pretends to be meat?
I was reminded of this last night, when I had one of the best meals I have ever eaten without a nut-roast in sight (at Greens, in Manchester). With two meat-eaters I went to a…wait for it…veggie-only restaurant. Ladies and gents, I hear your groans from here as you read this, picturing middle-aged crusties dribbling soup down their mohair (no chicken stock, please). Yet it could not have been more different. We had succulent stews, saffron risottos, oozy cassoulets. Not a dreadlock or beard in sight, and certainly no Quorn.
Or so I thought. On top of our kedgeree (not even a smoked haddock to be had here!) were three dark coins of…vegetarian black pudding. I mean, really? Surely, if you don’t eat meat, the last thing you want to eat is a (fake) blood-and-fat biscuit. And if you do like black pudding, you’re not going to order one made of beetroot, are you? Didn’t think so. And yet, I must admit, it was divine. (This, it must be said, for what it’s worth to either party, is admittedly coming from the girl who actually quite likes black pudding. Looking back on that last sentence has made me realise quite how unconvincing a vegetarian I am.)
Once home, I tried to work out how I could concoct such a Trojan Horse to feed my hunter-gatherer family, in the hope that maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to eat tripe for supper anytime in the near future. No such luck, for time-rich though I may be, after a quick Google I came to realise nothing could be worth distilling beetroot juice. Give me a duck pancake any day.
Instead, I decided to embark on making a much easier and arguably tastier bitesize piece of veggie fare that doesn’t pretend to be anything else, and equally, doesn’t make you feel like you should go and align your chakras and feng shui your whole life and grow your armpit hair and stuff. Eat falafel and be merry. These are really tasty, and the pistachios and herbs mean it doesn’t make you feel as though you’ve been hanging out at an Indian ashram for a little bit too long. Stuff ‘em in a pitta (wholewheat, obviously – I’m not going to get ahead of myself here) with loads of hummus. All you need now is a juicy lamb donner. Dare ya.
n.b. I stole this recipe from another blog, Green Kitchen Stories (http://www.greenkitchenstories.com/herb-pistachio-falafel/ Go here for some really saucy sauces for these little blighters.) since, although I can read a recipe well enough, I actually am nowhere near clever or patient enough to invent them myself. I also apologise for the lack of photos. I forgot. So instead here are some pictures of a vegetarian who calls himself SuperMango and one of Linda’s sossies.
Pistachio and Herb Falafels
– 8 sprigs of fresh mint
– 8 sprigs of fresh parsley
– 200 g pistachio nuts
– 2 cups chickpeas (I think this works out as near enough a 400g tin)
– 2 cloves garlic
– ½ small onion
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1 tbsp flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
Start by blending the herbs in a mixer for about 30 seconds. Add pistachio nuts and pulse until well combined. Rinse the garbanzo beans. Add them and the rest of the ingredients into the mixer and blend for about a minute. You might have to stir around with a spoon occasionally. Try to keep the texture of the falafel dough a little rough. Make 24 small round falafels, place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for about 15 minutes on 375°F/200°C, turn every 5 minutes to get an even brown colour.