7 Must-try vegetarian dishes

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More and more people are turning towards a meat-free diet and embracing the huge range of vegetarian meal options available. There are many health and environmental benefits linked to a meat-free diet and many reasons to eat vegetarian dishes as often as you can.

Vegetarian meals don’t have to be boring and bland, and we’ve gathered a selection of the best vegetarian meal ideas to make your meat-free experience as tasty as possible.

1. Kung Pao Cauliflower

If you love Chinese flavours, heat, and a salty-sweet combination then Kung Pao Cauliflower a dish you need to try. Traditionally Kung Pao is made with chicken but by replacing this with cauliflower you gain added flavour and the delicious crunch of roasted cauliflower.

Kung Pao relies on the flavours from hoisin sauce, soy sauce and chillies and is usually sweetened with either brown sugar or maple syrup. The chillies can be adjusted to your heat preference so start gentle and see how it works for you. Cauliflower florets should be stir-fried in the sauce with any vegetables of you choose and the dish is traditionally served with rice.

2. Tofu Pad Thai

Tofu is a very underrated meat alternative. It is very versatile and can be sliced easily and takes on the flavours of the dish and absorbs them. Pad Thai sauce can be bought ready-made or made from scratch. Tamarind makes up the main flavour of pad Thai sauce, giving it the sour tangy taste that it’s known for.

Along with the delicious pad Thai flavours tofu pad Thai contains rice noodles and vegetables such as mange tout and spring onions. To get some good texture in the tofu its best to pan fry it in sesame oil for 5-8 minutes before adding the vegetables and sauce. This frying will brown off the tofu and give the surface some crunch. Tofu pad Thai is simple to make, packed with flavour and a great dish to have in your repertoire.

3. Black Bean Enchiladas

Black beans are legumes known for their high fibre, high protein content and rich flavour. They have a harder shell and softer interior which make them great for adding texture to an enchilada dish. Enchiladas are Mexican corn tortillas wrapped around a savoury filling and then baked in the oven. The filling is often made with beef but by substituting it with black beans you can have a rich flavour with a good texture and keep the dish vegetarian.

A good enchilada sauce usually contained chopped tomatoes, garlic, cumin and paprika. Why not serve your enchilada with rice or maybe an avocado salad for an extra yummy vegetarian dish?

4. Chana Masala

Chana masala is a staple northern Indian dish that has always been vegetarian by nature. In Indian cookery ‘chana’ means chickpea so a chana masala is a chickpea-based curry. Chickpeas are an inexpensive legume that are high in lots of vitamins and minerals and considered to be very healthy.

 A chana masala can be made with just one or two tins of chickpeas and some other simple ingredients. The spice mix for chana masala is a blend of garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and coriander all cooked with garlic chilli, ginger, and onions along with the chopped tomato base and chickpeas.

5. Halloumi Lasagne

Classic lasagne contains layers of lasagne pasta sheets, bechamel sauce and a beef mince mix. This is then topped with mozzarella and baked in the oven until golden. While it is easy enough to switch out the beef mince for a vegetarian mince, why not take it up a notch and use halloumi as the cheese for your dish.

You can switch out your bechamel sauce layer for a layer of thinly sliced halloumi. The saltiness of the halloumi adds a gorgeous flavour to the lasagne and the texture of it brings in added depth. If you want to keep your white sauce layer, then you can simply top the lasagne with sheets of halloumi instead of mozzarella. It will brown well in the oven and give the top of the lasagne a nice crust to it.

If you don’t want a vegetarian mince base with your halloumi lasagne, then use a chopped vegetable mix, like that of a ratatouille, where you’d normally have mince layers.

6. Spicy Noodle Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a little-known dish in the UK, but it is the national dish of Israel and it’s a firm favourite there for a very good reason. The word ‘shakshuka’ means ‘a mixture’ and so the dish is customisable to your own taste and to what produce is available.

It is a naturally vegetarian dish that contains a mix of vegetables cooked with spices such as paprika, cumin and chilli powder, though other spices can be used. The aim is for a flavourful spicy dish rather than a very hot one. Once the vegetable mix is cooked divots are made in the mix and egg is poured in and poached on top of the vegetables. Shakshuka is popular for breakfasts and lunches as well as main meals.

7. Lentil Meatballs

Lentil meatballs might not seem, at first glance, the most exciting of vegetarian dishes but if you approach it in the right way, it will become a firm favourite. For good lentil meatballs you need to blitz lentils to a crumb in a blender or food processor. You can then add to this some cooked chopped onion, cooked rice, flour, and some seasonings such as lemon rind and parmesan.

Once blitzed down the texture should be wet enough for you to mould it into meatball shapes. These should be lightly browned in a pan, as you would meat meatballs, and then added to your meatball sauce. The texture of the lentil mix makes for a very good meatball and the seasonings add more flavour than is often found in their meat counterparts. You can add other seasonings to suit your taste too. Serve with spaghetti and garlic bread for an extra tasty vegetarian dish.

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