How to Cook for Herbivores
As a host, you must always be aware that not everyone shares your vampiric lust for blood. This week V is for vegetarian and we know how you feel, the prospect of a guest with any sort of dietary requirement is utterly terrifying. T’s mother is a genius, nay, wizard in the kitchen, but even she accidently sprinkled little chunks of bacon into the dauphinoise by accident before serving it to a gaggle of vegetarian friends. We live in fear of a grand cock-up such as this happening around our dinner table, but, alas it happens. Eating it is one thing, some of our favourite restaurants are veggie like Greens in Didsbury and Cranks down in Devon (who have the most fantastic cookbook if you are ever at a loss). However, the prospect of designing a veggie dish from scratch freaked us out too, but after some yoga breathing and half a Valium it all didn’t seem so frightening.
“Going veggie for as little as two days a week will reap serious health rewards and your digestive system will certainly thank you”
Vegetarian food is delicious and it’s a great way to shake up your cooking repertoire if nothing else. The internet is swarming with some exciting ways to eat your five a day, and you never should need to scrimp on sophistication. When hosting vegetarian friends, you should avoid serving them something half-hearted, or something that feels like an afterthought to your original menu. You don’t have to recreate a beef wellington in tofu, but something nice enough will go a long way. At a smaller gathering, we think it is even a nice idea to serve everyone the same veggie dish. I’m sure your other guests will cope with the lack of meat for one evening, and luckily, there are few blood thirsty carnivores left in polite society. And, to tell you the truth, vegetarian food is much easier to cook compared to meat, as well as being cheaper, healthier and much more environmentally aware to boot.
“This recipe contains hearty chunks of butternut squash, flavoured with thyme and sage for a cosy, perfumed, autumnal feeling while we still sit in wait for summer.”
Of course, we are cynical, but in all seriousness, we do not disrespect vegetarianism in the slightest. Everyone is entitled to their personal preferences and we will always try and take responsibility for what we eat and respect to the choices of those around us. All in all, it isn’t a bad idea to reduce your meat intake anyway, and to put ethics aside for one moment, going veggie for as little as two days a week will reap serious health rewards and your digestive system will certainly thank you.
This week’s dish is hearty, simple and unpretentious, ideal for a casual supper at home or a starter before the main event. The base risotto or risotto blanco (white risotto) is a great cooking skill to learn and once you have that cracked you can dress it up any way you want. This recipe contains hearty chunks of butternut squash, flavoured with thyme and sage for a cosy, perfumed, autumnal feeling while we still sit in wait for summer. White wine is a must, and it’s even a good idea to put a little in the risotto as it cooks, if you can bare to spare some. The blue cheese is optional, but it is a luxurious touch which is sure to impress your guests. However, if it isn’t for you, be sure to smother it in parmesan.
We kept things rustic this week and served directly from pan, to plate, to mouth. Sometimes keeping things as stripped back as possible really pays off and your guests will feed off the gorgeous relaxed atmosphere and wind down with you into the long weekend ahead. This is a really low maintenance recipe, so why not let your evening be as relaxed as possible? Hosting needn’t be a hassle, so just revel in your awesomeness.
Keep things relaxed this week. Breathe deeply, you can get through this if you look forward to that bacon sandwich you can yam in the morning. Or who knows, maybe you could go the whole hog marrow, and go veggie for life?
Lettuce pray for you,
Butternut squash risotto with blue cheese
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 medium butternut squashes, peeled and cut into chunks
500g Aborio risotto rice
300ml dry white wine
1L vegetable stock
Few sprigs of thyme
2 sage leaves, torn
Dash of double cream (optional)
50g grated vegetarian parmesan cheese
50g crumply blue cheese
Salt, olive oil and black pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Place the butternut squash on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and season. Pop them in the oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning half way.
Meanwhile, heat up a little olive oil in a heavy based pan, preferably a cast iron. Fry the onions and garlic over a medium heat until fragrant, adding tablespoons over water every so often to prevent burning. Once the onions and garlic are soft, add the risotto rice and fry for a further 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Season and add the herbs.
Add the white wine and let it burn off a little, stirring for one minute further. Then start adding the stock little by little. Put your spoon down and DO NOT STIR IT AT ALL. Let the rice absorb the stock each time before adding more. This process should take up to 20 minutes.
Once the rice as swelled and all the stock it gone, add the butter, parmesan, a dash of cream and a little more seasoning if it needs it. Add the squash, trying not to move the rice around too much and finally serve with crumbled blue cheese and a few sprigs of thyme.