News in brief

Coffee cup

Coffee cup

Keeping you up-to-date with this week’s most important vegetarian news stories…

Call yourself a vegetarian?

With the recent revelation that international coffee giant Starbucks adds crushed bugs to their strawberry frappuchinos and other food retailers admitting they fry potatoes in pork grease, how can you be sure if you are really eating vegetarian? Read full story.

Adele goes veggie

Singer Adele has lost more than a stone since switching to a vegetarian diet. During an interview for Radio 1, she told the presenter that she was trying to lead a more healthy lifestyle by going veggie, but said she wasn’t a fan of tofu. Read full story.

New inspiration for veggie cooks

Feeling low on recipe inspiration? Cookery teacher Liz Nolan has just published My Goodness, a beautifully illustrated collection of tasty and hassle free recipes. “Part of my mantra is how to cook with beans and lentils,” she said. Read full story.

Photo: @Doug88888

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Healthy eating

Change 4 Life

Change 4 Life

The UK government today announced new measures to encourage families to eat more healthily.

The measures are part of the government’s Change 4 Life public health campaign and are designed to prove that it is possible to eat healthily on a budget.

Fruit and vegetables

Four million recipe leaflets will be posted to families across the country and discounts on products including fruit, vegetables and fish will be available at major supermarkets.

Celebrity Chef Ainsley Harriott has also helped to put together a cookbook, promoting healthy recipes that can be made for under £5. Some of these recipes are vegetarian, but I think the government could do much more to promote a vegetarian diet.

Let’s get one thing straight. I am certainly not saying that I think people should be pushed into becoming vegetarian. I completely believe it is a matter of personal choice. However, I do believe a vegetarian diet can be cheaper, healthier and better for the environment.

Cheaper

Firstly, a vegetarian diet is much cheaper. Some friends at university used to claim they couldn’t afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Yet when you compare the price of fruit and veg to the price of meat, frozen foods and ready meals, it is much cheaper to cook with fresh ingredients.

One of these friends used to eat pizza several times a week, but, bearing in mind a pizza costs at least £3.50, it works out much cheaper to throw together something simple, like veggie pasta, chilli or curry – all of which can be cooked in 10 to 15 minutes.

Healthier

Secondly, a vegetarian diet can be much healthier. Many people argue that vegetarians do not get enough protein, but in fact, I think many vegetarians eat more healthily, simply because they need to be more conscious of how to maintain a balanced diet.

For example, pulses are great value for money and are often overlooked by meat eaters. A tin of chickpeas / lentils / mixed beans costs about 40 pence and can be used in many different dishes. These are high in protein, low in fat and very versatile.

This also makes vegetarians more imaginative and experimental in the kitchen. Many vegetarians like to try out recipes from countries around the world, such as India, Morocco and Japan, whereas their meat-eating counterparts are more likely to stick to the traditional British meat and two veg.

Sustainability

What is more, it is not natural to eat meat everyday. This has become a luxury since meat became easily available. Even in the recent past, people only ate meat two or three times a week, due to cost and availability.

Encouraging people to eat more vegetarian food would also help to reduce carbon emissions. This was tried in Belgium in 2009, when people were encouraged to go veggie for one day a week in response to a UN announcement that livestock breeding is responsible for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

All in all, a vegetarian diet is cheaper, healthier and more sustainable. So maybe the government should be encouraging more people to Change 4 Life by reducing their meat consumption.

Stuffed butternut squash

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash has to be one of my favourite vegetables and I like to cook with it as much as possible while it’s in season. There have been some particularly fine specimens at the market recently! This is a warming and satisfying recipe – winter comfort food at its best…

Preparation time: 30 mins

Cooking time: 1 hour 15 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 butternut squash
  • A few thick slices of butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large onions
  • Fresh root ginger
  • 2-3 pinches ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 pinches cumin
  • A pinch paprika
  • A handful of sultanas

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200oC
  2. Cut the squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Score the flesh of the squash in a zigzag pattern, so the heat can get right inside.
  3. Place the squash halves, with the scored sides facing up, into an ovenproof dish. Then dot with butter and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Roast in the oven for one hour.
  5. While the squash is in the oven, make the stuffing. To do this, heat the butter in a large shallow pan, add the onions, cover and cook gently until softened.
  6. Peel the ginger and cut into matchsticks. Then add the ginger, cinnamon, cumin, paprika and sultanas and cook until the onions start to caramelise.
  7. Place the stuffing mixture on top of each roasted squash half, then return to the oven for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.
  8. Serve immediately with some of the juices from the pan spooned over the squash.

Bon appetit….

Photo: sea turtle via flickr