Green Steve Goes Veggie…Temporarily

Green Steve goes vegetarian

This will probably come as quite a shock to those people who know me well but I am eating vegetarian meals for the whole of this working week to see just how easy it is for meat eaters like me to make the switch occasionally.

Now the reason it will shock those closest to me is because when I was younger I was notoriously fussy and wouldn’t eat any vegetables apart from baked beans (yes they count!)

I think it’s natural for a person’s tastes to change and while mine have undergone quite the transformation, I really hope there is more to come – there are still many vegetables that I don’t like too much and hundreds more that I haven’t even tried.

So this post will act as my 5 day food diary and I’ll update it after each of the days to tell you what I had the previous night and how I enjoyed it.

If you want to know more about why I am doing this then you should read my post about the sustainability of the livestock industry.

Those of you really interested in the other environmental consequences of eating too much meat should look at the recent news about meat production and the future supply of water.

Day 1 – Monday – Pasta

Mondays have generally been a no meat day for quite some time as I try to follow the Meat Free Mondays approach set out by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney but I haven’t really been that adventurous and rely mostly on pasta. My first day on this challenge was no exception.

I had some spaghetti (organic of course) with some fried mushrooms, butter beans and a tomato and roasted garlic sauce.

While it easily filled me up because I cooked a lot of spaghetti (typical me), I won’t lie that I found it just a little bit bland. I forgot to season anything which certainly didn’t help but I feel like there was an ingredient missing. Maybe I should have opted for a cheesy or creamy sauce instead of my tomato based one?

The plus was that butter beans do offer a good way to bulk out a meal that doesn’t contain any meat. They are huge and are quite dense so, while it’s not like chewing meat, there is a good bit of texture to them.

Would I have it again? Yes definitely but I will try a different sauce next time and I’ll remember a pinch of salt and pepper.

Apologies for the lack of a photo but it completely slipped my mind as I was tucking in!

Day 2 – Tuesday – Spanish Omelette

I’ll admit I’ve never been great at cooking omelettes but I thought the combination of egg, potato and onion sounded really nice and relatively simple to make so I gave it my best shot.

It turns out that if you actually read a recipe and follow the instructions then it makes a big difference! I used this recipe with a few slight amendments. I realised that during my past omelette experiments, I always had the pan too hot which meant things cooked too quickly and often stuck to the pan.

I also added parsley as it just seemed like the right thing to do – it wasn’t – I wouldn’t say it spoiled it but I certainly preferred the mouthfuls that didn’t have any parsley in.

I do like a bit of cheese too so while none of the recipes I read mentioned cheese, I did sprinkle a little on top at the end and I think it helped to give the dish that extra bit of flavour.

Anyway, unlike the first day, I managed to take a couple of photos of this one (click them to make them bigger):

Spanish omeletteSpanish omelette view 2

Would I have it again? Most definitely!

Day 3 – Wednesday – Vegetable Curry

So I love a good curry but I’d usually go for chicken as the main component but with that not being an option, I instead opted for a very simple potato, carrot and pea concoction and it turned out quite well.

I started by part boiling the vegetables until the potatoes were pretty soft while maintaining a bit of crunch to the carrots and peas.

In a frying pan I gently heated half a jar of Waitrose onion base which also contains ginger, garlic and green chilli which have all been finely chopped and sautéed for 45 minutes. I added a tin of chopped tomatoes to this and a whole load of chilli powder and cumin before stirring in the vegetables for 5 minutes or so on a low heat.

Add to rice and away you go. Here are some pics (still working on portion sizes):

vegetable curryvegetable curry view 2

Would I have it again? Sure, it was pretty good although I have to admit that chicken just works that bit better for a curry. I’d also stick with a pre-made curry sauce because no matter what people say, they generally taste better; more complex in one way or another.

Day 4 – Thursday – Roasted Vegetables

You can’t really beat a nice roast dinner and you can get almost as much enjoyment without the meat. At least that is what I hoped when I cooked up a medley of roasted vegetables for day 4 of my challenge.

I kept things very simple with just 4 vegetables although that was mostly due to my little local supermarket not having any parsnips or butternut squash which I would have definitely added to the mix if they were available.

What I loved about this meal was its simplicity. All I had to do was peel, season and roast. I didn’t even parboil the potatoes; I just whacked them in the oven a little earlier than the sweet potato, red onion and carrots with plenty of oil, rock salt and rosemary.

The result looked something like this:

roasted vegetablesroasted vegetables view 2

Everything seemed to cook pretty well, maybe one or two of the potatoes were still a little hard so next time I’ll cut them up slightly smaller. The thing that really made this meal though was the red onion; after roasting for a good 30 minutes the flavour really explodes.

Like I said, I’ll be looking out for parsnip and butternut squash to bring even greater variety to this dish next time I cook it but I’ll definitely be doing this one again.

My only concern on the carbon footprint front is that the sweet potatoes came from the US but I’m pretty sure they are hardy enough to travel by ship rather than air so this could be one of those situations where food miles don’t tell the whole story.

Day 5 – Friday – Vegetarian Chilli

On the last day of my challenge I decided to try out one of the common faces of vegetarian diets, Quorn. I was pretty sceptical about how it would stack up against any of the meat based mince products but thought chilli represents Quorn’s best chance given the strong flavours involved in the dish.

The meal itself was pretty similar to one I have made many a time with red onion, carrot and some kidneys beans and a jar of sauce with the only change being the mince. All in all not a great difference but the Quorn was ok and the meal was enjoyable. I do think the meat version slightly outdoes the fungi in terms of taste and texture but can we really allow ourselves such a luxury given meat’s carbon footprint?

Once again, here are some snaps of my meal and the rather large portions I ended up making (although I did eat it all):

vegetarian chilli con carnevegetable chilli

My Final Thoughts On Vegetarian Meals

I have said from the start that this is not a trial to see if I could continue a vegetarian diet; I will be eating meat and fish in the future but one thing I have learnt is that vegetarian meals can be very tasty, very easy to make and quite noticeably cheaper than meat based ones. Indeed by my rough calculations, the average cost of each of these meals was £2.77 and this compares to around £4.50 for meals that include meat.

Before starting this short 5 day challenge, I honestly thought I’d get a little bored with my meals but this hasn’t really been the case. Whether or not I would do if I continued an exclusively vegetable based diet I can’t say but I will be building on my experiences and having even more vegetarian meals going forward. With meals such as the chilli where a suitable meat substitute gives a fairly satisfactory outcome, I will probably continue using this substitute but I cannot see too many Quorn products working their way onto my plate as I have had other comparative products before and they have not lived up to expectations.

Overall I have been pleasantly surprised at how the challenge went. It has made me wonder how many meals, in a typical week, the general population have which contain no meat? I found this interesting article from the BBC showing how one fifth of the population like to eat meat every day although more than a quarter of people have reduced their meat consumption compared to 5 years ago (against the baseline date of the study).

I do think that the climate change effects of meat consumption need to be more prominently promoted to the everyday man on the street either through carbon labelling or some other public message paid for by tax payers; this approach could well be a more cost effective one in tackling emissions than current efforts to promote renewable energy for instance.

After reading my experiences, will you be eating fewer meals with meat in the future or do you consider it your right to eat whatever you like? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with everyone else.

Steve (156 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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12 Responses to “Green Steve Goes Veggie…Temporarily”

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