It’s not easy eating green. Or is it?
Hello, my name is Cairistiona, and I’m a vegetarian with vegan intent! Newly so, I must confess, but better late than never, as the saying goes. It’s been roughly a month since I fully committed to vegetarianism, and it’s teaching me a lot about what’s truly important to me. I’ve been slowly becoming less and less inclined to eat meat for quite some time now; the process of handling it and cooking it has begun to leave me feeling queasy. But the Netfilx documentary ‘Seaspiracy’ was the final nail. It was a harrowing watch and a total eye-opener, showing me that I don’t enjoy eating meat enough to justify how it came to be on my plate. There’s no such thing as Dolphin friendly tuna folks, no matter what the label says, and the state of the farmed salmon left me weak-kneed. Smoked salmon with a side of lice, anyone? Yeah, me either.
So how easy is it to switch from meat to veg while keeping those hungry mouths watering and our bodies healthy? Easier than I thought it would be, as it turns out. Before I chat a
little about my new vegetarian adventure, let’s talk about the importance of autonomy. I’ve always been a great believer in us all doing our part, no matter how big or small that is, with no judgement. This is a personal decision, one I feel proud to have finally made, but my husband and boys needed to be able to make their own minds up. Their preference is to continue to eat meat, but less often, and I appreciate them taking that step. I’ve decided to continue using animal products like milk, cheese and eggs. It’s essential to set your own levels and remember that these can change over time. Instead, I’m swapping many of my health and beauty products to vegan, eco-friendly, and sustainable brands, hence the vegan intent part; I’ll be sharing more about this with you all in future posts. For now, let’s get back to how that veggie diet is going.
As a household, we all love to cook (and eat, HA!), so meal prep hasn’t been too much drama. I’ve made many veggie-packed meals, cooking some meat for the boys separately when appropriate. After all, this isn’t a restaurant, and I’m too busy to be busting out multiple dishes for any fusspots. But how do I feel about the lack of meat in MY eats? Oddly it doesn’t seem to be meaty flavours that I’m missing, but texture, so I’m on the hunt for subs that give me a decent meaty chomp. I’ve only dipped a tentative toe into the meat substitutes pool, and it’s been a wild ride, let me tell ya! Here’s a wee list of what I’ve tried so far:
I’ve only tried to use it once. The verdict from the family is that they HATE it. Oh dear… I’m sorry, Tofu, but maybe you’re not the one for us. I tried to crisp up the edges as I cooked it, but the overall impression was that it had the texture of thick cold custard. EEK! If anybody has any pointers on cooking it, please leave a comment, and help a gal out.
So, this one is made from wheat protein and in terms of texture, I was pretty impressed. I haven’t cooked with it yet but have had it when eating out twice now. The first dish was mind-blowing! It was just like Chinese pork! I couldn’t get my head around how they did it. If I hadn’t known, I would have been hard-pressed to tell the difference. The second time was not so great, but I put that down to the cooking of that particular dish (Katsu, so the Seitan was breaded and very stodgy). It’s something I will be experimenting with in the future.
Beans, peas, lentils, these guys are a chefs dream team. Yellow split pea curry is a total winner in this house. Green lentils, if seasoned well, make an excellent mince sub for lasagne, and I am now the queen of bean burger creations. I’m humble about my skills, too, of course.
I will leave you then, with my favourite homemade bean burger recipe. If you try it, I would love to hear your thoughts and see your creations. Feel free to tag the team on Instagram at @ochvegan and on my personal Instagram account @cairistionabates or my reading and writing account @cairionreading.
Cairi’s Curry Bean Burger:
Drain and rinse the two tins of beans, place half of each in a bowl and mash until relatively smooth. Add the remaining beans and gently crush them; this adds a little texture to the burgers. Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil over a medium to low heat setting, finely dice half of the onion and place it and the garlic in the pan. Cook until soft and slightly caramelised. Add the onion, breadcrumbs and curry powder to the bean mix, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Form the mixture into patties, I find this mixture is enough to make six, and I use three and freeze three for a later date. Coat the burgers in some flour and sesame seeds; this gives the burgers an amazingly light but crispy outer. Fry gently for a couple of minutes on each side until slightly browned and heated through. Chop the remaining onion into half rings and fry off.
Now for the fun part! We like to use homemade burger buns, but Brioche buns are equally good and toast them gently on the inside in the frying pan after cooking the burgers and onions. Build your burger by popping a patty on the bottom bun, top with onions and the sauce of your choice. It tends to be tomato sauce in here, but a little spoon of mango chutney is terrific too. Then add any extras you fancy; pickles, cheese, whatever you like.
Serve with a lovely salad, maybe some chips, and enjoy!