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Meat-free mains


Jill Dupleix

Hearty and healthy ... Tunisian breakfast soup with greens.

Hearty and healthy ... Tunisian breakfast soup with greens. Photo: Marina Oliphant

All your life, people have told you to eat your veggies - and it's not going to stop any time soon as good meat is becoming so expensive.

So here are five commonsense ways to adjust the balance and get a few more vegetables into your everyday eating.

1. Don't hide vegetables away in the back of the crisper. Keep them centre stage where you can see them, where they demand to be noticed and used.

2. Never throw anything out. If you have leftover onions, root vegetables, pumpkin or green beans at the end of the week, then celebrate with a great big veggie roast dinner, or toss them all into a soup with your choice of grains or pulses - lentils, beans or barley.

3. Serve vegetables with vegetables. Top sweet potato frittata with pan-roasted mushrooms, or make pesto and relishes with rocket leaves, warrigal greens or spinach, to use as a dressing for roast vegetables, fish and egg dishes.

4.When in doubt, add peas. Frozen peas are an almost instant resource, turning everything from omelets to a plain piece of fish into something interesting. Whiz to a puree with a touch of butter, or add green peas and mint leaves to a rocket salad.

5. Don't save vegetables for when you're being ''good''. Make them so delicious you want them at any time of day, including breakfast. Try baked eggs with sweet red peppers, corn and zucchini fritters, or the Tunisian chickpea and silverbeet soup on this page, topped with boiled eggs.

Tunisian breakfast soup with greens

A hearty, head-spinning, soupy stew based on Tunisian leblebi. I make it with silverbeet because I love this green, but you can use kale, cavolo nero, English spinach or a mixture. Serve on toast, topped with hard-boiled egg wedges, or a fried or poached egg.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 red capsicum, finely diced
800g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
400g canned tomatoes, chopped
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
Sea salt and pepper
500g silverbeet leaves, washed
2 tbsp harissa paste
4 thick slices sourdough bread
2 hard-boiled eggs, each cut into 6 wedges
1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed
Extra virgin olive oil for serving
2 tbsp coriander leaves

Heat oil in a large pan and cook onion for five minutes until softened. Add garlic, cumin and most of the diced red capsicum and cook for three minutes. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Roughly chop silverbeet leaves and simmer for five minutes until wilted. Add one tablespoon harissa, stirring. Toast or grill the bread and place in the base of each bowl. Add a ladleful of chickpeas, silverbeet and enough broth to thoroughly soak the toast. Top with egg wedges, capers, remaining harissa and red capsicum. Finish with extra pepper, olive oil and coriander leaves and serve.

Serves 4

Sweet potato frittata with roasted mushrooms


A rich baked frittata - virtually a quiche - brings four different vegetables to the table. Serve warm from the oven with roasted mushrooms, or if someone needs a meat fix, with pan-fried chorizo.

2 small zucchini, finely sliced
100g peas
8 eggs
4 tbsp milk
2 tbsp grated cheese (cheddar, gruyere, parmesan)
Sea salt and pepper
3 tbsp butter
400g cooked sweet potato, cut into 2cm chunks
200g swiss brown mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook zucchini and peas in a pan of salted simmering water for two minutes only, then drain, cool under cold running water and drain again. Heat oven to 190C. Beat eggs with milk, cheese, salt and pepper. Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large oven-proof frypan. Add egg mixture and cook for one minute, then add sweet potato, zucchini and peas, jiggling the pan so they settle into the egg. Cook over moderate heat for five minutes, drawing back the edges to tip the runny egg into the pan to help it cook.

Transfer pan to the oven and bake frittata for 15 minutes or longer, until just set. Trim mushrooms and cut each into three thick slices. Heat remaining butter and olive oil in a pan and cook mushrooms until browned, about 10 minutes. Toss with chopped parsley, sea salt and pepper and serve with big wedges of frittata.

Serves 3-4

Warm roast veggie salad with lemony lentils

Lentil salad

A fast roast vegetable dinner that's just as delicious and satisfying as a meaty one, garnished with petals of sweetly roasted onions.

4 kipfler potatoes, halved lengthwise
2 red onions, unpeeled, quartered
8 baby carrots, peeled
500g cauliflower, cut into florets
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
8 sprigs thyme
4 tbsp olive oil
400g canned lentils, drained
2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt and pepper
100g baby spinach leaves
Half a lemon, finely sliced

Heat oven to 200C. Toss potatoes, onions, carrots, cauliflower, garlic cloves and half the thyme in two tablespoons of olive oil and arrange in a roasting pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes until tender.

Heat lentils in a pan with half a cup of water until boiling, then drain and toss in remaining olive oil, lemon juice, honey and cumin, and season with sea salt and pepper. Arrange potatoes on each dinner plate, scatter with spinach leaves and top with baby carrots and cauliflower. Peel the ''petals'' away from the onions and scatter over each plate. Spoon the lentils on and around the vegetables and serve with lemon slices and remaining thyme sprigs.

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Serves 4


  • These are great ideas - meat can get expensive when you're only cooking for one/two, and I get more creative when only using fresh vegies. I also get tips from - there are some great recipes using beans & lentils

    Date and time
    May 02, 2012, 12:47PM

      Ms Anthropist
      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 1:39PM
      • And right on cue, out come the militant vegans. You lot are worse than born-again evangelical Christians. Here's a shocker for you -- plants can communicate with each other.

        Tinfoil Pie
        Date and time
        May 02, 2012, 4:02PM
      • Tinfoil pie, I suppose you don't eat plants then. Plants don't have a central nervous system and therefore do not feel pain. *YAWN* So sick of you imbeciles

        Ms Anthropist
        Date and time
        May 02, 2012, 10:55PM
      • And right on cue come all the idiotic anti-vegan halfwits like "Tinfoli Pie".

        So "Tinfoil Pie", because people don't want to eat dead animals, that's an issue for you? Lets hope you don't get a piece of meat from the US from the mad cow or some chicken with bird flu!

        And in regard to your idiotic comments on plants, let me know when they find that plants have a heart, blood pumping through them and know, like sentient animal you choose to eat.

        But these are great recipes here and will give them a go!

        And "Tinfoil Pie", here's a tip...when you see an article about vegetables, move on..

        Date and time
        May 03, 2012, 8:24AM
    • Wow, what a great article to make vegetarian food as boring as you can. Add peas? Peas are nothing, why not add herbs? And why are you adding it to fish is an article about vegetarian food?

      And a fritata? That's hiding vegies in eggs.

      And ironically, the ad down the right hand side of the article is top 10 meat recipes.

      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 2:08PM
      • This isn't a vegetarian article, it is an article about eating more vegetables. These seem like a few good recipes to have on hand when having a meatless day. Why are some people so negative?

        Date and time
        May 02, 2012, 2:37PM
      • too much fuss about meat eating .... its not like we need to eat meat to survive.
        all old school teachings thanks to producers and ye the church as well

        Date and time
        May 02, 2012, 3:27PM
      • Kat, I hate the taste of egg so I use vegies to hide the taste of egg. Mianly mushrooms, asparagus, onions & heaps of herbs

        Date and time
        May 03, 2012, 9:35AM
    • Since I hooked up with my vegetarian GF I've discovered a whole new world of interesting food.

      The boring meat 'n' 3 veg (peas, potatoes, carrots) dinners are a thing of the past.

      Anyone who derides modern vegetarian cooking is just daft.

      Date and time
      May 02, 2012, 2:31PM

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