Vegetarianism was once considered a crime in my family. Some parents worry about their child bringing home an undesirable boyfriend or a venereal disease, but the worst thing I could have done was saunter in with a bag of lentils or a Linda McCartney sausage. We raised sheep and cattle on our farm; pigs too until the late 80s when we sold off their pink unprofitable asses. Meat truly brought home the bacon for us. We only ate what had once roamed the fields. Our freezer was brimming with home grown roasts and mince and little plastic bags of lamb chops. And in the springtime my sister and I bottle-fed the abandoned baby lambs, fattening them up for market then pocketing the profits.
Our beef was chopped up by a proper butcher, but if we needed lamb my stepfather did the slaughtering himself. I don't think he enjoyed the task one bit, and was always as kind and merciful to the sheep as one can be in these situations. But I liked to imagine things were more ghoulish. He'd always tell us stay in the house, but I listened out for the telltale sound of the chosen sheep doing its final woolly twitch. It would always be at sunset and my stepdad would turn on the headlights of the truck to see better. I'd peer through the trees at this silhouetted scene, finding it all quite macabre and dramatic. The red sky, the dogs barking and straining against their chains, the unmistakable scratch scratch
of the knife separating wool from flesh.
Today I would love to have access to what was essentially an endless bounty of free-roaming organic meat. But as a surly teen I resented the homegrown stuff. I envied my friends and their cheap Woolworths sausages on styrofoam trays. "Lamb chops AGAIN!?", I'd bitch at the dinner table, rolling my eyes in anticipation of the reminder that meat was our livelihood.
There was just no escaping meat. I even had a meaty weekend job, selling the Colonel's finest goods at KFC. I'd come home on a Saturday night reeking of chicken grease and secret herbs and spices, only to be greeted by a sheep carcass hanging on a hook in the laundry. On Sunday morning my precious slumber was disturbed by the sound of said sheep being buzzed to pieces with my stepfathers meat saw.
So it amuses me somewhat that after all that, I ended up marrying a vegetarian. I asked Gareth why he chose to abandon the flesh ten years ago, expecting it would be about economics, taste, or sympathy for the poor little lambies. But his main reason was because it makes a mess!
"Too many dishes," he said. While the lad likes good food, he hates cleaning, and vegetarian fare generally means less scrubbing afterwards.
When we got married and moved in together, he was adamant that I should cook and eat meat as much as I wanted. He is not one of those militant vegetarians. But I think perhaps I'd had my fill of red meat as a child. Since I moved to the UK I'd gone semi-vegetarian anyway, mostly due to budget restrictions. I've also found weight loss easier when I go meatless, although I still eat fish. But above all, I am a lazy bastard, and I don't miss the flesh enough to cook two different dishes.
So the past year has been an interesting challenge, coming up with repertoire of healthy vegetarian meals that are quick and easy, and address the following criteria:
1. Not be too reliant on butter, eggs or cheese
2. Not be too reliant on meat substitutes such as Quorn
3. Not make you fart all freaking night.
Number three is often the biggest challenge. I cooked this Pumpkin and Spinach Frittata last night and there were no ill-effects. While it is heavy on the eggs, I am not one of those Egg Whites Only nutters. Divided by six is only an egg and a half each! It also has a smidgen of cheese, and I used Marks and Spencer Half Fat Mature Cheddar. Unlike super low fat cheeses, it doesn't taste like a monkey's rubbery armpit, but is far less calorific than the original.
I scrawled this one down from my sister's copy of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet
in a godawful hurry, so excuse the sloppy instructions. And furthermore, please excuse the extremely ordinary photos here. I cooked this after a gruelling Spinning class, and I just needed to EAT, dammit!
As with everything I make, tastes better than it looks.
PUMPKIN AND SPINACH FRITTATA
Source: CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet
Serves: 6 (or 4 gluttons)
400g pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes (I used 600g of butternut squash)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp soy sauce
2 leeks, washed and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
300g baby spinach (I only had a wee 180g bag)
50g mature cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 170'C. Place pumpkin cubes on oven tray, toss with half the olive oil and soy sauce. Bake for 25 mins (I did 230'C because our oven is crap and I was impatient and hungry). While this is happening, sautee leeks for five minutes in remaining olive oil, then add garlic and spinach, cook until wilted. Tip mixture onto work surface and chop roughly (I didn't do that because I was lazy and hungry). Whisk eggs, yogurt and cheese. Tip in pumpkin and spinach mixture, stir to combine. Pour into a greased baking dish. Bake 20 minutes until set. (I turned down the oven to 180'C and it took 20 minutes to set with a nice pale golden top)
The Ultra-Classy Sloppy Leftovers In A Chinese Takeaway Dish shot.
. . . Oooh lordy, this frittata was deliciously creamy and subtly cheesy. Creamy and cheesy are two things you don't get much on a diet, but it's all happening here, thanks to the magic of Total 0% Greek Yogurt! The spinach and pumpkin are fantastic together, but I can't wait to try it again with different vegies. Or with feta cheese. Or bacon.