Do you look at a vegetarian recipe and think it couldn’t possibly be as tasty as a meat recipe? This is a common misconception and one that can be dispelled with a bit of help. There are ways to make vegetarian recipes delicious and here’s how.
Herbs and spices are our friends. Their purpose is to liven up bland dishes, add oomph to plain fare and make a dull meal memorable. Asian vegetarian food is particularly renowned and this is because it embraces herbs and spices. Curries, dhal and stir-fries all benefit from lashings of ginger, garlic, chillies and spices such as cumin, turmeric, cardamom and five-spice. Every home, whether it’s meat-free or not, should have a spice cupboard.
Salt and pepper have been used to season food since time immemorial and for good reason – they enhance the flavours of a dish.
No dish – veggie or not – is going to be as appetizing if made with poor ingredients. Use fresh, preferably organic, vegetables and buy superior spices and meat substitutes.
This is so easily done and can ruin a perfectly lovely vegetarian recipe. The key is to cook most vegetables el dente so they’re still slightly crisp and crunchy. Not only does this add texture to a dish (who likes mushy veg?) but it retains more of the goodness. In Asian stir-fries it’s standard to only lightly sauté vegetable and sometimes serve them raw.
Some flavours go together sublimely, others clash. We all know cheese and onion are a marriage made in heaven, but did you know that coffee and ginger go beautifully together? An excellent guide to old and new combos is Niki Segnit’s wonderful book, The Flavour Thesaurus (link to GBC site if book review is up?).
If you’re not sure how to make vegetarian food tasty, learn from the people that do! For example Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are full of fantastic vegetarian recipes.