It’s Meat Free Week this week and I’m getting on board and going veggie for a week. Not that I’m a particularly carnivorous beast anyway. Nor am I with the more extreme veggies (hey, you said ‘lunatic fringe’ not me…) who think all meat is murder. I just, as you know, like my veg and will happily support anything that encourages us all to eat more of them.

As it happens, it’s also National Butchers Week which might seem a coincidence so comical it’s almost ridiculous, but actually they both have much in common. Both encourage us to reflect on how much meat we eat, where it’s come from and how it lived. And if you, as I do, subscribe to the principle that we should spend more on buying less meat – reducing volume but increasing quality – then two sit quite happily together. Both encourage more conscientious consumption of meat – happy days.

Anyway, enough politics. To the kitchen, where the first half of the week has been a feast of greens…

(Ooo, a quick, vanity-led, caveat – this really is what I’ve been eating which is why the photos are taken on the fly – as you can tell from the camera shake, less than perfect exposure and the attempt to salvage them with Instagram. It’s all a but photo-journalism for my liking, but I wanted to bring you the full experience in ‘real-time’ so the studio lights and considered styling are out the window this week. Anyway, this was my supper – I’m not hanging around to take photos, I was hungry! Normal service will resume next week.)

Kale Pesto with Pasta

Kale pesto and fresh pasta

Kale is pretty much the only thing still in ground at this time of year on the patch. Unless you’ve mastered purple sprouting broccoli. Which I haven’t. And I’d like not to dwell on this glaring inadequacy in my growing skills, so we’ll move on…

  • 2 large handfuls of chopped kale
  • a small handful of parmesan
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 small glove of garlic
  • Around 100ml good olive oil

Wash the kale and pop it in a large saucepan. Make sure some of the water is still clinging to the leaves. Wilt the kale over a gentle heat for around 5 minutes or until soft.

Transfer to a food processor with the parmesan, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil. Whizz to a paste and check for seasoning and consistency. You may find you need to add a little salt or more olive oil. It will taste more ‘green’ than regular pesto and the cheesy, nutty flavours will be in the background, but that’s the idea.

Stir through hot pasta with a ladle of the pasta cooking liquid and serve.

Kisir, Griddled Aubergine and Yogurt

I gush about Diana Henry far too much, so I’ll keep this brief. This is her recipe from A Change of Appetite and it’s very very good. Make it. Whilst you wait for the book to arrive, you can head here for Diana Henry’s Kisir recipe.

aubergine and kisir

Spinakopita

My Mum used to make this in the 80s – I think it was pretty continental and probably quite adventurous back then. Now, it’s one of my favourite Fill Up The Veggie dishes when I want substance but veggie substance.

spinakopita

Serves 4 hungry veggies

  • 600g frozen spinach
  • 300g feta
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggs
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • Pack of filo
  • Olive oil
  • 500ml yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber

Defrost the spinach and squeeze out as much water as you can. Pop it in a large bowl with the crumbled feta, eggs, nutmeg and a few turns of pepper. Slice the onion and sweat it in a frying pan for a few minutes until soft then get that in the bowl too. Mix it all up and taste it to check for seasoning.

Brush a lasagne dish with a little olive oil and line it with 2-3 sheets of filo. I find that brushing each layer of pastry with oil before adding the next helps everything stick together and the pastry to brown nicely. Make sure there’s some overhang too.

Spoon the spinach filling into the dish and lay 2-3 more layers of filo on the top. Fold over the overhanging pastry and tuck it in between the top layers of filo to seal it all in like a parcel. Brush with olive oil and bake at 190 degrees celsius for 30 minutes.

Serve with finely dice the cucumber mixed it to the yogurt or just straight up yogurt if you prefer.

Avocado, Parmesan and Pine Nut Wrap

Inspired by my favourite Pret sarnie during my London-days, this simple combination works as a salad, on toast, with quinoa, in a wrap or on pitta. Just pile on the sliced avocado, grate over some parmesan (watch out though – to be classed as proper DOC parmesan it has to be made with animal rennet – so technically isn’t veggie… if you’re being strict… which I’m not) and sprinkle with pine nuts, pepper and good olive oil.

And that’s the feasting so far. I’ll be back later in the week with more Meat Free Week recipes…