More aware than ever of the impact we've all been having on the planet, The Happy Foodie team has been seeking ways to help reduce our meat intake or make the switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet, so the arrival of brand new vegetarian cookbook, Green, could not have been more perfectly timed. Brimming with veg-packed recipes that fit into a busy week with ease, it's full of meat-free inspiration, clever swaps and batch cooking tips alongside slower-paced recipes that are perfect for laid-back weekend cooking. Suitably inspired to get cooking and do our bit for the environment while putting dinner on the table, a team of us took to our kitchens with a copy of Green in hand. Here's how we got on...
Who: Indira Birnie, Senior Manager, Penguin Audiences
What I made: Linguine with Courgette and Cavolo Nero
What I thought: Making this recipe didn’t exactly get off to an auspicious start – I couldn’t find cavolo nero, or more bizarrely, linguine, so I substituted spaghetti and spinach in their place. Shopping drama aside, this was the perfect thing to whip up for a casual weeknight dinner at home with a guest – when you want something nice but don’t really have the time or energy to spend on anything complicated. It was so delightfully faff-free – yet delicious – that I’ll definitely be making it again (maybe with linguine and cavolo nero next time?).
Two things I’ll say: it seems like you’re putting in an insane amount of courgettes but have faith, it all works out in the end. The other thing is that the portion is very generous – the recipe serving is for two and as there were three of us for dinner, I doubled the quantities. The resulting mountain of pasta generously fed the three of us and the leftovers made two lunchbox portions, and there was still enough for a late night snack post-drinks on another evening. Can’t complain really.
Who: Sophie Tudor, Marketing Assistant: Dead Good
What I made: Spiced Paneer, Spinach and Pea Grain Bowl with Mint Yoghurt Sauce
What I thought: Spiced Paneer, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I have a lot of appreciation for this classic Indian cheese. Its mild, milky flavour gives you the freedom to be bold with the rest of your ingredients, which is great when you’re cooking with lots of colourful, fragrant spices. Elly Pear’s recipe demonstrates this perfectly, pairing the paneer with the rich spiciness of the red tandoori paste.
This dish was super quick and easy to make, making it suitable for both a mid-week meal and a Friday night supper to impress your friends. Frying the paneer cubes was a tad fiddly, but once you’re over this culinary hurdle everything else just gets thrown in the pan. For a bit of added texture and excitement, I swapped the frozen peas for a frozen pea and bean mix. I would be doing this dish a disservice if I did not mention the mouth-watering mint yogurt sauce. Do not let its modest appearance fool you. This understated, turmeric-infused dipping sauce was, quite frankly, one of the best things I have ever tasted.
Who: Felicity Box, Marketing Analyst
What I made: Vegan Frittata
What I thought: As someone who loves cooking, but routinely finds herself cooking variations on the same few dishes, it is always thrilling to find something I know has instantly become a new staple favourite.
This recipe really called out to me as something to try. I’ve been vegan for a year and a half, and had yet to discover any simple and delicious alternatives to quiches, omelettes and frittatas that don’t require milking a chickpea or milling our own flax eggs. When I saw the picture I knew I had to give it a go!
I fully expected to see a list of complicated ingredients which I was prepared to order from an obscure corner of the internet, but was delighted to find a humble list entirely comprised of things I found in the Sainsbury’s local round the corner.
I still think it must be some kind of magic that makes this recipe so delicious with so few ingredients. The texture is absolutely spot on. The frittata itself feels substantial, but is soft and light to eat. The flavours are punchy enough to make this a dish in its own right, but I am sure that you could swap out the nigella seeds for other herbs or spices if you wanted it to accompany something else on the plate.
The recipe itself is really easy to follow and took me an hour start-to-finish (including the dash to the shop to buy the ingredients!). Definitely achievable on a weeknight, and makes plenty of extra to keep you going throughout the week.
Who: Julia Pal, Senior Marketing Manager, The Happy Foodie
What I made: Rose Harissa Chickpeas with Za’atar Baked Feta and Lemony Herb Salad
What I thought: Like everyone else I know, I struggle to keep coming up with simple but tasty midweek meal ideas, so I was instantly drawn to the Weekday section of Elly Pear’s book. I love the concept of her Freezer Food recipes. You make one base dish in a quantity big enough to allow you to freeze some of it. Then there are various ways to use that base dish to whip up enticing but incredibly easy meals when you get home from work and don’t have the time or energy to cook something complicated. I love this approach as it fits perfectly with our busy family schedule.
I made an enormous quantity of Elly’s harissa chickpea stew for my base, stashing boxes of it in the freezer for future use. To go with it, I added the za’atar baked feta and herby salad (and also cooked some brown rice, which complemented the other dishes brilliantly). The flavours and textures were sensational and I know it won’t be long before I raid the freezer so that I can enjoy it all again. I also love the fact that the elements of the dish have provided me with a toolkit of recipes to make again. I plan to have that baked feta on EVERYTHING from now on, and the herby salad will work well with lots of other dishes I love to cook. The book has expanded my regular cooking repertoire in a really useful way.
Who: Claire Daverley, Marketing Manager, Page Turners
What I made: Kimchi-fried Grains with Crispy Fried Egg and Nori
What I thought: I've been embracing the flexitarian lifestyle and eating mainly veggie meals in the week, and with its colourful recipes and clever midweek variations, this cookbook has been a welcome source of inspiration. There was a bit of head-scratching as I decided which dish to make (pumpkin gnocchi, jalapeno-brined French toast crumpets and aquafaba chocolate mousse obviously made the shortlist) but the Kimchi-friend Grains with Crispy Fried Egg and Nori was, I'm happy to report, a solid choice. It literally took ten minutes to cook (with a little extra prep time to peel and ribbon the carrots, which was the fiddliest part). With a sprinkle of Nori to finish it off, it was more delicious than I could have anticipated - fresh, light and flavoursome, with the crowning glory of a crispy, oozing-middled fried egg, which made the meal. The weekend before I'd had a greasy, disappointing takeaway and this by contrast was SO MUCH BETTER - who needs numerous take-out menus taking up drawer space when you can whip this up in a matter of minutes? The soy sauce, scatter of sea salt and crunchy Nori took it up a notch in comparison to my usual (fairly uninspiring) veggie stir fry, and the mixed grains gave it a healthy zing and varied texture that I adored. A couple of notes on preparation: I had to get the Nori from a local wholefoods supermarket, but kimchi came by the jar at my local shop so it was easy to source the ingredients. I did notice a typo on the recipe - it says it serves 1 when actually the ingredients serve 2 people, so make sure you don't blindly double the ingredients as I did... (though having TWO crispy fried eggs and some leftovers for lunch was certainly not the worst thing.) Quick, simple and delicious, it's got a top spot on my veggie recipe list, for sure.
Who: Jeanne-Claire Morley, Email Marketing Manager
What I made: Beluga/Puy Lentils with Chargrilled Harissa Aubergines and Pomegranate Molasses
What I thought: My boyfriend and I have polar opposite diets. I am essentially a carnivore, and he is a dedicated vegan. We both like eating hummus and falafel, and there our commonalities end. Recently though, I’ve realised that if I’m going to do my part to stop the world from drowning I’m going to have to cut back on my meat consumption and start learning to appreciate my long sworn culinary enemies: vegetables. So Green was a good place for me to start.
This recipe was surprisingly relaxing to make. I was worried that grilling the aubergine would require a lot of attention, but it mostly took care of itself. I’m also not the biggest fan of lentils, but the rose and harissa mix brought a different edge to the flavour, and I loved discovering how coriander and lentils can interact. This was a recipe completely out of my comfort zone, and I felt like I learned a lot from it. Best of all, my boyfriend and I actually ate a meal in common that wasn’t raw carrot and Sainsbury’s hummus.