‘You don’t have to give up meat to enjoy vegetarian dishes’
JANUARY can often mean a pledge to eat more healthily, and for some that can mean giving up certain foods for a while, whether that’s chocolate, cake, chips or even meat.
As a chef, I’m not one for giving up my food and, in the past, I’ve been known to be a little anti-vegetarian. In Scotland we have access to such incredible local meats from beef and lamb to all the glorious game right on our doorstep. But over the years, I’ve mellowed a little. It seems I’m not alone as we’ve started to move away from the challenging option that being vegetarian once was.
My shift towards enjoying and creating more vegetarian dishes is in most part down to Bridget Bradley, our restaurant manager at The Scran & Scallie. Bridget is a vegetarian and has been with us for several years now – since we received our Michelin star at The Kitchin in January 2007 – so she’s had to endure my taunts for many years. However, over that time, she’s certainly managed to soften me up when it comes to vegetarian options. Recently, she’s even persuaded me to add a vegetarian burger to the menu at The Scran & Scallie and it’s incredibly tasty. The secret with vegetarian cooking is in creating dishes that everyone enjoys eating – not just vegetarians.
The beauty of making veggie burgers is that you can use any combination of vegetables and pulses. This week’s recipe uses mostly chickpeas and kidney beans but you can have fun with the recipe and try substituting them with your favourites such as carrot and sesame, cheddar and lentils, mushroom and goat’s cheese – there are loads of great, tasty options to choose from.
Risotto is another great tasting, filling dish that doesn’t rely on meat. It’s often the standard alternative for vegetarians so it suffers from a bit of a bad reputation but, done well, risotto can make a delicious dinner. The key is again to experiment with different ingredients and techniques. That way, it can be exciting and enjoyable and you won’t feel like you’re missing out. Our risotto uses pearl barley to give it a real Scottish twist. Pumpkin can be a brilliant addition, but you can change the dish throughout the year using a host of seasonal vegetables from spring greens, to summer girolles or autumn root vegetables. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
As much as I champion the wonderful meat we have access to in Scotland, I am also a huge advocate of the great fruit, vegetables and pulses we produce here. You don’t have to give up meat to enjoy vegetarian dishes once in a while and challenging yourself to create a meat-free meal can be a great way to try new things – new recipes, new ingredients and new flavour combinations.
TOM KITCHIN’S VEGGIE BURGER
50g kidney beans
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 lime (zest and juice)
1 tbsp cumin seeds (toasted and ground)
small bunch coriander (finely chopped)
salt and pepper
flour (to dust)
2 eggs (whisked)
Sweat the chopped onion until soft, then add the cumin, mix and cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add half of the chickpeas and half of the kidney beans to the onion mixture and crush roughly to break the beans into a rough pulp. Add the remaining beans and chickpeas and combine gently together so that the second batch of pulses remain whole. Mix in the lime zest and juice, coriander, salt and pepper and taste. Season again if needed.
Shape into 150g patties, dust with flour, then dip the patties into the whisked egg. Coat in breadcrumbs, then fry at 180C/Gas 4 or pan fry until golden and heat in the oven until hot.
PUMPKIN & PEARL BARLEY RISOTTO
250g pearl barley
1 litre vegetable stock
4 shallots (diced finely)
1 medium pumpkin
1 tbsp chives (chopped finely)
extra virgin olive oil
sage leaves (deep-fried until crispy)
Prep the pumpkin into chunky wedges. You can also retain and dry, then roast the pumpkin seeds. Roast the pumpkin wedges in the oven until golden and well caramelised. Retain some nice pieces to garnish, purée the remaining roasted pumpkin in a blender until smooth. Reserve until later.
Put vegetable stock in a pan to heat. Sweat the diced shallots in a little olive oil until completely soft. Then add the pearl barley and 50g of butter and lightly “roast” the grains in the butter, without adding any colour. When the grains appear translucent on the outside begin adding the heated stock, one ladle at a time, while stirring very gently but continuously to avoid the grains sticking to the pan. Continue ladling stock and cooking until the grains are almost cooked through.
Then stir in 50g of butter and some of the pumpkin purée to create a nice orange colour. When at the right consistency, remove from the heat and serve with roasted pumpkin seeds, the retained pumpkin pieces, chopped chives, crispy sage leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.