One of my favourite meals is a stew, casserole or hearty chunky soup. They are easy to cook, freeze really well, and are comforting and relatively healthy. They don’t have to take forever to cook up to – yes, a good beef stew takes a day in a slow cooker, but I can generally whip up a sausage casserole, chorizo soup or vegetarian stew in under an hour after work. A chop of veg, a shake of various seasonings, a splash of whatever I can find, quick stir and then it’s ready to simmer whilst I get on with whatever else I have to do. It sits virtually unattended, filling the kitchen with delicious smells, and is ready to go with just a bit of veg, some bread, or perhaps some mash if I’m feeling up to a little more prep.
When I was offered a copy of The Really Hungry Vegetarian Student Cookbook to review, I was initially a little dubious. I’m far from a vegetarian. I don’t actually eat a lot of meat, but I do tend to throw a little bit in most meals to add flavour. A bit of chorizo in a stew makes it (to me) seem far more special. Some bacon sprinkled in a Mac’n’Cheese just finishes it off. I also like to use meaty stock in any ‘veggie’ dishes I do make as I think it just works a little better. But anyway, I challenged myself to cook a recipe strictly from this book. Or as much as I could, as vegetarians do like their tomatoes! I went for this veggie stew, as I had everything in my kitchen already. Bar veggies sausages, which I just omitted.
This stew is actually pretty amazing. Filling, super hearty, super healthy, and the gravy is pretty damn good considering there’s no meat involved. But it wouldn’t be cheap to make. As a student I wouldn’t tend to cook with wine, and I also only have balsamic vinegar in because I’m on placement year and thus earning a good wage. I found this a regular problem with this book, recipes seemed to require a few expensive additions, or some complicated cooking (too much deep frying, the idea terrifies me!). Having said that, it has some lovely breakfast ideas, some great sandwich combinations, and I’m working towards adapting their baked beans recipe to be tomato-free.
I’m not going to repeat the recipe on here (for fear of copyright legalities!) but I will hint towards it. It’s super easy, frying off onions, adding seasoning and wine, boiling off the alcohol, adding other veg, stock and simmering away in the oven. Dumplings are made from butter (not suet, as is my usual) and flour, with plenty of herbs. Add salt and pepper too, which the book omitted. Then plop into the stew and bake until golden. The dumplings needed longer cooking in my opinion, but the ratio of double the flour to butter was spot on. It made a heart meal, that needed nothing else apart from some green veg. I felt super virtuous eating it, and knowing I had five portions of the stew ready for quick dinners and microwaved lunches in the coming weeks.
If you’re a vegetarian bored of your meals, or simply want to get more veg into your diet, then I highly recommend this cookbook. If you’re looking for a budget option, it’s probably not for you. But its a cookbook I will continue to refer to you for a good few years. Despite having far too many of the things…
Do you eat vegetarian food? What’s your favourite veggie recipe?