1. #Veggie dish of the day @gbchefs HQ, spinach & ricotta tortellini cradled with Parmesan shaving! #foodporn #vegetarian #therewillbefood #alfrescodining #lunch

    #Veggie dish of the day @gbchefs HQ, spinach & ricotta tortellini cradled with Parmesan shaving! #foodporn #vegetarian #therewillbefood #alfrescodining #lunch

  2. Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Embracing the Nutroast

    Great British Chefs, blogger Monica Shaw is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for her American expat friends.  She’s vegetarian.  A number of her friends aren’t.  What to cook?  Will she resort to a nutroast?

    This year, for the first time ever, I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my American expat friends living here in the UK. Knowing I’m a vegetarian, one of the first questions they eagerly asked was: “will there be nutroast?!”

    The question is a testament to how “British” we’ve become during our time here. After all, nutroast is a very British thing, and I can’t think of a similar dish in the States that holds the same iconic status as a standard vegetarian holiday main course. This often leaves us in a bit of a jumble. I had a look at what some of the popular American food publications suggest as vegetarian mains. Bon Appetit is pushing its Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding; Food and Wine suggests Minestrone Pot Pies, Moussaka and Quinoa-Stuffed Squash; Saveur, meanwhile, has gone multicultural with such ideas as Saag Paneer, Manicotti and Pumpkin Curry.

    They all sound like well and good vegetarian recipes, but none of it screams Thanksgiving to me. Which brings me back to the nutroast question. I’ve always found the idea of a loaf based on nuts kind of weird - do I really want to eat a slab of nuts for my Thanksgiving dinner?

    The thing is, I think I do

    It’s not so much the nutroast I love. After all, most British people seem to associate the concept with disappointment and derision. But I love the idea of nut roast. After all, we vegetarians don’t have Turkey, but it would be nice to have something that we can rely on at the holidays, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas. And the nutroast can be all that and more: it’s a super chance to congeal all of the stuff we’ve come to love about seasonal British produce into a single loaf tin. And when the nutroast makes use of quality ingredients, is seasoned well, and comes with all the trimmings, you can actually achieve something has both great taste and irresistible kitsch appeal.

    I’m starting to see Thanksgiving in Britain as both an homage to the things I miss back home and a celebration of the things I love about Britain. So this Thanksgiving, yes I am making a nutroast, along with some of my other favourite British-grown discoveries like crown prince squash, wild mushrooms and cavolo nero. I might even bust out the celeriac.

    Alongside this will be a few nods to my American tradition with a few family recipes, including cranberry chutney and pumpkin pie.

    If you’re looking for a few vegetarian Thanksgiving recipe ideas, here are the ones that have inspired my own Thanksgiving menu this year:

    Cranberry and pistachio nut roast

    Cashew gravy

    Aunt Sue’s cranberry chutney

    Vegetarian Stuffing

    Crown prince squash, goat cheese and spinach pie

    Apple and celeriac quinoa salad

    Roast beetroot and sweet potato

    Raw cavolo nero and brussels sprouts salad

    Pumpkin pie

    Look out from more pumpkin recipes on Great British Chefs.  Which vegetarian dishes would make for a good Thanksgiving dinner or a celebration roast dinner?

  3. Veggie Sausages for British Sausage Week

    This week is British Sausage Week, and while it may be a time intended for encased-pork devotion, it also seems a reasonable excuse to pay tribute to other types of “sausage”.  Monica Shaw explores the joy of sausages for those that don’t eat meat or are looking for something for vegetarian friends.  She also share her own recipe for autumnal beetroot and walnut veggie sausages.

    Today, I’m talking about the veggie sausage. But let’s not misdirect our plaudits: I’m not referring to  those “fake meat” varieties of veggie sausage you often find in the supermarket, filled with weird stuff that not only isn’t meat, but also isn’t food in my opinion (don’t get me started on Quorn). In fact, these supermarket varieties give “vegetarian sausage” a bad name. In fact, the veggie sausage can be delight, with as much nuance and comfort factor as its porky counterparts.

    So what makes a great veggie sausage? I feel the same way about veggie sausage as I do about veggie burgers: they shouldn’t try to imitate meat - people who want a meaty sausage should just eat a meaty sausage. But if you love vegetables and want to experience them in tubular form, then veggie sausages are the way to go and are a novel form factor in which to showcase delicious ingredients. Options abound, from Rachel Demuth’s Glamorgan Sausages, made with cheddar, spring onions, breadcrumbs and loads of herbs to the Gluttonous Vegan’s Beany Snausages, a sort of rice-and-beans in sausage form.

    I like my vegetarian sausages to be about the vegetables, and since we’re in the depths of autumn and beetroot season, I am sharing with you my recipe for beetroot and walnut veggie sausages inspired by Susan Voison. These sausages combine ingredients that work exceptionally well together - beetroot, walnuts, fennel and chilli - to create a sausage reminiscent of American-style “Italian sausage”. It’s great in a bun with sauteed onions and peppers, or on its own with tomato sauce or dijon mustard. The sky’s the limit: these babies are versatile, not to mention vegan and gluten free. You can even crumble them up and put them on a pizza. 

    Beetroot & Walnut Veggie Sausages

    • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
    • 1 medium raw beetroot
    • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
    • 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
    • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
    • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
    • 2 teaspoons oregano
    • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
    • olive or sunflower oil for baking

    Method:

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C. Prepare a roasting tin or baking pan by oiling it generously with olive or sunflower oil.
    2. Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for at least 10 minutes, then drain and squeeze out the excess liquid.
    3. Put the walnuts into a food processor and pulse to chop finely (but not too finely, we want chopped nuts, not nut powder), then remove and put into a large mixing bowl.
    4. Peel the beetroot and cut it into small cubes. Add it to the food processor along with the mushrooms, garlic, and onion and pulse to chop coarsely. Add the chickpeas and all remaining ingredients and pulse several times to chop the chickpeas. Don’t over-do it: you want to maintain some texture, while still processing enough to form a mixture that you can shape into veggie sausages.
    5. Add the processor contents to the nuts and stir well to combine. 
    6. Using a tablespoon, scoop out pieces of the mixture and, using damp hands, form the pieces into sausage-shapes (of whatever size you fancy!), squeezing lightly to compact it (you can also shape them into balls or patties if you wish). Place the sausages on the roasting tin or baking sheet. 
    7. Bake for about 35 minutes, turning the sausages once mid-bake, until lightly browned on all sides. 

    Which ingredients do you think would work well in vegetarian sausages?

  4. Vegging Out at the Organic Farm Shop

    Would you be inspired to cook more vegetarian food if it was beautiful to look at?This is the question that our resident vegetarian Great British Chefs blogger Monica Shaw often asks herself. Here she writes about one of her favourite places locally to buy and eat food - The Organic Farm Shop - a place that inspires her.  

    Blog post & photography by Monica Shaw

    A meal is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. This is as true for vegetarian cuisine as it is for anything else. In fact, it’s crucial: when you subsist on a vegetable-based diet, it’s pretty important that those veggies taste good.  In fact, I think more people – vegetarians and omnivores included – would be inspired to cook more veg if the ingredients were beautiful to look at and undeniably delicious to eat.

    For this reason (amongst others) I am hugely grateful to live just a few miles from The Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester. It’s an impressive operation: the farm grows loads of veg in plots and in polytunnels, and also rears chickens, cows and pigs. It’s all Soil Association certified organic, and you can really taste the difference. Their carrots are the sweetest I’ve ever tasted; their egg yolks are the colour of the sun; their cavolo nero is so good that I once bought three bunches of it to take with me on holiday to the States because I couldn’t bear to go two weeks without my kale fix.

    Stuffed Squash

    They also have a café that is vegetarian every day of the week except Sundays, when they do a Sunday Roast with their own meat, and a few veg options too. On one particular visit I had a beetroot and horseradish tart that completely opened my eyes to beetroot, thus proving the power of quality ingredients to transform a dish and a person’s palette.

    Much of this quality difference has to do with seasonality.

    “The café follows the vegetable garden very closely,” says Hilary Chester-Master, who runs the farm with her husband, Will. “At the moment, the cooks are under instruction to weave their magic with leeks, carrots, onions, kales, parsnips, potatoes, and sweet squashes, particularly crown prince. “

    As a veg-loving foodie, I’ve found this approach inspirational. I love to see what they’re doing in the café to inspire my own cooking at home.

    The Organic Farm Shop

    “The fundamental idea is to start the thought process of what to serve daily with these vegetables in mind,” says Hilary. “This might feel very restrictive to most chefs, but it is the only way for us as we feel so passionately about using really seasonal ingredients. So the menu might one day have leeks as the centre, not only of the soup of the day, but also the main meal of the day!”

    The Organic Farm Shop

    Hilary has taken this interest in ingredients beyond the shop and to various programmes designed to broaden people’s appreciation for seasonal veg and the process of growing them. For example, Farm Day Camp is a new a 3-day camp for 8-11 year olds where they learn all about growing, producing, cooking and eating food in a fun way.  Meanwhile, the Earth Works Project is a social enterprise to develop a safe framework within the farm for people to gain skills in horticulture and agriculture.


    No doubt, the closer you are to ingredients and where they come from, the easier it is to appreciate their quality differences. So when I go to the Organic Farm Shop and drive past their chickens, veg beds and polytunnels, it feels pretty awesome to see the source of my food and know that it’s all very well looked-after.  The best bit, of course, is what comes out of it in my kitchen. Cooking and eating vegetables just wouldn’t be as inspiring without their beautiful veg to work with.

    The Organic Farm Shop is located on Abbey Home Farm in Cirencester and is open every day of the week except Mondays. In addition to fruit, veg, milk and eggs, the shop also has a huge grocery stocked with everything from dried beans to tofu to tempeh (staples of the vegetarian’s larder!). You can find out more about The Organic Farm Shop on their website, on Twitter and on Facebook.

    The Organic Farm Shop has inspired me to cook with more vegetables, but what inspires you? Has there been a specific place, ingredient or dish that really blew your mind? How does that affect your own choices when shopping for and cooking with veg? We’re discussing these questions over on Great British Chefs Facebook page. 

    Blog post & photography by Monica Shaw

  5. Vegetarian Haggis for Burns Night? What would Robbie Burns Say?

    It’s a week before Burns Night & next week around the country people will be celebrating the great Scottish writer Robert Burns by eating haggis - a dish made of offal and cooked in a sheep’s stomach.  This might turn the stomachs of most people but would make most vegetarians shudder. However, there is such a thing as a vegetarian haggis!  Strangely our vegetarian Great British Chefs, blogger Monica Shaw found herself in the meat section of a supermarket & decided to give it a try.

     

    Photography by Monica Shaw

    “But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer, 

    Gie her a Haggis!”

    - Robert Burns, Address to a Haggis

    Burns Night is approaching on 25thJanuary and all over the UK (especially Scotland), people will gather for formal and informal celebrations of the life and work of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Such celebrations traditionally involve a supper of haggis, “neeps and tatties” and, of course, whisky.

    This leaves vegetarians in a bit of a bind. One doesn’t need to eat meat to appreciate good Scottish poetry (and pretty much any excuse to eat and drink) but the very nature of haggis (minced meat and spices encased in an animal’s stomach) is the complete opposite of “vegetarian”. 

      

    Fortunately, there’s vegetarian haggis! Yes, I was introduced to this concept recently when I stumbled upon MacSween’s Vegetarian Haggis at Waitrose nestled amongst the sausages and chorizo (why I was perusing that section is an open question).

    I’m not usually one for pre-packaged foods, but for the sake of dear Mr Burns, I decided to give it a try. In place of meat, the veggie haggis contains mushrooms, legumes, beans, carrots, lots of nuts plus oats and vegetable margarine to hold it all together. The taste experience: a bit like mushroom barley soup in congealed log form.

    I confess, the whole concept of haggis was a mystery to start with. As a vegetarian, I had no idea what to expect, or how to serve it. The flavour of MacSween’s Vegetable Haggis is nice and peppery, but it’s essentially a vegetable mush pile and it all becomes a bit same-y after a few bites.  And as a mush pile, it doesn’t seem like it would suit neeps and tatties (potato and swede mash). Mush pile next to a mush pile? No thanks.

    MacSween's Vegetarian Haggis

    I could see this haggis as a stuffing for peppers, or perhaps a filling for some veggie haggis samosas. Haggis ravioli? None of this feels quite right for Burns Night.

    There’s always the option to skip the haggis and go straight for the whisky and poetry. That’s certainly vegetarian and has its own kind of appeal.

    WWBD? What Would Burns Do? What would you do? Am I missing a trick with MacSween’s Vegetarian Haggis? Got a vegetarian haggis recipe that I can really groove on? Let me know on Great British Chefs Facebook Page!

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Monica Shaw

  6. A Very Vegetarian Christmas

    It’s just one day before Christmas, and some of us are still trying to solve that timeless question: what do you serve the vegetarians in your life at Christmas? Great British Chefs,  blogger Monica Shaw has some great suggestions so that non meat eaters don’t feel that they’ve been left out of the celebrations.


    Lifafa mushrooms, braised spinach roasted tomato-sesame chutney by Vineet Bhatia on Great British Chefs website

    Ideas abound, from savoury mushroom pies to festive filo ritolos to the timeless classic nut roast. The quest: a vegetarian main dish that vies for the attention of the Christmas turkey. Whether that quest ends in success or a lot of leftover nut roast, getting there is half the fun.


    Photo by Monica Shaw

    This Christmas I’ll be tackling two vegetarian main dishes. On Christmas eve, I celebrate with my immediate family, three of four of whom are vegetarians and well-adapted to a meat-free Christmas meal. I’ve never been one for nut roast, but the recipe for Demuths Christmas Roast caught my eye, made with lentils, cashews, seeds and lots of spices. To go with it, I’m making a port and shallot gravy, while dad makes mashed potato, sis makes roasted veg and mom makes brussels sprouts and cranberries. It’s hard to imagine any of these things being bad when there’s good gravy going around.


    Christmas day is a bit more of an adventure: here is where the turkey steps up to steal the show and my family and I take great pleasure in trying to devise a vegetarian main dish that competes. We’ve had success in the past with moussaka, but this year we really want to win on presentation.

    Photo by Monica Shaw

    Our solution: winter squash stuffed with a sourdough and tempeh stuffing, topped with gruyere cheese and/or pine nuts (we haven’t decided).  The hope is to create something that can be universally appreciated by everyone at the table, without throwing off any traditionalists with our weird vegetarian hippy meal (in which case, we might keep the inclusion of tempeh a chef’s secret).


    Photo by Monica Shaw

    What are you making for the vegetarians in your life this Christmas?   We’re discussing this over on the Great British Chefs Facebook page.

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Monica Shaw

  7. Happy Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

    Great British Chefs, guest blogger Monica Shaw  is on a mission.  Her mission is to see whether, as a vegetarian, she can celebrate Thanksgiving with the autumnal comfort that the event represents.  Read how she gets on and help her on her mission.

    Can you have a Happy Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

    Photo by Monica Shaw

    Vegetarians often get the short end of the drumstick on Thanksgiving, a day synonymous with big turkey dinners where nearly every dish is either meat-based or destined for a generous dollop of meaty gravy.

    But why should we vegetarians miss out on the joyous gluttony of Thanksgiving?  I’m done scrounging on side dishes and enduring year after year of nut roasts. Don’t get me wrong: I love green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet yams (even when they come with marshmallows on top), but the sum of their parts do not make a main event.

    My mission: to find a vegetarian main dish that embodies the kind of autumnal comfort and celebration that Thanksgiving dinner is all about. An ideal veggie main should be spectacular to look at, utterly moreish and bursting with autumn veg.

    The best option I’ve found so far is the stuffed squash. For example, acorn squash stuffed with a savoury wild rice and cranberry stuffing is exquisite and proves that stuffing needn’t be crammed into a turkey to be gorgeous and delicious. 

    Mushrooms

    Photo by Monica Shaw

    Mushrooms present another option, gloriously autumnal and packed with that statisfying umami punch that Thanksgiving demands. Try serving them on cheesy squash polenta.  Or stuff your mushrooms in a pastry as in Vineet Bhatia’s recipe for Lafifa Mushrooms, Braised Spinach and Roasted Tomato Chutney.

    From Great British Chefs website - Vineet Bhatia

    The other matter for vegetarians is gravy. Yes, you can make a simple vegan gravy out of mushrooms or onions, but the ultimate gravy recipe in my world is a shallot and port gravy, the perfect accoutrement for mashed potatoes and roasted veg.

    Some vegetarians opt for something altogether different for their veggie main: lasagna, moussaka, savoury tarts and quiches. But these dishes don’t really say “Thanksgiving” to me. And they certainly don’t go with gravy.

    Hit me with some inspiration: What are you serving the vegetarians in your life this Thanksgiving?  We’re discussing this over on the Great British Chefs Facebook page.

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Monica Shaw

  8. Young Chefs Celebrated at The Vegetarian Cookery School Competition

    What’s to become of the future of British cookery?  Are we investing enough in children right now and encouraging them to become our great chefs in the future.  In a blog post for Great British Chefs,  Monica Shaw explores this and other questions.


    Photo from Vegetarian Cookery School - Eve Singleton’s winning Chickpea and Apricot Tagine

    If you talk to any great British chef about how they got started in food, you’ll often hear starry-eyed childhood memories of baking scones with grandma or family visits to the seaside for fish and chips. Indeed, most chefs got their start at a very early age, influenced by members of their family who appreciated good food and cooking it well.

    These days, with childhood obesity on the rise and growing concerns that Britain is losing its food heritage, it’s more important than ever that we encourage young people to get into the kitchen. One place doing just that is The Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath which this year hosted its first ever Young Chefs Competition.  

    The event saw young chefs aged 11 to 16 face off in a MasterChef-style competition at The Vegetarian Cookery School, judged by chefs Rachel Demuth of Demuths Restaurant and Tom Herbert of Hobbs House Bakery.

    Whilst the school may have impassioned these young chefs to get into the kitchen, it was the young chefs themselves who were the real inspiration.

    BBC Bristol’s recap of the event shows off the energy, optimism and creativity of these young chefs, such as 12-year-old Callum Cockburn whose happy eyes and cheerful response to his failed pancakes would make anyone smile. And then there’s the winning dishes: Eve Singleton’s Chickpea and Apricot Tagine and Zipporah Santer’s Moroccan Filo Parcel with Jeweled Couscous blew the judges away with their style, presentation and flavour.

    While the dishes were vegetarian, the participants didn’t have to be. This wasn’t so much about vegetarian food, but rather, cooking with vegetables and encouraging kids to appreciate seasonal produce and vegetable-based dishes.


    These young chefs are the great British chefs of the future and it doesn’t seem like they get enough encouragement or recognition in today’s cooking world. There should be more opportunities for them, not only for their sake, but also for the sake of preserving Britain’s own food culture.

    Do you have any young chefs in your life? How do you encourage them to get in the kitchen?  We’re discussing this over on the Great British Chefs Facebook page.

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Monica Shaw

  9. River Cottage Veg! Has Hugh revitalised the humble potato?

    Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall caused a bit of a publicity storm when promoting his new book & Channel 4 TV Series River Cottage Veg.  He said that in principle puppy farms were OK and that if we ate pigs we shouldn’t be averse to eating any animal. Great British Chefs' guest blogger Monica Shaw watched the first episode of his show (which aired on Sunday night) about living on nothing but vegetables for a whole summer.

    Roasted Pink Fir Potatoes with Harissa

    All photography bMonica Shaw

    Has the Potato Taken Vegetarian Cookery Back to its Roots?

    By Monica Shaw

    Sunday night saw the first episode of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new series, River Cottage Veg. While the episode aired, tweets with the #rivercottage hashtag poured in, most of which expressed one clear message: people were inspired to cook more veg.

    Sure, a lot of this had to do with the celebrity factor of Hugh and his team of chefs (whose collective lack of hair did not go unnoticed by tweeters). But the food got people talking, too, particularly the tumbled potatoes and new potato and halloumi kebabs. 

    Could it be that the humble spud is the way to win the world over to vegetarian cuisine?  Why did the tumbled potatoes (basically roasted potatoes with a few extras) inspire viewers while the beet top and ricotta tart went mostly unnoticed?

    There’s a simple answer: we’re familiar with potatoes. They’re a classic comfort food. We know we like them. And it takes very little effort to make them delicious.

    Beautiful pink fir potatoes

    So why not use the potato’s near universal appeal to convince people to eat more veg?

    Of course, for many people, part of the spud’s appeal is its effectiveness for sopping up meaty gravy. But as River Cottage Veg proved on Sunday, even without a traditional Sunday roast to go with it, the potato can still inspire.  The trick is to make the potato less of delivery device for gravy, and more of an event in itself.

    If you can roast or boil a potato, then it takes very little extra to make them stand on their own.

    For example, try topping your roast potatoes with spicy harissa as they do at the Vegetarian Cookery School. Even a whole baked potato can become extraordinary with the addition of a simple mustard dressing and a couple handfuls of arugula, as vegetarian chef Heidi Swanson does in her sea salt baked potatoes. If you’re feeling more ambitious, use boiled potatoes to create a lively potato salad such as Yotam Ottolenghi’s crushed new potatoes with horseradish and sorrel.

    Hugh was right to use the potato in River Cottage Veg. The potato illustrates the basic premise of learning to cook with more vegetables: start with what you know, use good ingredients and cook it simply. After that, it takes little more than a few fresh herbs, spices, salsas and sauces to turn humble vegetables into something inspiring, delicious and beautiful.

    Did you watch River Cottage Veg on Sunday? Will you be cooking more vegetables as a result?

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Monica Shaw

  10. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Vegetarian Masterclass

    Many of you have been clamoring for more vegetarian recipes in the Great British Chefs site and app (watch this space for more on that).  In the meantime guest blogger Monica Shaw went to Yotam Ottolenghi’s Moroccan Masterclass and came away with some great insights and questions.

    All photographs by Monica Shaw

    Yotam Ottolenghi makes vegetarian cuisine appealing

    By Monica Shaw

    I’m very grateful to be part of the vegetarian movement without having to suffer the consequences of not eating meat,” said Yotam Ottolenghi, poised over a hot skillet sizzling with onions, potato and sumac. The dish would soon become breakfast for his eager students , gathered at the Vegetarian Cookery School in Bath last month for Ottolenghi’s Moroccan Masterclass.

    Ottolenghi has become the unexpected hero of vegetarian cuisine in recent months; unexpected, because the man himself isn’t vegetarian. But maybe that’s what it takes to make vegetarian cuisine appeal to the masses – an omnivore who understands how other omnivores approach food, and what it takes to make vegetable-based dishes inspiring.

    This universal appeal of vegetarian cuisine is something that’s eluded many vegetarian chefs and cookery books, but Ottolenghi seems to have nailed it. The masterclass, which sold out almost instantly, was attended by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Rachel Demuth, owner of the cookery school and the popular Demuths Restaurant, also admits that a growing proportion of her students and customers are not vegetarians.

    No doubt, Ottolenghi’s approach to cooking with vegetables is partially to thank. The masterclass featured a stunning assortment of gorgeous dishes, where presentation was just as important as flavour: braised eggs were decorated with grilled cherry tomatoes and yoghurt; kohlrabi and cabbage slaw was speckled with dill and sesame seeds; char-grilled squash was topped with a delicate drizzle of pickled walnut salsa. And everywhere, all around, were fresh herbs. The result was an array of colours and textures, an assortment of dishes to share that would appeal to anyone, vegetarian or otherwise.

    There’s no question that Ottolenghi is helping to make vegetarian cuisine more appealing to the general population. But is he making it more accessible for people cooking at home? Many of his recipes contain either expensive or hard-to-find ingredients – freekah, za’atar, orange-flower water  - and the dishes themselves are not quick suppers but labours of love involving lots of chopping, grilling, sautéing, basting, garnishing and so on.

    All of this is beautiful to look at, but are we cooking these dishes at home? 

    Ottolenghi has at least half of the equation right: thanks to him we all want to eat more vegetables. But are we inspired to cook more?

    This is an unknown. Do Ottolenghi’s dishes inspire you to cook. If not, what does?

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Monica Shaw

  11. British Cheese Week, now with vegetarian rennet

    Guest blogger Monica Shaw looks at the options for vegetarians in British Cheese Week.  What, you thought all cheese was vegetarian?  Think again…..

    All Photography by Monica Shaw

    Go to any gastro pub in Britain and more often than not the vegetarian option will involve some form of goats cheese.  As much as we veggies would love a little more creativity on these menus, we admit that many of us consider cheese a staple of our diet. It’s got protein, calcium and most importantly, that savoury deliciousness that can raise a boring salad or bland pasta dish to an altogether new level.

    Cheese’s significance in the meat-free diet makes British Cheese Week all the more significant to vegetarians. As we’re celebrating this god amongst foods, it’s worth making a special shout-out out to all the vegetarian cheeses out there.


    Our non-veg readers may be surprised to learn that cheese isn’t always vegetarian. Why? It all comes down to the rennet.

    Rennet is the ingredient in cheese that coagulates the milk, separating it into curds and whey. Many cheese are made with animal-based rennet, an enzyme that comes from the stomachs of calves, lambs or pigs.  Hence, not vegetarian.

    Fortunately, there are huge numbers of British cheeses available made with vegetarian rennet and most producers now label their cheese to indicate the type of rennet it uses (if they don’t just ask).

    One of our favourite veg cheeses is Old Winchester, a hard Italian-style cheese that makes a very fine substitute for Parmesan (Italian law makes it impossible to make Parmesan without using animal rennet and still give it the name “Parmesan”, making this cheese automatically off-limits for vegetarians).


    Another favourite is Spenwood sheep’s cheese made by Anne and Andy Wigmore in Riseley, Berkshire and sold at Neal’s Yard Dairy, which labels all of their cheeses with the type of rennet it uses.

    A trip to the Waitrose cheese counter or your local cheesemonger will reveal that there are loads of wonderful vegetarian British cheeses out there. So in the spirit of British Cheese Week, why not get tasting?

    Got a favourite vegetarian cheese you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments

    Blog post by Monica Shaw