If you follow me on any social channels, it won’t come as news to you that I’ve really been struggling to find delicious vegetarian recipe ideas. What can I say? I’m used to meat forming the central focal point of every meal! So when Sharon Hearne-Smith reached out and offered to have me ’round to her house for some no-cook cooking from her No-Cook Cookbook, I jumped at the chance.
To be perfectly honest, if Charles Manson offered to have me over and cook me lunch, I’d probably say yes, but I was even more excited to drop over to Sharon’s because look at her house. It is so adorable and cute and kitsch (even more so in person) and incredibly tidy considering she’s a Mum. I genuinely struggle to keep my house clean, and it’s just me, My Stephen and our dog – plus, I work from home and we have a cleaner. How people with kids and full-time jobs manage it is beyond me.
Vegetarian recipe ideas in SHS’s house
Anyway, I bussed it over one sunny afternoon in early March (I actually can’t believe I have been vegetarian for two months – I still feel like I’m figuring it out) and joined Sharon in her very well organised (and also very well packed; I believe she has approximately 72 vintage mixers) kitchen to make three recipes from her latest cookbook (her first, No-Bake Baking, is also brill): Ricotta and Almond Courgette Ravioli (pictured above), Quinoa and Spinach No-Meat Meatballs (below) and her Green Cauliflower Rice Buddha Bowl (bottom).
Three recipes, one stomach
Overall, I was surprised by two things. Number one, that I was perfectly happy to eat entirely cold meals. We’re so used, I think, to eating hot lunches and dinners – at least when we prepare them ourselves – that anything cold makes us automatically think “it’s a salad!” when, perhaps with the exception of the buddha bowl, none of these vegetarian recipe ideas was salad-like. Secondly, it was all really straightforward. It definitely requires preparation (at least in terms of getting the ingredients and making sure you have the right equipment) but, once the grunt work is done, it’s more of an assembly job than anything else.
Oh – maybe I should add a third surprise: they were all delicious. The courgette and almond ravioli were my fave – but that may just be because of my cheese obsession. I would happily eat a variation on that buddha bowl every day, and the no-meat meatballs were also really tasty (even if, like everything else in life, I believe the presence of some bona fide pasta would improve them no end).
Sharon, being generous of soul (as well as of food), told me that I could share these vegetarian recipe ideas with you folk – so please find all three below. Do let me know if you try them, and if you ever fancy having me over for lunch, just shout!
QUINOA & SPINACH NO-MEAT BALLS with carrot ‘spaghetti’ & tahini sauce (serves 4)
This super-healthy vegetarian take on spaghetti with meatballs couldn’t be easier to make, using a pouch of pre-cooked quinoa (white, red or mixed), available in supermarkets and health food stores. Kids will love to help spiralise the carrot and roll the balls. For instant gratification, you can also serve the balls as a snack with your favourite dip.
- 1 x 250g pouch of cooked quinoa (in any colour)
- 50g ground almonds
- 1 tbsp tahini paste
- Big pinch of grated nutmeg
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
- Small handful of fresh chives
- 125g frozen spinach, thawed
- 1/2 tsp black or toasted white sesame seeds
- 10g sprouted peas or salad cress
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 75g tahini paste
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp clear honey
- Big pinch of cayenne pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
- 2 large carrots, peeled
Line a small tray with non-stick baking paper and set aside. First, prepare the dressing for the ‘spaghetti’. Place the tahini, olive oil, honey and cayenne pepper in a large bowl with the lemon juice and orange zest and juice. Whisk everything together well and season to taste.
Shred the carrots into long thin matchsticks using a spiraliser, mandolin or julienne peeler. Alternatively, slice into strips with a vegetable peeler. Toss the carrot through the tahini dressing and set aside. Place half the quinoa in a food processor with the almonds, tahini, nutmeg and garlic. Roughly chop the chives and add them too. Squeeze the spinach dry, add it to the processor and blitz to give a fairly fine mixture. Transfer to a large bowl and stir the remaining quinoa through until well combined – this is easiest to do with clean hands. Season to taste.
Using damp hands, shape the mixture into 20 balls (weighing about 20g each). Lay them on the prepared tray as you go. These can be made up to two days in advance and kept covered in the fridge, or they can also be frozen. Pile the carrot spaghetti in the centre of each serving plate and drizzle any remaining dressing over. Arrange the no-meat balls on top. Scatter with the sesame seeds and sprouted peas or cress, and serve.
RICOTTA & ALMOND COURGETTE RAVIOLI with crushed tomato sauce (serves 4)
Because this easy no-cook version of ravioli is made from courgettes, it is gluten-free as well as very low-carb. Yellow courgettes are ideal if you want your ravioli to resemble the real thing, but regular green courgettes work perfectly well. It is important to make the courgette strips as thin as possible so that they stay in shape when folded. You can use ground almonds in the filling if you prefer, but it really is worth going to the effort of blitzing toasted flaked almonds for the extra flavour they bring to the dish.
- 2 large courgettes, preferably yellow
- 25ml extra virgin olive oil
- 100g toasted flaked almonds
- 250g ricotta
- 50g vegetarian cheese, finely grated
- Small handful of fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
- 75g wild rocket
- Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 1 shallot, peeled
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 300g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, quartered
- Large handful of fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
Slice the courgettes into long thin ribbons using a mandolin or vegetable peeler. You need 40 strips in total, at least 12.5cm long. Any trimmings can be used in a stir-fry, soup or salad. Toss the ribbons in a bowl with the oil until evenly coated, and set aside to soften while you prepare everything else.
For the salsa, place the oil and vinegar in a medium bowl. Finely chop the shallot and garlic, add to the bowl and whisk everything together. Season to taste, then toss the cherry tomatoes through. Using a potato masher, roughly mash them up a little so the juices squish out, making a sauce but leaving lots of texture. Finally, stir in the basil. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
Blitz 75g of the flaked almonds in a mini-blender to give fine crumbs. Tip into a medium bowl and add the ricotta, hard cheese and basil. Stir together well and season to taste. This can be made up to two days ahead. Lay two pieces of courgette criss-crossed over each other on a clean board. Spoon a tablespoon (about 15g) of the ricotta mixture in the centre. Wrap the two ends of the bottom piece of courgette over the filling, followed by the other two ends to enclose. Turn the parcel over so it is seam-side down. Repeat to make 20 in total, arranging 5 on each serving plate as you go. If making in advance, place them on a large tray lined with nonstick baking paper. These can be made up to two days ahead.
When ready to serve, spoon the tomato salsa over the ‘ravioli’. Pile some rocket leaves on top, scatter with the remaining toasted flaked almonds and finish with a twist of pepper.
GREEN CAULIFLOWER-RICE BUDDHA BOWL with spiced chickpeas & zingy carrot dressing (serves 4)
A buddha bowl is a healthy but hearty salad of greens, beans and grains. Here, the ‘grain’ is cauliflower blitzed to resemble rice, a tasty, no-cook shortcut that is also carb-free. If you can’t get fresh beetroot, replace with 500g of cooked beetroot from a vacuum pack (not in vinegar). Dried seaweed sprinkles, e.g. dillisk or dulse, can be found in many Asian or health food stores.
- 1 small cauliflower
- 50g kale
- Handful of flat-leaf parsley
- 25g goji berries or dried cranberries 25g pumpkin or sunflower seeds
- 1 x 400g can chickpeas
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 fresh beetroots
- 2 ripe avocados
- 25g sprouted peas or salad cress
- 1/2 tsp seaweed sprinkles (optional)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5cm of fresh ginger, peeled
- 50ml extra virgin olive oil
- 50ml carrot juice
- 25ml apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp almond butter
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
Break the cauliflower into florets and place in a food processor. Remove any hard spines from the kale and add two-thirds of the leaves, reserving the rest for serving. Pick the parsley leaves, add to the processor and blitz for about 30 seconds until the cauliflower resembles rice and the mixture is speckled green. Tip into a large bowl, add the dried berries and seeds, and toss everything together well. Season to taste and set aside.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a medium bowl. Add the oil and spices and toss together until evenly coated. Season to taste.
To make the dressing, finely grate the ginger and place in a screw-cap jar with the oil, carrot juice, vinegar, almond butter, honey and turmeric. Secure the lid and shake until well blended. Season and set aside.
Peel the beetroots and pass them through a spiraliser to give nice curls, or just roughly grate them. Quarter the avocados, discard the skin and stone and cut each piece into slices.
To assemble, divide the cauliflower rice and spiced chickpeas between serving bowls. Arrange the beetroot and the avocado slices to one side. Add a pile of the sprouted peas and the reserved kale, torn into small pieces. Drizzle some of the dressing over the top and serve the rest on the side in a small jug.
Dust with dried seaweed sprinkles if you like, and serve.
For a twist…
Instead of dried seaweed sprinkles, you can simply crumble a nori seaweed sheet, which you’ll find in many supermarkets.
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