Food, Zen's Vegetarian Life

Zen’s Vegetarian Life

I’ve just moved in with a (mostly) vegetarian who has lower standards for food than I do, which means a) I will be doing most of the cooking and b) I guess some of the cooking will have to be vegetarian???

So to explain where I’m coming from on this — you know how families have nicknames or roles for each of the members, like one kid is the baby and one kid is the responsible one, or maybe one kid is sporty and the other is academic, or one kid is the pretty one and one is the plain one? In my family, I am the meat eater. (We all eat meat. But I’m the meat eater.)

Still, as with the other familial roles I listed, it’s something you can outgrow, and I’d say I’m probably one of the most open-minded eaters in the family now — I profoundly enjoy meat when I do have it (which is … most of the time …). But I don’t insist on having it with every meal or anything like that, or feel like I haven’t had a real meal if there wasn’t any meat in it. (Note that I am subject to the influence of, respectively, a) a food culture that finds the concept of vegetarianism so challenging that it has produced restaurants whose metier is serving tofu made to look like fish and b) a food culture that puts tiny prawns in everything. EVERYTHING. See: colorblue‘s sad experience eating instant noodles at a medan selera where nothing didn’t have udang.)

I’m unlikely to become a vegetarian, since my partner is only mostly a vegetarian and doesn’t care if I make stuff for both of us and then add steak to my plate. But I am going to try and report back on my efforts! I foresee my initial forays will be heavy on mushrooms.

Food photos below the jump, hobviously.

Mushroom pasta

I am an impressionable creature and made this because the picture in the recipe was so attractive. Gremolata is just a fancy name for garlic and parsley (flat leaf, not curly, if you please) and lemon zest all chopped together. Unless you have a zester I’m not entirely sure it’s worth the effort — admittedly it adds character to a dish that would otherwise be just mushroom, but OTOH if you have sufficiently strong-minded mushrooms you will not be tasting the gremolata much anyway.

Mushroom bowtie pasta

My picture is not as attractive as the one in the NY Times article! But it was reasonably tasty. I used oyster mushrooms, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and Ordinary White.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Would it have been better with meat in it? Not really. The pasta to mushroom ratio was wrong — the recipe is in ounces so Cephas, who was designated ingredients acquirer, went completely off piste and got about half the amount of mushrooms required. With more mushrooms it would have been great. As it was, it was merely good.


Cheesy casserole-type dishes

These are kind of cheating because I didn’t cook them — merely purchased and ate them for lunch. They are not very beautiful but they tasted beautiful. The first is a vegetarian moussaka, with lentils and aubergines, and the second was a cheese, cauliflower and broccoli bake.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. I guess you have to save 5 out of 5 for chilli pan mee or mee goreng at a mamak restaurant at midnight (yum) or something like that. Something that scales the heights of food joy, you know? These got pretty high up the mountain, though.

Would it have been better with meat in it? No. I might try making the moussaka someday. It was really interesting because the lentils were cooked in spices so they almost tasted like dal, which is not a taste I’m used to in conjunction with the moussaka white sauce. So it was like I was having a half-moussaka half-dal totally delicious mutant hybrid dish.


Mediterranean-ish salad with latke

A lot of random things went into this meal. I had some leftover mushrooms and wanted to use up my red onions, so I cooked that. And then my friend came over with a courgette she wanted to get rid of, so we fried that with garlic. The salad is mainly there as a vehicle for the baby plum tomatoes, which are more expensive than normal tomatoes because they are made of pure deliciousness. They are like sweets but better. I eat them as compulsively as I eat tangy cheese Doritos, which is saying something.

Falafel is because, you know, falafel. The hummus is a caramelised onion hummus which was awesome; the onion imparted a magical sweetness and flavour to the hummus. The egg is a duck egg. I have had salted duck eggs before, of course, but don’t recall having fresh duck eggs. They do taste different from chicken eggs — the yolk is yolkier. If you boil an egg for six minutes you get the yolk to a state of perfection.

The potato latke is because I had read of latkes but never eaten one till I saw this in the shop. Very exciting! It was kind of like a hash brown? I don’t know if latkes are meant to be like hash browns.

Anyway, I was very pleased about both the look and flavour of this vegetarian meal until …

… experimental meatball arrived on the scene.

The courgette-bringing friend had also brought along a Moomin cake tin she’d been given as a present, which she was using to attempt to mold a pile of meat into a Moomin. It came out of the oven broadly Moomin-shaped, but his features were gone. We agreed that the tin was probably better used for cake than meat.

Then we ate the meat.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Would it have been better with meat in it? Actually, not really. I liked the meat and all, but the best part of the meal was the baby plum tomatoes and the hummus.

The interesting thing about the meatball was that it was not very much like a meatball. My friend had put a lot of breadcrumbs into it, which gave it a surprising juicy springiness. Neither I nor my friend had ever had meatloaf, but we agreed that the failed Moomin was probably as close to meatloaf as we would ever get.


What is your favourite vegetarian recipe? If it is not too complicated, I will make it and report back. I do not like cold food or olives, but after years of antipathy am slowly warming to potatoes (rosti is nice!).


One thought on “Zen’s Vegetarian Life

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.