I don't know about you, but Paul and I love this time of year in terms of cookery. Our attention turns to all those lovely warming, hearty, tasty, probably too calorific, sauce laden, gravy topped, casserole, stew, and oven baked dishes (i'm now salivating), that aim to provide comfort and warmth, not to mention the extra inches around the waist and man boobs. Sorry about that nugget of too much information, but for men of a certain age who've never seen a gym, it's a reality.
We have a set of recipes that we always go to; some turn out exactly the same each time, some have variations depending on what is available to play with. Some may be constructed entirely from leftovers like the mashed potato omelette that I am famous for (well, in our house anyway), where you simply mix eggs into left over mash, add some grated cheese, and add to already sauteed onions, red/green pepper and frozen peas, and fry to brown the bottom (in a non-stick pan preferably) and grill to finish off. Served with Linda McCartney veggie sausages it makes a quick meal or indeed a fabulous cooked breakfast. These types of dishes give a good amount of nutrition, can be calorie heavy, but aren't eaten everyday.
Other staple dishes in our house include the veggie chili, lasagna, cottage pie, Quorn fillet stew, Quorn fillet fajitas, macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, veggie bolognese, any kind of veggie curry, and all manner of veggie soups. Most of this can be supplemented with fresh salad leaves on the side or extra steamed veg. More importantly, all leftovers are used up. You can even blitz salad leftovers into a soup!
Most people in the UK over a certain age will be familiar with Bubble and Squeak, which is traditionally made with leftover potatoes and cabbage fried up together. We make this on a regular basis usually with any cooked veggies that are available, combined in a bowl, then fried gently in a little olive oil until golden brown and served with whatever protein source you like. The other night we did a bubble and squeak with potato mash, kale, carrots, broccoli, a little grated cheddar and served it with scrambled eggs - delicious and very quick to make. The next time we have leftover mash we will do a little video for those of you who aren't familiar with the concept of bubble and squeak which is named after the noises it makes in the pan as it's cooking.
We do attempt to make our recipes as healthy as we can. We don't fry or saute at too high a temperature and only use small amounts of good olive oil. Our downfall is cheese and portion control. We both have great appetites (we always have had) and find it immensely difficult to resist a second helping of a delicious winter meal. They say you should wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds to allow all the messages of fullness to reach the brain... and the dish will go cold in that time making it slightly less appealing and more likely to be consigned to the fridge for the following day which is the best option. Nowadays, we do have more self control but occasionally we do slip and whoops, the whole lasagna just disappears.
Our new Facebook group Planet Vegetaria is about to launch and one of our goals is to fill it with healthy recipes and ideas aimed at people who are wanting to cut down on their meat intake and eat inexpensively and more ethically. We're not vegan as you know, but over time we may well reach that stage. But for the moment we still enjoy a little fish, cheese, butter and yogurt although we don't use cows milk on a regular basis. If there is a message to be gleaned from the group it would include phrases like - buy local, buy cheaply, shop around, use the smaller stores, be frugal, plan your meals and learn more about nutrition. I know convenience is king when it comes to big families, but if you look back 40-50 years ago, people were managing without any of the modern conveniences we now have, families were larger and children just as greedy. Consumerism, demand and the pursuit of choice will be the end of us. I think it's also worth remembering that cookery doesn't necessarily involve spending hours and hours in the kitchen making complex recipes and this is especially true if you are constructing a dish with leftovers!
We would love you to share your favourite veggie winter dishes with us as the season progresses either here, or on Facebook. I think we can all learn from each other. Home cooked freestyle food is very often the tastiest, especially if the accent is on economy and using up what you already have in the cupboards rather than eating prepackaged, expensive, over salted, over sugared, mass produced "food". This is not food. It's a marketing concept designed to get you to spend money.
...long term partners.