I’ve been eating almost entirely vegetarian for a few months now, and haven’t prepared a single meat-containing meal at home in almost half a year. I wouldn’t call myself by any means an expert in vegetarian cooking – I’m a decidedly average cook by all accounts – so I’m not sharing meal ideas because I think my food is all that great. The reason I’m doing this is because, especially when I was first transitioning to more meatless meals, I just found it really hard to come up with ideas for what to make. Maybe that displays a tragic lack of culinary imagination! I don’t know. But I thought, just in case there are those among you who feel the same as I did, I’d assemble a week’s worth of meals which might help spark inspiration.
I’m not going to go into a whole week of breakfasts, because I don’t do much of interest for food in the morning. After a workout, my favourite breakfast is Skyr, peanut butter and muesli. A nice hit of protein, and the combination of textures and flavours means it’s never boring.
Sometimes, if I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I’ll have a smoothie. A handful of spinach and a banana are my go-to base, then I’ll chuck in some frozen fruit (don’t ask Lewis about our freezer full of half-finished bags of frozen fruit) and top it up with water.
Enchiladas are a great way to start the week. We used to do these with chicken, but one of the first things we did as a kind of tentative nods towards eating less meat was ditch the bird in favour of more beans. We’ve experimented with different bean combinations in our enchiladas, the current go-to is two tins of black beans and one of adzuki beans. We make six of these in a batch, which means one evening meal and two days of lunches, so it’s a nice way to start the week.
Sweet-potato and bean chilli has become a staple in our house. When we make it we steam the sweet potato chunks first and then part-mash them when they go into the bean mix. This gives a nice thick texture to the chilli, which I’m a fan of. I’m also a fan of eating these with tortilla chips in place of a fork, because who says vegetarian food has to be healthy?!
This almost feels like cheating, but it is a meal and it is vegetarian so I’m technically within my own rules. A bean burger and some assembly of roast veg and/or wedges (depending on how healthy I’m feeling) may not be the most inventive meal in the world, but I have it so often that I’d feel like a fraud not including it in my list of meals for the week. Is it the most exciting vegetarian option available? Clearly not. But it involves next to no prep or washing up, and sometimes that’s just more important than coming up with something interesting!
If you do want to fancy it up a bit, you can swap out the bean burger for a soy-based steak substitute. They haven’t quite mastered the texture on these yet, at least not in any of the ones I’ve tried, but they taste pretty meaty and they make for an interesting change.
Sometimes, when you’re coming up to the end of the week, you just need something quick and easy. I love a stir-fry, and when you combine instant rice packs with frozen stir-fry veg and a soy chicken substitute you can have a delicious and (reasonably) healthy meal ready to go in less than fifteen minutes. The dream, right? Plus, the next-to-no prep means next-to-no washing up. Double plus, it’s easy to make enough for lunch the next day if you need leftovers. What more could you possibly want?
Since going veggie (or veg-ish at least) I’ve developed an intense love of Linda McCartney’s vegetarian sausages. I don’t know if there are other brands out there that match up, I’m sure there are if you’re prepared to go looking, but these are brilliant. I like them with beans as part of a vegetarian brunch, or rolled up in bread as a kind of pseudo-hot dog thing, and, now that we’re starting to get back into cold weather, I’ve particularly enjoyed making a kind of vegetarian sausage stew. I typically stew up the potato and other veg for as long as I can be bothered and cook the sausages separately, adding them to the rest of the mix for the last fifteen to twenty minutes.
My absolute favourite meal in the world is spaghetti bolognese. It’s my ultimate comfort food, I ate it at least once a week all through university, and the idea that I’ll never eat it again is the main reason I’ve never outright said that I’m going vegetarian for good. This is… not quite the same as my beloved spag bol. But we call it spag veg, and it’s pretty flipping tasty in its own right. Sometimes I like to make it fancy with fresh basil and/or a bit of red wine, but at a minimum it’s a simple case of making up the tomato sauce and then tipping in some soy-based mince substitute. I loathe and despise Quorn, but luckily there are a bunch of other options now – I’ve actually had a lot of luck with Tesco’s own brand meat substitutes, so if you’re in the UK that might be worth a look.
Let’s finish up with a classic: jacket potato. My favourite topping for these has always been cheese and beans anyway, but I’ve recently discovered the joys of baked sweet potato with some simple bean chilli on top. And cheese, because I’m still a total sucker for cheese. In a lot of supermarkets you can get a tinned bean mix in spicy tomato sauce, which makes a great topping for a jacket potato without needing anything much added to it.
So there you have it – a week in my kitchen!
I recognise I use a lot of fake meats. I used to be of the opinion that vegetarian products masquerading as meat were inherently dishonest, and why not just eat chicken if you want something that tastes like it? Now that I’m actually trying to reduce or eliminate meat from my diet though, I appreciate them immensely. They’re an easy way to get a variety of textures in a dish, as someone who doesn’t have the patience to cook vegetables in a bunch of different ways. They’re also a convenient way to hit protein goals. I do sometimes cook with tofu, but I’m not very good at it, and I’m easily put off food so I prefer to go with something that delivers a consistent result despite my culinary ineptitude.
If you have vegetarian meal recommendations to share, I’m always keen to try new recipes – let me know what your favourites are in the comments below!