Had a vegetarian over for dinner lately? If the mere thought of it induces panic, you’re not alone. For the omnivores, what to cook for vegetarians can be a tricky question. Since three courses of carrot sticks aren’t an option, we gathered up a few go-to recipes from our chefs at MàZi. Step away from the julienne machine. These dishes are so great, you’ll consider going vegetarian yourself.
Before we get into what to cook for vegetarians, though, let’s get the facts straight. What with lacto-ovo vegetarians, pescatarians and the like, it’s hard to keep track of who eats what!
The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as follows:
“A vegetarian is someone who lives on a diet of: grains, pulses and legumes, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruits, fungi, algae and yeast, and/or some other non-animal-based foods (e.g. salt) with, or without, dairy products, honey and/or eggs.”
Someone who does not eat meat, but who might choose to eat animal products such as eggs and cheese.
Vegan: Someone who does not eat (wear, or use) any product derived from animals (and possibly insects).
Given the definition of ‘vegetarian’, it could be easy to overlook some critical points. First, all seafood – even molluscs such as oysters – are meat, which is off the menu for your vegetarian friends. Second, animal by-products (like gelatine, isinglass and rennet) are off-limits for most vegetarians. These three products are sneaky little buggers. They hide in places you’d never think to look for them. You can find gelatine and isinglass in food such as sweets, jellies and cakes. You can find rennet in some cheeses. For this reason, it’s important to know how strictly vegetarian your guest is. It’s also important to check the ingredients panel of everything you plan to serve.
Why go vegetarian?
A lot of people wonder why on earth anyone would want to become a vegetarian. For those with southern European backgrounds especially, it’s almost incomprehensible.
For most vegetarians, the drivers are moral. Driving their vegetarianism is a belief that killing animals for food is wrong. For Vegans, this extends to farming living creatures for food, ruling out eggs, milk, wool, honey, silk and so on. An increasing number of vegetarians have made their choice based on health reasons. Pursuing a vegetable-based diet has clear health benefits. The Harvard Medical School published the following point:
“Compared with meat eaters, vegetarians tend to consume less saturated fat and cholesterol. They consume more vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium and magnesium. They also consume more phytochemicals (plant chemicals), such as carotenoids and flavonoids. As a result, they’re likely to have lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, and lower blood pressure. It’s also likely that they will have a lower body mass index (BMI). These characteristics are associated with longevity and a reduced risk for many chronic diseases.”
Onto the menu planning
Now that we have our heads around the ‘what’ and ‘why’, we can get on with the business of cooking. When considering what to cook for vegetarians, there are two options. One is to cook a full vegetarian meal for everyone. The second is to cook a meal that would normally contain meat, but to put the meat in last. Both of these options can be winners on the taste front. Which way you go all depends on whether your carnivores are of the cooperative variety. Whether they’re out-numbered by the vegetarians is another consideration. Majority rules!
Option 1: The full vegetarian meal
This makes the vegetarians happy, but you run the risk of putting everyone with carnivorous tendencies off-side. This is particularly the case for the type of person who has a side-dish of steak with their Nutrigrain in the morning.
If you go down this route, the trick is to ensure that the meals are on the hearty side. Culinary sleight of hand is also encouraged. We defy anyone to tell one of Linda McCartney’s soy-based sausages apart from your butcher’s finest. Likewise, when you blend avocado with dark chocolate, it’s as creamy as custard, without a drop of milk. The following menu is also suitable for vegans.
Entree: Stuffed Mushrooms
Main: Veggie Sausage Casserole
Dessert: Chocolate and Avocado Mousse
Option 2: One dish, two ways
This is the Switzerland of menus for people trying to satisfy both camps. If you’re dealing with fussy eaters, or the CEO of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation is coming to tea, this is the option for you. Separate dining tables are optional. In this approach, the base recipe is the same, but at the last stage you split the dish and add meat to one (or more) of the portions.
Blended families (i.e. vegetarians and carnivores) are able to peacefully co-exist because of this approach, and there are whole websites dedicated to it. Because this menu contains cheese, it’s not suitable for vegans. You’ll also need to ensure that the cheese in the tortellini doesn’t contain animal-derived rennet.
Entree: Classic Bruschetta (with optional buffalo mozzarella)
Main: Cheese Tortellini (with minced beef for non-veggies)
Dessert: Baked Cinnamon Apples with Ice Cream
What to cook for vegetarians: Option 3
“Third option?”, we hear you ask. Well of course there’s a third option. It involves visiting an Indian restaurant and ordering your vegetarian guest some roti and dahl to take away.
Seriously though, having vegetarians as dinner guests needn’t send you into a spin. There are many simple options that will see everyone contentedly rubbing their tummies. But if even the thought of vegetarian dinner guests is way too much, make it simple and head out for dinner. At MàZi, our chefs offer seasonal vegetarian options that you’ll love, regardless of your dietary preferences.
Check out MàZi’s Autumn vegetarian options, marked with a ‘v’ on the menu.
- 12 medium portobello mushrooms (remove the stems and chop the stems finely)
- 1 cup veggie stock
- 1/2 cup wild rice
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (choose non-dairy parmesan if cooking for vegans)
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup brown onions
- 1 stick of celery (chopped finely)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 good pinch of salt
- 1 good pinch of black pepper
- Bake the mushroom tops for 10 minutes at 180 degrees celcius, and set them aside when they’re done.
- Bring veggie stock to the boil and then turn off heat. Add the rice pop the lid on the pot. Allow the rice to sit in the hot water for 40 minutes, and then fluff it up with a fork.
- Saute the onion and celery in a large pan with two tablespoons of the veggie stock. once softened, then add garlic.
- Stir chopped mushroom stems into onion and celery mixture and simmer until softened. Then stir in all the herbs, salt and pepper.
- Stir in chopped cranberries and vinegar, then stuff each mushroom with the mixture. Spoon the parmesan over the top of each.
- Bake the stuffed mushrooms for another 20 minutes then serve warm.
- 8 small vegetarian sausages
- 1/2 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 sticks celery, finely diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 2/3 cup veggie stock
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 good pinch of salt
- 1 good pinch of black pepper
- Following the instructions on the packet, cook the sausages.
- Meanwhile, gently heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, celery and carrots. Cook over a medium heat until soft.
- Pop the rest of the ingredients into the pan, and stir thoroughly. Simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until your sausages are ready.
- Add the cooked sausages to the saucepan, and cook for another few minutes, or until the sauce has reached a nice consistency. Not too runny, not too gluggy. You’ll know it when you see it.
- We highly recommend serving this with a side of mashed potato. For vegetarians, you can make this according to your favourite recipe. For vegans, just< boil up the potatoes as normal, and mash them roughly with some extra virgin olive oil.
- 2 large avocados
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1/3 cup coconut cream
- 150 g vegan dark chocolate (70%), melted
- Extra grated vegan dark chocolate, to serve
- Cut the avocados in half and remove the stone. Spoon the avocado into a food processor. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla, maple syrup and coconut cream. Process for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides and process a further 10 seconds.
- Add the cooled, melted chocolate. Process for 10-15 seconds or until creamy and smooth. Spoon into serving glasses or dishes. Sprinkle grated chocolate on top to garnish. Serve with fresh fruit.
- 4 large ripe tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 8 fresh basil leaves, all torn up in small pieces
- 2 good pinches of salt
- 1 good pinch of ground black pepper
- 1 good-sized baguette, sliced diagonally at a thickness of 1.5cm
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Blanch the tomatoes by putting them in boiling water for one minute. Remove them and allow them to cool, then peel them. Use a paring knife to remove the base of the stem.
- Cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters and squeeze out most of the juices and seeds.
- Preheat the grill in your oven (the top element) and position one rack at the very top of the oven.
- Chop tomatoes, toss them with garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper.
- Stir in the basil, salt and pepper.
- Very lightly brush the baguette slices with olive oil and place them on a baking tray, oil side down. Toast them until they’re golden, but not too brown.
- Arrange the toasted bread on a platter, olive oil side facing up, and spoon over the tomato mixture. Serve immediately so that the bread doesn’t go soggy.
(with minced beef for the non-veggies, serves four)
- 600g cheese tortellini (check ingredients to ensure no rennet)
- 2 cups pasta sauce
- 1/3 cup mascarpone
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- If adding beef to half, 300g lean minced beef
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius while you grease two small baking trays
- Follow the directions on the packet to cook the tortellini, and drain
- Pour the pasta sauce into a large bowl and stir in the mascarpone cheese, parsley, and thyme
- Brown the mince and drain excess oil. Add about 1 1/2 cups of sauce to the beef and stir. Pop just under half the tortellini into the sauce with the beef. Place the rest of the tortellini to the remaining sauce in the bowl. Next, stir each gently until coated (use separate spoons!). Pour the beef mixture into one baking tray and the vegetarian version into another
- Sprinkle the mozzarella and parmesan evenly over the top of each
- Bake until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese melts. Serve while hot
- 2 red apples
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2/3 cup plain flour
- 2/3 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- One good pinch ground cinnamon
- One good pinch of salt
- Vanilla ice cream
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease a suitable baking tray.
- Halve the apples from top to bottom and remove the core with a spoon. Arrange the apple halves in the baking dish with the flesh facing up. Sprinkle a little of the brown sugar and cinnamon over the apples.
- Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt into the melted butter, stirring the whole time.
- Divide the topping between the apples, lightly pressing it down onto the apples.
- Cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 more minutes, or until the apples are soft and the topping has browned.
- Serve with a scoop of ice cream, and a drizzle of honey.