The vegetarian option

It’s World Vegetarian
Day today and vegetarianism has come a long way from when it was seen as a
fringe movement dominated by ascetic type hippies and when the only alternative
for the vegetarian at a restaurant would be whatever meat menu option there was
minus the meat. However since people have become more and more health conscious
and concerned about how meat is reared and produced, more and more people are
making either a choice to turn wholly vegetarian or at least eat fewer meat
based meals. Restaurants have begun to reflect to this change in lifestyle and
have responded with more creative vegetarian options. Keith Griffin, chef at
Abacus, says “Back in the seventies when I started in the business there was
not much of an option (for vegetarians) at all. Now we have to consider the
vegetarian section more and more when we are creating menus and we always have
at least four dishes as a vegetarian alternative.”

He also thinks that
when you live in a hot climate and eat a lot of meat all the time it can feel
quite heavy.

One of the other
things that has moved vegetarianism on from lentil burgers is the culinary
influence of other countries where vegetarian alternatives are considered the
norm. “If I am eating vegetarian it will be something like a curry that has
lots of flavours and is also satisfying,” says Chef Keith. He also thinks pasta
makes a good base for vegetarian dishes as there are any number of vegetables
and sauces that can be to go with it.

Brad Philips ,chef at
the Brassiere has also noticed a trend towards more vegetarian dishes. “People
are becoming more health conscious in general and eating vegetarian or eating
lighter meals has become the norm,” he says. He thinks that although vegetarianism
was once seen as a minority choice, nowadays people realise that you do not
have to eat meat three times a day for it to be a proper meal. At the Brassiere
they have their own organic vegetable garden which makes a great starting point
for building vegetable dishes. Brad says every vegetable has its own unique
profile which they like to bring out. What they like to do is build up a plate
of ten or eleven different vegetable dishes which will make you remember what a
vegetable should taste like. As a chef, Brad does not think you have to have
meat or fish in a dish to be creative, as it is all about playing about with
flavours. He enthuses too about not hiding vegetables but bringing them to the
fore. For root vegetables he likes to roast them which brings out their natural
sweetness and they can stand alone. He believes vegetarian meals do not have to
be complicated and that with a bit of imagination  you can make very simple, tasty dishes using
a base like pasta. One of his own particular favourites is pickled eggplants
with pasta. “You slice the aubergines and simmer them in a mixture of balsamic
vinegar, olive oil, garlic and a little honey for 45 minutes and then serve
with pasta and shavings of parmesan.” He says the great thing about this mixture
is that it keeps for few days because of the pickling process.

So if you are
thinking of becoming vegetarian or even cutting out meat for a few days it is
no longer considered a strange option and you will be joining the ranks of some
very illustrious people, a list which includes the likes of Benjamin Franklin,
Ghandi, Leonarda Da Vinci and Albert Einstein to name just a few.