The second in our look at vegetarian dishes is all about main courses and what you can achieve with different ingredients and maximising texture combinations.

According to data produced by the NHS, “It’s estimated that around 2% of the UK population is vegetarian, which is more than 1.2 million people. Teenagers make up the highest proportion. Vegans are thought to make up less than 1% of the population, according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.”

It goes to show that there is indeed a call for greater variety with a food market that is looking for new and exciting ways to maximise food production in this country. The UK is one of the biggest agro-farming nations in the West and with some forecasts showing how local farming communities will be impacted after Brexit, it is more important than ever that we consider buying local and buying seasonal when it comes to our food supply.

So what great mains dishes can be created for a vegetarian menu and what things should we be looking out for? Here are just some ideas.

When it comes to luxury, is there anything more delicious than a well made risotto? As a dish on its own, it is regarded as a champion of Italian fine dining. Gualtiero Marchesi, Italian pioneer of fine dining made a name for himself when he created the gold leaf risotto, it is still spoken of to this very day. (It could even be done vegetarian style as long as you changed the broth mixture.)
veg mains 2
“It is the flexibility you have with risotto that makes it a truly brilliant dish for mains and for lots of different diets.” Chef Antonia. “From vegetarian friendly cheese to a wild assortment of vegetables and even fruit, you can make risotto with all sorts of different ingredients. The things to look out for are freshness of ingredients and complying textures.”

There are some great recipes out there, three we found on Delicious.com have some great flavour combinations, they are, Mushroom and spinach pearl barley risotto, Mushroom and taleggio risotto, Squash blue cheese and sage risotto. The best thing is that these ingredients are available all year round and the mushroom risottos can be made with wild mushrooms as well. (Naturally, if you don’t know how to forage for wild mushrooms, stick to market varieties.)

If risotto is the king then pasta is the queen of main courses, especially when you consider the flavour combinations and the different cooking methods as well.

Dried pasta
Dried pasta acts differently to fresh pasta. It’s not just cooking time but the kinds of sauces that you need to create also have an impact. You can afford to go for thinner sauces and work with other dried ingredients. A midnight favourite is Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with oil and chili) and it’s all of four ingredients. A simple tomato sauce with dried pasta works just as well, to get it right though can be confusing so here’s a simple recipe that we think everyone should have saved to their favourites.

Fresh Stuffed Pasta
From cheese stuffings to meats (we know that’s not vegetarian), freshly stuffed pasta is a great meal by itself. Accompanied with a simple yet effective sauce however and it turns into something spectacular.

veg mains ravioli

These two ravioli recipes are simple and just with one ingredient change can make two very distinctive recipes.
Squash & ricotta ravioli by Jamie Oliver and Ricotta and basil ravioli by Delicious magazine show how you can take advantage of simple flavours and make two distinct dishes.

There are of course dishes made with fresh pasta but they deserve their own slot at a later date.

Pies and tarts
Raise your hand if you love pies… Well, naturally. The best thing is that nowadays you can buy store ready pastry that is vegetarian friendly and makes life so much easier in the kitchen.

Pies and tarts can be done in so many ways, so it’s no surprise that there are so many recipes for just this area. Take for example another Jamie favourite in the house, Sage, leek & mushroom pie, it has bags of flavour and is very easy to prepare. These ten minute food wonders really are a great way to mix up vegetables and even pre-cook for things like picnics, Mediterranean veg, pesto and goat’s cheese tarts are just lovely.

Then there are also these two great bakes, Charred asparagus, pea shoot and butter bean tart and Spring onion tart which maximise minimal ingredients for ultimate flavour.

We’ll be covering more mains ideas tomorrow, but the advice from our executive chef is simple, “find good ingredients, and play with different flavour combinations. Seasoning is important with vegetables, but that is half of the battle won. Everything else, just experiment and try with different flavours to see what you can achieve.

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