Cooking inspiration for decreasing meat, fish, and dairy consumption.
Going vegetarian or vegan can feel like a huge change to make, from rethinking your standard weekly shop and your favourite go-to recipes to convincing those you eat with to do the same. We've had our own disagreements about it as a family - with several other dietary restrictions and health issues to contend with (coeliac disease, iron deficiency, lactose intolerance), not all of us were keen to further limit ourselves - but we reached a compromise: not full veganism, but a significant reduction in our intake of meat, fish, and dairy, and a commitment to buying locally sourced meat, fish, dairy and eggs when we do.
One of the things that stood out to me most from our conversations was that we kept coming back to "lack of inspiration" as an issue. Phrases like, "but all our favourite meals involve meat or fish", or, "Well I don't know what to cook then, why don't you cook", were thrown around often. It can be time-consuming to find new recipes to love that you want to eat again and again as part of your weekly repertoire - but it can be done.
I went dairy-free and massively reduced my meat intake while at university in my final year, and during that time I accumulated a fairly broad variety of dishes that I love, which also provide iron, protein, and calcium. Since lockdown, I've been sharing a lot of these with my family. And, with the extra time that lockdown has given us to experiment with our cooking, as a family we've slowly been adding to that list.
In light of this, I want this space to be more of a database than a traditional blog post, and I will be updating it semi-regularly, using it as a way to keep track of and share some of our family's absolute favourite vegan and vegetarian recipes. For those of you out there struggling to find exciting meatless meals to replace or eat in-between the ones you already love, this is for you.
Note: Where recipes from cookbooks are unavailable online I've either written my own or found as similar a recipe to the original as possible, and have included a link to the cookbook. I've included notes on how to make recipes dairy and gluten-free if they are not.
Another important note: I intend to update this page regularly. If you have your own favourite vegan and vegetarian recipes to share, please get in touch with me! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
From Vegan Japaneasy by Tim Anderson
This is a surprisingly filling dish which is absolutely packed with umami flavour and is so easy to make. You can use instant seaweed dashi powder for the base broth if you can find it, but I really recommend making the triple seaweed dashi instead if you have the time. We bought our wakame, kombu, and nori in bulk bags online, and they've lasted us ridiculously well. *Gluten-free note: A lot of miso paste isn't gluten-free, so we recommend using Clearspring miso paste which we absolutely love (no, we're not being paid to say that, we just love it ).
This is so unbelievably quick to make; it requires zero cooking time and nothing more than the simple ingredients listed, a fork, and a bowl. With chickpeas, raw red onion, cumin, and lemon as main flavours, what's not to love? It's like a spicy, citrusy, delicious, middle-eastern open sandwich.
*Gluten-free note: you can serve this on gluten-free pita or flatbreads, but good gf versions of these things are very hard to find. If you have time, I'd always recommend making your own.
From A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones
Quite honestly, the soy, garlic, chilli, ginger and lime dressing makes this salad; I could drink it on its own it's so delicious. Because of that, the salad works pretty well with almost any salady substitutes you want to make to the base of it.
All-in-all, this is a pretty quick recipe, barring only the lime and grapefruit de-pithing. While it isn't essential, de-pithing the lime and grapefruit to put directly into the salad in segments gets you every last drop of citrus goodness, without any of the bitterness, if you're willing to invest the time.
By Helen Francis
This is a homemade recipe by my boyfriend's mother, Helen Francis. Deciding that she didn't much want or like carrot and coriander soup, she threw together some of what she had in the fridge and created this delicious recipe. Smooth, spicy, and surprisingly refreshing, this is a carrot soup with a twist that I absolutely love. It makes for a very quick lunch recipe, and you're likely to have plenty of leftovers.
Evening Meal Recipes
I'm linking a few different recipes for this one. I love them all equally, but they're very different in texture and flavour.
1. Thai Green Curry with Spring Vegetables by Cookie and Kate. I've made this countless times and am always surprised by how quick it is, and how filling it is (though I sometimes chuck-in the odd mushroom to pad it out). I like to cut the onion, asparagus and carrot into long, thin strips for texture, and I occasionally add some other greens into the mix like courgette.
2. Thai Curry with Aubergine and Tofu. This recipe uses tofu and aubergine for its filling elements and is my own take on a Thai green curry that doesn't require buying or making your own Thai green curry paste. A lot of the ingredients usually included in Thai green curry paste are instead cooked into this curry, giving it a really fresh taste. You can marinade the aubergine and tofu in the sauce before roasting to give it even more flavour.
3. Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry by Nisha Vora, from Rainbow Plant Life. This is a super simple Thai-style curry with that perfect blend of spicy, sweet, sour and umami flavours. Boosting the Thai curry paste with extra ginger and lemongrass really gives it that aromatic punch that I love in a Thai curry, and the butternut squash is the perfect smooth and creamy texture to pair with the chickpea chunkiness.
Again, I have multiple recipes for this depending on what kind of flavour you want.
1. This BBC Goodfood Kadala Curry recipe is one of my absolute favourites; I make it again and again and no-one ever seems to get tired of it. The rich garam masala and cumin flavour at the heart of it makes it the perfect warming, filling, evening meal.
2. As an alternative, this Aubergine, Chickpea and Tamarind Stew based on one from the Leon cookbook has similar ingredients to the kadala curry, but centres around the tangy sweet-and-sour flavour of tamarind paste instead, which complements the tomatoes and aubergine beautifully.
I serve both of these with plain rice.
This Waitrose recipe was as close as I could possibly get online, but it's a pretty close approximation in terms of the ingredients involved. This is a beautifully rich and citrusy curry, and the red lentils take on a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth kind of texture when simmered gently for long enough. I serve mine with rice and a wedge of lime.
Ok, this is going to sound completely nuts, but this is an absolutely incredible vegan replacement for steak. The portabello mushrooms are huge, about the size of a slice of steak when roasted, and have a great meaty texture. Although the sauce is a little thick to be mistaken for a light gravy, the coffee and salty miso flavours do an amazing job of simulating beef. It's unbelievable. I like to serve this with mashed potatoes. Be warned: if you're not used to drinking caffeinated coffee at night you might want to use de-caf; we all ended up pretty wired at 10 pm the first time I cooked this one!
If you're looking for a vegan replacement for a meaty taco night, these recipes are my favourites.
2. Cauliflower & Black Bean Tacos, also by Izy Hossack. These tacos have a meatier texture and more heat to the smokey flavour. Served with pumpkin seeds and a wedge of lime, it makes for a delicious combination of flavours.
3. Sweet Potato and Chipotle Bean Tacos with Chunky Avocado Salsa, by Jo Pratt. This recipe has sweet potato and kidney beans as its base and gets its smokiness and spice from the chipotle paste. If you want to make this one vegan but still want a sour cream style topping, you can try making your own vegan sour cream, or use non-dairy yoghurt.
*For gluten-free versions, use gluten-free corn tortillas as your taco base.
This is an extremely easy meal to make, and minimizes washing-up - all you need is a roasting tin! Packed with protein and flavour, this recipe makes a perfect replacement for chilli con carne; a super low-effort chilli sin carne, if you will. You can add whatever additional toppings you like to this, but the spices and mushrooms provide more than enough deliciousness to compensate for any lack of dairy. If you're craving a little extra creamy tang though, serve with a bit of (non-dairy) yoghurt.
I love the combination of spiced cauliflower and rich tahini and lemon dressing in this recipe. It's an incredibly easy meal to make, with barely any preparation needed and only a roasting tin required.
For a lighter meal, you can eat this as it is, as a warm salad for lunch or dinner, but if you want a more filling option serve it with flatbreads, rice, or potatoes.
There are a lot of different daal recipes out there, but this one is a firm favourite of mine. It's a super low-effort roast-in-the-oven affair and is wonderfully zesty thanks to the lime and pomegranate flavours. The red lentils, when roasted for this long, melt in your mouth. When cooking the recipe for more than 4 people, I recommend making sure your roasting tin is very deep and using slightly less than the proportionally correct amount of boiling water, otherwise it gets very full, making it tricky to transfer in and out of the oven.
Miso Roast Aubergine with Vegetable Rice
There are so many different things you can do with miso roast aubergine, but I'm going to share a family recipe we developed together over lockdown, that has become one of our favourite quick evening meals to cook.
It's super simple and full of smokey aubergine and umami flavours. Really, all it involves is whacking some aubergine in the oven and setting some veg and rice to cook.
*Gluten-free: make sure you use gf miso paste.
From BOSH! Simple Recipes by Henry Firth & Ian Theasby
This one is a little bit more time-consuming than a lot of the recipes I have on here, but it's so, so good. If you're cooking a special dinner sometime in the autumn or winter months, I really recommend this one as a rich, flavourful, filling evening meal of many layers.
*Gluten-free: make sure you use gf miso paste and gf lasagne sheets (the Morrisons free from ones are surprisingly good).
By Jamie Oliver
There's nothing quite like a classic ratatouille. Jamie Oliver's "super easy" rating doesn't lie - this one practically cooks itself, and it's delicious.
Don't skimp out on the balsamic vinegar, thyme, basil, or lemon; they really add depth and lightness to the tomato-heavy flavour.
We like to serve this one with rice, but it could easily go just as well with a big chunk of fresh bread.
By Yotam Ottolenghi
We made this for one of our birthdays and OH MY is it a flavoursome recipe. As with many of Ottolenghi's recipes, it's a little more involved than a simple half-hour quick vegan dinner, but the mushroom, chestnut, salsa, and spice flavours are absolutely beautiful together and well worth the extra bit of effort.
By Nisha Vora, from Rainbow Plant Life
The lentils in this are absolutely incredible. They are packed with enough umami flavour and powerful richness that you won't miss meat mince for one second.
If you find yourself at the end of summer with some of those courgettes that were hiding under the leaves, and which are now far too big to be called anything resembling a courgette, this recipe would also be fantastic for vegan stuffed marrows.
The only thing about this recipe that I would change is that the sauce is a little thick and rich, so I personally would add a little bit of lemon juice to freshen it up and cut through the thick texture of the tahini. I serve this one with a little bit of rice and a fresh, green salad.
By Nisha Vora, from Rainbow Plant Life
Smokey white bean stews are something that I absolutely love, but this recipe is - I think - a cut above the rest. It has that rich, smokey, paprika-tinged deliciousness to it, but the lemony gremolata topping really makes this dish into something more - giving it extra layers of flavour. I didn't bother using an instant pot for this recipe, so I just logically followed the steps of: onion, garlic and potato, spices, broth and herbs, tomato sauces, and then celery and white beans (if you're using the tinned kind) in towards the end so that they retain a bit of crunch. I also let it simmer for much longer - about 45 minutes with a lid on it - and added extra paprika.