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Saturday, 26 June 2010

Grass clippings and boiled cabbage...

Carnivores often shiver at the thought of having to entertain a vegetarian and it can sometimes be a struggle if you don’t know where to start.

From about the age of 10-11 I became a vegetarian myself.  This was a challenge in New Zealand during the 80s and by the time I was close 17 I had largely given up that lifestyle because I had discovered boys and dining out became a bit of struggle!  This was because as a Vedic vegetarian, I did not consume foods that contained meat, fish or eggs. We read labels and avoid a lot of “E” numbers and hidden animal products in emulsifiers and gelatine (but not to the extent of cutting out onions, garlic, mushrooms etc).

Being vegetarian at that age meant that my formative cooking years (by 12 I cooked the family meal several times a week) were vegetarian. Simple  dishes. I did not learn to cook meat until my late teens and didn’t develop this further until I had left home.  That being said, I will often prepare vegetarian meals at home and may not even realise that I have.  My cooking repertoire for me has always contained vegetarian dishes as a force of habit rather than necessity or conscious choice.

My father has maintained this lifestyle however (on religious grounds) and on his recent first visit to see us in Sydney, we were faced, for the first time in a long time that I really had to think about what I could buy, cook and serve. By the end of the weekend I was amazed at how easy it had become since I was a vegetarian and honestly don’t think my husband noticed that we didn’t eat meat from Thursday night until Sunday night.  So if you are new to this diet or are entertaining, here is what we did which might assist you in the future.  Please also note that we are not vegans, Vedic vegetarians revere the sacred cow and milk products feature heavily in our diet.  It’s a good way to start if you are thinking about it so you can phase certain foods out as you go.

How we went...

Friday – Dinner at Govindas Restaurant and Cinema

This now Sydney institution is fantastic for delicious vegetarian/ semi-Indian feast.  Served buffet-style it was a complete win for my Dad (we spent many years in the ISKCON movement).  I won’t bother with giving you details because there are some awesome foodie bloggers out there that have given great reviews of the place.  Think of it like a big steak restaurant for vegetarians! Hearty, hot food, and no fuss.  If you can stay awake after the carbo load take in a leisurely movie in the wonderful loungey cinema room!

Saturday – lunch at home

Breakfasts are easy of course, but as we were expecting guests for afternoon tea (think “feasting” and not Devonshire ;) ) I prepared a quick lunch of a vegetarian burger. The Eatwell Vege burger patties are among our favourite quick food we keep in the fridge for late nights home from work. With some rocket & baby spinach mix, swiss cheese slice (non-animal rennet) and topped with Mrs H.S Balls Chilli Chutney, I could see Dad happily munching away in the living room (to get him out from under my feet! I know what mum means now!). There lots of different options out there for burger patties now and soy meat substitutes are ever increasing.  I was hoping to get the new product Quorn in time for his visit but was unable to source it any of our local supermarkets during his stay.

Saturday - Afternoon Tea

We were really spoiled for choice here and given I hadn’t got home till an hour before we were expecting guests, it had to be quick and easy to prepare.  The good old kiwi lemonade scones were an absolute hit served with Anathoth Raspberry Jam (now available in Woolworths in Australia) and made by Mr T himself who has become quite impressive in the kitchen.  His father-in-law was pretty chuffed! There was a tomato (sweet yellow grape & cherry tomatoes), basil & baby boconccini (again non-animal rennet) for serving on bruschetta (toasted), pumpernickel bread, lavash, babaganouj (smokey eggplant dip), hommous, brie, chilli cheese, dates, figs, feta & kalamatta olive dip,  potato pakora served with tamarind sauce, barfi (Indian milk fudge) & some additional cakes our guests brought over.  It was all washed down with a quite a large pot of Indian spiced tea (masala chai) which really for 8 adults was more than enough but as the sun went down seemed to be the thing that everyone wanted to drink!

Saturday – Dinner

After such an afternoon feast we had to keep it simple and I prepared some simple spinach and ricotta (with toasted pinenuts) triangles served with a fresh green salad. Quick and easy.

Sunday – DinnerSherpa Kitchen

We spent most of the day out and about and decided on an early dinner so that Dad could get to bed early before his flight in the morning.

We headed to a Newtown haunt that promised to have a wide selection of dishes that would meet our vegetarian requirements.  This Nepalese restaurant on King Street Newtown, owned by Chris Robbie, features at extensive and inexpensive menu.  The food is closer in style to the curries enjoyed in Fiji if not a little spicier.  This suited our palette completely.  We started with momocha (dumplings similar to Japanese gyoza) served with a spicy yoghurt sauce, and paneer & vegetable pakoras  which required something a little more enticing than the mint raita they were served with. The jhinege tarkari (prawns) were close to the style that my mother prepares and the goat curry (Khasi ko Tarkari) more than satisfied Mr T’s tastes.  Dad chose a lovely paneer (a type of cheese similar to haloumi) & ginger dish that was slightly sweet with what tasted like tamarind.  After a few hiccups with the service, the food more than charmed and we all were satisfied with the meal.

So while vegetarian diets can seem a challenge to accommodate it really is so much easier than it used to be. The variety is endless and the choices even in a commercial sense are far ahead of where they used to be. And thank goodness for that. It’s good for our planet and our health!

 

*The "grass clippings and cabbage" reference is how my Dad always apologetically describes what he can eat.  He still feels as though he is a burden to people because of his vegetarian diet.

Posted via email from Radhika's posterous

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