Somewhat to my surprise my heretofore meat eating son Will recently announced his intention to adopt a vegetarian diet being commendably concerned by questions of sustainability and animal welfare. Our household has been casually observing 'Meat Free Mondays' for a year or two now so the concept isn't completely alien but my repertoire of meat free dishes is woefully limited. It has been an interesting learning curve. We have experimented with a variety of prepared meat substitutes such as vegetarian sausages and 'meatballs' as well as tofu – with varying degrees of success. At the time of writing the conclusion seems to be that trying to replicate meaty meals without the meat is a bit of a fools' errand. Most of the time you are better off cooking a decent vegetarian dish. Texture is also key. Happily, Will isn't insisting that we all follow his example but as a family we have more than halved our meat intake with no great sense of loss.
Usually I pay food writers recipes scant attention but not any more. I have belatedly realised there are some great food journalists out there – The Guardian's 'Feast' supplement on a Saturday is a particularly rich source of meat free culinary inspiration. It has been an interesting experience cooking outside of my comfort zone and following new recipes and, occasionally, just winging it. One of my most successful creations to date has been:
Stuffed Tomatoes with Savoury Rice
Large beef tomatoes x 6
Spanish onion x 1
Celery – 2 sticks chopped
Chestnut mushrooms x 200g
Panko breadcrumbs x half cup
Parmesan – quarter cup
Long grain rice x 1 cup
Frozen Peas x half cup
Curry powder x 1 teaspoon
Half a lemon
Hollow out the beef tomatoes retaining the pulp and 'lids' on one side then place them on a baking tray. Finely chop the onion then fry it in olive oil adding the celery and mushrooms to create a soffritto adding the tomato pulp, breadcrumbs, Parmesan and seasoning when the other ingredients are cooked and nicely melded. You then stuff the tomatoes with this mixture retaining any surplus and reinstate the lids. I gave those 35 minutes at 180° and they were nicely cooked through.
I boiled the rice with a teaspoon of vegetable stock and half an un-waxed lemon adding the peas after 5 minutes. I then drained the rice and fried it off in a wok with the left over stuffing mix and curry powder. I then served the tomatoes on the rice as depicted. Ta-dah!
The results were deemed to be 'OK'. Which, as a novice, I'll gladly accept.
Wine wise I think a fruity, unoaked white like this month's Costières de Nîmes 2017 would fit the bill nicely.