We, as a nation, are getting more and more interested in reducing meat in favour of veg. And with a growing appetite (literally) for vegetarian and vegan cuisine, the places you can enjoy filling your plate (and your face) with plants is on the increase.
To get you started, we’ve looked at five hero veggie ingredients, along with some delicious dishes at Westquay where you can try them at their best.
Part of the pea family, mangetout is a young crunchy pod eaten as it is. In fact, its name translates from French as ‘eat everything’. Crisp and juicy, the pods add a welcome bite and texture to salads and stir-fries. They’re naturally sweet, too, so taste delicious with their natural opposite, spice – think chilli noodles.
If you’re a pescatarian, these moreish little pods are also fantastic with fish and all manner of seafood. Or if you’re being flexitarian, they also bring refreshing taste to strong-flavoured meat dishes, such as lamb.
Try this: Tofu harusame glass noodle salad, Wagamama (below)
Yes to yellow
Sweetcorn: delicious when served fresh, this bright vegetable can count towards your five-a-day and is great for those friendly bacteria in your digestive system. Don’t just stick to corn on the cob, though. Try it sprinkled in spicy jackfruit tacos, or toasted as a snack with a cool beer.
Try this: Sweetcorn cakes, Thaikun
This is the year that Middle Eastern cuisine is going mainstream, so there’s never been a better time to try it. Aubergines are a great way to do this as they’re widely used in dishes all over the region, whether simply chargrilled in a salad or forming the basis of a delightfully smoky baba ganoush dip – ideal for pairing with flatbread.
Middle Eastern cuisine not tickling those taste buds? Not a problem! Thanks to the aubergine’s versatility, it regularly features on menus across the globe – from Japan to Portugal.
Try this: Grilled aubergine with garlic tomato sauce, The Real Greek
Red and ripe
While we know tomatoes are nothing new, they are at their absolute best at this time of year. Don’t just think of typical British salad tomatoes either, although they are sweet and delicious when very ripe.
There are plentiful varieties to choose from, such as large beefsteak tomatoes (perfect on veggie burgers). Or plum and cherry tomatoes – ideal for adding refreshing bite to salads and for making into punchy sauces. Bolognese and ragu, we’re looking at you.
Try this: Tomato bruschetta, Carluccio’s (below)
Butternut squash is one of the most versatile veg around. Chopped and roasted, it makes a sweet and substantial addition to salads or atop pizzas, or as part of a breakfast hash with eggs and the still-trendy avocado.
Boiled and laced with butter, butternut makes delicious mash for roast dinners or to top cottage or shepherd’s pies. It’s also used as a base for chilli and curry, and is wonderful stirred through creamy pasta.
And, of course, the place where squash comes into its own is in soups – a chilled spicy gazpacho-style is perfect for summer.
Try this: Rustic butternut squash stew, Bill’s