Last week was a great week with lots of fun in the kitchen. I was rustling around with pots and pans and creating new recipes. When I say 'new', it's more a combination of a number of chefs' recipes to create a specific meal that I have spent time 'playing with', so technically it becomes a new recipe . I have to say that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. In fact, sometimes it's damn right disastrous and you have to call the creation 'Messed-Up Something' instead of what it's supposed to resemble.
Back to this week when I was made to ponder hard about what to name a new (to me) dish, specifically a new vegetarian dish when one of my clients pointed out that they had spent some time over their evening meal of 'Aubergine Meatballs with tomato sauce and spaghetti' debating if there was really any meat in the meatballs and if there wasn't, why were they called meatballs?! Of course, as my client and her husband are vegetarian and I had supplied the supper, they (and I) knew that there wouldn't be any meat in the dish but in naming the dish, I'd clearly tried to point clients in the direction that would detail what the dish was similar to, rather than perhaps what it actually was. I know that my 'Aubergine Meatballs' are a vegetarian substitute for my classic 'Italian Meatballs' which sort of makes the dish seem to play second fiddle. This is when I started wonder if I should really be trying to create a substitute or should I simply be relishing in how exciting vegetarian cooking can be?
In short, I have decided going forward that my vegetarian dish names will be reflective of what they are, henceforth my Aubergine Meatballs will now be called 'Aubergine Vegballs' because that's exactly what they are!
But interestingly, and of course back to my first point, the weight lose which there has been some; as the clothes are looser; has to be from the change in diet to a mainly vegetarian (or flexitarian) routine. In fact, cooking vegetarian can create some great meals and with a much shorter investment of time - you don't need to marinade overnight and you simply use a great deal more fresh herbs and spices to intensify and enhance the flavours of the dish.
I won't give away too many of my dishes and the 'Aubergine Vegballs' are definitely now a family secret. But something that I did spend some time creating; and then had for lunch two days running, was a lovely Vegetable Tagine. So here goes nothing by offering up the recipe. Try it, as you'll be amazed by the texture and the flavours, it doesn't replace meat but it is lovely and warming.
This recipe took me 35minutes from start to finish - you can refine the sauce, making it thicker by adding a flour of some description or by cooking for longer. But for me, I like to cook the night before, and have found that like Chilli Con Carne, the next day the dish tastes even better.
Onwards and stop blathering I hear you say. This serves easily four people with big appetites but could stretch to six people if you add a side dish and I've included one here.
I have to say though, whilst on a walking holiday in the Atlas Mountains (Morocco) a few years ago, I really never thought I would be able to eat a Tagine again, as we ate either a chicken, vegetable or some sort of meat version morning, noon and night. But like everything, it has its phases - just don't OD on how easy they are to make!