Vegetarian Dishes


You’re not alone if you suddenly feel stumped when you find you have unexpected vegetarians or a vegan for lunch or supper. No need to fly into a panic though, there are lots of good things that can be whizzed up in minutes if you have a well-stocked larder. A tin of chickpeas can be transformed into a silky hummus in no time. Season generously, sharpen well with lemon juice, add lots of freshly roasted cumin and drizzle with a slick of fruity extra-virgin olive oil. If you happen to have a pomegranate, sprinkle on a few seeds and scatter some coriander or even flat parsley leaves over the top and hey presto, you have a delicious bowl of yumminess to dunk some warm pitta bread. (keep a few in the freezer as a standby).
A little salad of coarsely grated carrot and apple, tossed in a simple dressing of runny honey and a good white wine vinegar, makes a fresh and delicious starter. Add a few toasted hazelnuts or walnuts for extra oomph (Forum Chardonnay vinegar is one of my favourites).
It can be dressed up or down, served as a starter, a side or makes a perfect little bite on a crunchy Little Gem lettuce leaf.
Lentils of every colour are another brilliant must have. Red lentil soup cooks really fast and is deeply satisfying but for a substantial main course, it’s a brilliant idea to make one or other of these recipes and freeze some single portions so you are never caught unawares. These chunky bean stews can be also be used as a side for those who would love a lamb chop or a few slices of pan grilled chicken or duck breast.
I never seem to tire of a lightly spiced black eyed bean stew with chunks of squash or pumpkin, It freezes brilliantly, and you can swap out the pumpkin for cauliflower or broccoli florets or even cubes of cooked potato…
And how about Alison Roman’s Spiced Chickpeas Stew with Coconut and Turmeric, you may well find that this also becomes a firm favourite and you’ll always want to have some in your fridge.  Last but certainly not least, a tomato fondue base is a godsend to have close to hand to use as a filling for an omelette or crêpes, topping for a pizza or a frittata, sauce for grilled halloumi or as a base to add a myriad of other chunky vegetables, spices and chilli and to do your own riffs on for a substantial main course.  Omit the eggy additions and it’s vegan too…I’m never without tomato fondue or peperonata and regular devotees of this column will know those two recipes well.
Hope all of the above will be part of your permanent recipe repertoire from now on. Enjoy…

Carrot and Apple Salad with Honey and Vinegar Dressing

This delicious, zingy salad can be made in minutes from ingredients you would probably have easily to hand but shouldn’t be prepared more than half an hour ahead or the apple will discolour. It’s vegetarian of course, I sometimes add a few toasted hazelnuts or pecans for extra deliciousness. Serve either as a starter or as an accompanying salad for ham or pork with crackling. 

Serves 6

225g coarsely grated carrot

285g unpeeled coarsely grated dessert apple, e.g. Cox’s Orange Pippin if available

salt and freshly ground pepper


2 good tsp pure Irish honey

1 tbsp white wine vinegar


a few leaves of lettuce

sprigs of watercress or parsley

chive flowers if you have them

Dissolve the honey in the wine vinegar.  Mix the coarsely grated carrot and apple together and toss in the sweet and sour dressing.  Taste and add a bit more honey or vinegar as required, depending on the sweetness of the apples.

Take 6 large side plates, white is best for this.   Arrange a few crisp lettuce leaves on each plate and divide the salad between the plates.  Garnish with sprigs of watercress or flat parsley and sprinkle with chive flowers if you have some. Season to taste.

Red Lentil Soup with Turmeric, Masala Yoghurt, Toasted Seeds and Coriander

This soup was inspired by a soup I ate and loved at the Little Fox in Ennistymon in County Clare. I’m not sure how they made it, but here is my interpretation, which I love. It’s made in minutes, really sustaining and super-delicious.

Serves 6

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or butter

225g onions, chopped

2 tsp peeled and grated fresh turmeric

225g red lentils

1.2 litres homemade vegetable or chicken stock

2 tsp pumpkin seeds

2 tsp sunflower seeds

1 tsp each of black and white sesame seeds

a squeeze of organic lemon juice, to taste

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

coriander leaves, to garnish

For the Masala Yoghurt

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

6 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 22cm (3.3 litre) heavy-based saucepan. Stir in the onions, then cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Add the fresh turmeric and cook for a minute or two before stirring in the lentils. Season generously with salt and pepper. Pour in the stock, bring back to the boil and simmer for 6-8 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Meanwhile, mix the pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds in a small bowl with the remaining 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

To make the masala yoghurt, combine the freshly roasted cumin and coriander seeds in a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Stir into the natural yoghurt in a bowl and season with salt, to taste.

Whizz the soup to a coarse purée in a blender or food processor. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice and some more salt and pepper, if needed.

Ladle the soup into wide soup bowls, drizzle some masala yoghurt over the top and sprinkle with the seeds. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve as soon as possible.

Alison Roman’s Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric

One of my absolute favourites – Alison is one of my all time special cooking writers – check her out….

Serves 4 – 6

50ml of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

225g onion, diced

1 x 5cm piece ginger, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ½ tsp ground turmeric, plus more for serving

½ – 1 tsp chilli flakes, plus more for serving

2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 x 400g tin of full fat coconut milk

250ml vegetable or chicken stock

350g of Swiss chard, kale or collard greens torn into bite-size pieces, stalks chopped and added


handful of fresh mint leaves

yoghurt (for serving, optional)

toasted pitta bread, lavash or other flatbread for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add garlic and onion. Season with salt and black pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent and starts to brown a little around the edges, 3-5 minutes. Add ginger and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Add turmeric, chilli flakes and chickpeas, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, so the chickpeas sizzle and fry a bit in the spices and oil, until they’ve started to break down and get a little browned and crisp, 8-10 minutes.

Using a potato masher or spatula, further crush the remaining chickpeas slightly to release the starchy insides (this will help to thicken the stew).

Add the coconut milk and stock to the pot, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stew has thickened and flavours have started to come together, 30-35 minutes. (Taste a chickpea or two, not just the liquid, to make sure they have simmered long enough to taste as delicious as possible).

If after 20 minutes you want the stew a bit thicker, keep simmering until you have reached your desired consistency. Determining perfect stew thickness is a personal journey!

Add green stalks and cook until nearly tender, then add the leaves and stir, making sure they’re submerged in the liquid. Cook a few minutes so they wilt and soften, 3-7 minutes, depending on what you’re using. (Swiss chard and spinach will wilt and soften much faster than kale or collard greens). Season again with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide among bowls and top with mint, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a good drizzle of olive oil. Serve alongside yoghurt and toasted pitta if using; dust the yoghurt with turmeric if you wish.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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