Meals you’ll go nuts for

Meat-free dishes that tick the quick and tasty boxes as well as being suitably frugal and healthy for January


If I were the betting type, I’d say the odds would be pretty short on at least two things right now. Firstly, chances are that after the meat-fest of the past few weeks, most people are all turkey-and-hammed-out. And secondly, the desire to be virtuous, which almost inevitably accompanies New Year, will mean that at least some of you have made a promise to yourself to eat less meat and more vegetables in 2014.

Regular readers will know that I’m a champion of vegetables. I sometimes like to think of myself as standing on the culinary sidelines, cheering them on like a crazed soccer mum on a rainy night – and occasionally dragging others in to cheer them on.

Though things have improved hugely, vegetables still get a bit shortchanged in Ireland, often playing second fiddle to meat or fish. And much as I love meat, pound for pound, vegetables contain far more nutrients and, when treated properly, taste great too. I like to celebrate them as the star of the meal, rather than the under-study.

Nut loaf is something that does just that, but with the added meatiness of nuts. Most people will associate nut loaf with Christmas – the option usually adopted for visiting vegetarians – but the recipe I’ve included this week is so good you’ll not only want to save it for next Christmas, but also enjoy it during the year.

This recipe is the result of much experimenting over the past few months, and it’s now on the menu in one of our cafes. And proving popular too. It’s full of flavour, gluten-free, and so moist it doesn’t even need gravy.

The stuffed peppers are another substantial vegetarian main course. I think the key to vegetable cooking is texture as well as flavour, and this dish has it all, thanks to the chestnuts, so if you’ve some left over after Christmas, use them up in this recipe and you’ll like it so much you’ll want to cook it again and again. You can make it vegan if you omit the egg and cheese and it will still be very tasty.

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