Planning balanced vegetarian meals is a great deal easier than some people believe. A vegetarian food (which excludes meat and fish but includes dairy produce) can easily provide all the nutrients you need; a stricter vegan diet (which excludes meat, fish and dairy produce) can also do so as long as you eat some products that are fortified with vitamin B 12 (such as some breakfast cereals and yeast extracts) or take a B 12 supplement. One of the reasons a vegetarian food is so health-giving is that it includes such a high proportion of fresh fruit and vegetables, which makes it easy to reach the 500 g (1 lb) of fresh fruit and vegetables each day advocated by the World Health Organization. Sometimes people wonder how to put together a vegetarian meal but really there's no mystery about this: a vegetarian meal can be structured in a similar
way to a conventional one except that instead of 'meat and two vegetarian’ you have 'a vegetarian savoury and two vegetarian, with a starter and/or a pudding as well, if you wish. I must say that I don't usually rise to both: during the week we generally just have a main course with vegetables and/or salad and possibly some fruit to finish. But if there's time it is nice to serve a starter and pudding and I've included some of my favourite quick recipes for these.
Storecupboard Essentials< xml="true" prefix="o" namespace="">
The recipes in this book are all simple to prepare and based mainly on fresh ingredients. However, there are certain store cupboard basics that it's useful to have in, such as lemons, onions, garlic and potatoes. Other staples are bread, several types of pasta, plain and self-raising flour, split red lentils, caster sugar and a packet of dried breadcrumbs. Tins of beans are invaluable, as are canned tomatoes - whole plum tomatoes in juice are the best. I like to keep in a bottle of light olive oil for general cooking and a better-quality one for salad dressings, plus a neutral oil such as groundnut for frying. Red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and -my favourite - rice vinegar are also useful, as well as good-quality soy sauce and jars of honey and mustard. I always keep a piece of root ginger in the fridge, plus a supply of butter and some free-range eggs. Now that if s possible to buy beautiful fresh herbs (hurrah!) the only dried ones I keep in stock are bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary and oregano, plus a range of spices including cardamom, chilli, cinnamon (sticks and ground), coriander, ground cumin, mixed spice, whole nutmeg (to grate when required), paprika, turmeric and vanilla pods. Keep a vanilla pod buried in a jar of caster sugar to turn it into delicately flavoured vanilla sugar. Black peppercorns in a grinder and some delicious crunchy Maldon sea salt complete the list of basics.