I've always been a wannabe vegetarian, lasting just three months as a pescatarian (seafood-eating vego) before a roast lamb undid me!
But I do try to avoid red meat, as yummy as it can be, and in my quest to do better, I'm starting 'meat-free Monday' posts, featuring some author pals. Melbourne's Madeline Ash (pictured), who has had an amazing TWO books up for romance awards recently - Her Secret Prince and You For Christmas (both with Tule Publishing) - kicks things off...
Hi, Madeline. How long have you been vegetarian, and what inspired you to make the change?
I’ve been vegetarian for almost 10 years. I was inspired by a few things. Initially, it was the poor treatment of animals destined for the table. I’ve seen some horrifying videos, and I didn’t want to support that human behaviour or the meat industry by purchasing the product. I know some smaller farmers care for their stock, but since I couldn’t guarantee that all meat I ate had been treated well, it sat better with me to avoid it all.
There were also the environmental issues (so much deforestation to make land for cattle grazing), and the sustainability issues with animal agriculture – we don’t have enough land to support the current growth rate of the meat industry into the future. JD Robb’s In Death series has it right when most characters have to eat soy in the future and steak is a luxury! I’m actually slowly transitioning to veganism (haven’t figured out chocolate yet) because dairy cows pose the same issues. There is space for us all to live on a plant-based diet :)
Your favourite go-to vegetarian dishes?
I fall back on the Quorn product range a lot, available in the frozen section of most supermarkets. They have meat-free mince, diced 'chicken' pieces, schnitzels, nuggets, sausages, and more. I can make bolognaise with the mock-mince or a stir-through 'chicken' dish pretty quickly on a work night. It’s a great range that’s starting to release more vegan products, too. The schnitzels are my favourite, served up with veggies and roasted potato!
I also love red lentil, carrot and tomato soup (with onion, garlic, ground cumin and coriander). It’s so quick, full of protein, and yummy. Or a proper veggie soup with lentils when I have more time.
Mexican is also handy for weeknights. I’ll admit to cheating with the Old El Paso range: refried beans, Mexican beans, taco shells, salsa, and some fresh veggies. It’s got protein with the beans, and goodness in the lettuce, tomato and avocado. Yum!
Ever snuck a vegetarian character or recipe into a story you’ve written?
I used to do it all the time before I was published. I couldn’t write a non-vego character. Now I just don’t focus much on what my characters eat, and it’s easier that way! As for a recipe…I had a character cooking a vego chili at one point – in my head, I knew it was my boyfriend’s recipe, so they were in for a good meal :)
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Carla. I hope you enjoy the kidney bean curry, if you have the chance to give it a go!
Madeline's Ramja Masala (Kidney Bean Curry)
Ramja masala is a spiced, creamy and popular Punjabi curry, made with kidney beans.
I adore this recipe, recommended by my cousin-in-law who cooks amazing curries. I’ve always found it hard to replicate the depth of flavour found in dishes from Indian restaurants, but this one nails it. You might be thinking that a curry made primarily from kidney beans must be boring beyond belief, but trust me on this. You can also add veggies for variety.
I will often double this recipe when cooking for a group (and leftovers are never a bad thing). Feel free to go a little heavy on the spices – I’m a chronic over-spicer when it comes to garam masala and ground coriander!
2 cans of kidney beans, strained and rinsed
2 brown onions, diced
4 tomatoes, diced
4-6 garlic cloves + 2 inches ginger + 2 green chilies = crushed together into a paste (either using a mortar and pestle, or a bar mix). You’ll end up with 2 TBS paste.
3 tsp ground coriander
¼ to ½ tsp red chili powder
½ to 1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground fenugreek
2 TBS olive oil or 3 TBS butter (if vegan, use nondairy alternative)
5 TBS cream (if vegan, use cashew cream*)
Salt as required
*Cashew cream: If you want to make this recipe vegan; soak ¼ cup of cashews in water just before you start cooking. When ready to add cream, drain cashews, then add a fresh ¼ cup of water and blend together. Stir this through as a cream alternative.
Heat the butter/oil on low heat. Sauté the onions until they are caramelised or golden-brown. Take care not to burn them, or the curry might become bitter.
Add cumin seeds and cook until they begin to crackle.
Add ginger-garlic-chili paste (if you made more than 2 TBS, you might still want to add it all), stir in and sauté for 30 seconds on low. Add the diced tomatoes (this might seem like a lot of tomatoes – just do it). Sauté for several minutes until the tomatoes become soft.
Add all of the ground spices: turmeric, red chili, coriander, fenugreek, and garam masala. Stir and sauté for a minute or two, then add the kidney beans. Stir for a minute to mix together.
Add 2 cups of water and desired salt (I usually add ¼ tsp).
Simmer with the lid off for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. We want those kidney beans to be soft and full of flavor, so when it starts sticking, add more water. The end result should not be watery, but more of a thick gravy. To help thicken the curry, you can mash some of the kidney beans.
When you are happy with the consistency of the curry, stir in the cream. Simmer for another minute or two.
Serve curry with steamed rice or naan (I love garlic naan). I also serve with steamed green veggies, but that’s less authentic!
Finding my inner peasant...