If certain factions of the internet are to be believed, a vegetarian’s diet consists of nothing but rabbit food and a whole lot of salad. But if you ask us, that’s a big old myth — and luckily for you, we’re in the business of myth-busting.
In actual fact, plenty of traditional foods from around the world are effortlessly vegetarian — no shoe-horned substitutes required. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the most delicious meat-free dishes there are, to dispel any doubts you might have about veggie dining. Here are four traditional plates that are leaner, greener, and every bit as delicious as meat.
Lasagne alla Norma
Italian food is one of those traditional cuisines that comes tied up with a whole lot of etiquette — there’s to be no oil in the pasta water, no pineapple on pizza, and certainly no ketchup sullying your spaghetti strands. But when it comes to lasagne recipes, Italians aren’t married to the idea of including meat.
Instead, the experts from Pasta Evangelists explain, “there are many regional takes on this Italian staple using a range of seasonal ingredients”. Among which, they continue, is lasagne alla norma — which sees Sicilians “swap ragù for roasted aubergine to create a delicious vegetarian-friendly option.”
So, if you’re looking for a spin on a classic, belly-filling family meal, look no further than combining quintessentially Mediterranean ingredients like tomatoes, basil and ricotta with layer upon layer of aubergine goodness. This lighter take on a tray of hot, cheesy pasta is perfect for the summertime — and provides a welcome splash of color to any lunch spread.
If you’ve visited street food markets in Turkey, Israel, or even just some of the trendier parts of NYC, you’ll be more than familiar with falafel. This veggie protein option is packed with the flavors of the Middle East, having likely originated from Egypt. Nowadays, it’s usually made with fava beans, dried chickpeas, or both — bound together into a satisfying little patty or ball.
What you may not have known, however, is that it’s surprisingly straightforward to make your own falafel at home. By blending together a medley of chickpeas, shallots, flour, parsley and seasoning, you can have a falafel paste together in mere minutes.
Once you’ve prepared your base mix, it’s just a case of frying it up and enjoying it with salad and pita, or a selection of traditional dips. On that note, why not try your hand at a simple tzatziki recipe?
Depending on where you’re from, one delicacy that you might not have trialled on home turf is Georgian khachapuri — unless of course you’re from Georgia. Khachapuri is the national dish of the country, and what a dish to boast about — a warm, boat-shaped leavened bread filled to the brim with cheese.
Khachapuri is a proud staple food of the eastern-European land, and has a national day celebrated on the 27th of February each year. The bread even provides a socioeconomic function, too — its pricing is used as a measure of inflation between different Georgian cities, known as the ‘khachapuri index’.
Khachapuri is made a bit like pizza dough, baked until puffy, soft and chewy in a large oven. Traditional cheese like Imeruli or Sulguni is usually added in the middle. If you’re feeling crazy, you can also add other meat-free ingredients for extra flavor, like spinach or an egg over the top.
Sure, a dish with an indulgent name like ‘butter pie’ might sound American — but this one’s actually British. More specifically, butter pie hails from Lancashire, northern England. And in true English style, it’s usually filled with potatoes and onions.
Butter pie is thought to have been first created to satisfy workers from Lancashire’s Catholic community at the end of the working day. LancsLive explains that traditional Catholics “abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent and on Ash Wednesdays as part of honouring Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his crucifixion” — and so butter pie became the traditional fare.
Nowadays, the classic pie is served in and around Manchester, Preston, Blackpool and Blackburn up in the North — and proves especially popular on football match days.
What we’re trying to say is that traditional veggie food is anything but boring. Whether you prefer tasty tomato sauces, spicy fried veg, baked cheesy bread, or a satisfying slice of pie, there’s something for everyone — and it all just happens to be meat-free.