Easy vegetarian meal ideas

It's Meat-Free Week from the 23rd-29th March so what better excuse to go green and try one of our delicious new vegetarian meal ideas

Whether you’re a vegetarian, catering for veggie friends or are just trying to eat a little less meat, our meal ideas will be a guaranteed hit with vegetarians and carnivores alike.

Torta pasqualina

This celebratory Italian Easter pie is made with plenty of spinach, artichokes, ricotta and eggs. The olive oil pastry is simple to make, ideal for novices, and is easy to twist and mould as required. Remember to use a Parmesan-style cheese made with non-animal rennet if you’re serving this dish to vegetarians.

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour, plus extra to dust
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper
  • 450g ricotta cheese
  • 75g pine nuts
  • 2 banana or echalion shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 280g jar chargrilled artichokes in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 450g spinach leaves
  • 50g Parmesan or vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, finely grated
  • Large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 7 large eggs, 3 of them lightly beaten together, 4 in their shells
  • Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling 300g plain flour, plus extra to dust
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 450g ricotta cheese
  • 75g pine nuts
  • 2 banana or echalion shallots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 280g jar chargrilled artichokes in oil, drained and roughly chopped
  • 450g spinach leaves
  • 50g Parmesan or vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese, finely grated
  • Large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 7 large eggs, 3 of them lightly beaten together, 4 in their shells

Method

1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add half the olive oil, a pinch of salt and 150ml warm water and mix to form a dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes, until soft and elastic. Roughly shape one-third of the pastry into a disc and the remaining two-thirds into a larger disc. Wrap both in cling film and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, drain the ricotta cheese in a sieve over the sink for 10 minutes, and toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over a medium heat, shaking often, until golden. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the shallots with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes, stirring, until soft and turning golden. Stir in the artichokes and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cover with a lid for about 1 minute, until just wilted. Remove the lid and turn up the heat to drive off any liquid, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7. Either chop the spinach mixture quite finely by hand and combine with the drained, crumbled ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, the 3 beaten eggs and a good seasoning of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl, or put the same ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times to chop and combine. Either way, stir in the toasted pine nuts to finish.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger pastry disc to make a roughly 40cm- diameter circle and use to line the base and sides of a deep 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Spoon in the filling and smooth the top. Make three deep indents with the back of a spoon and carefully crack an egg into each.

4. Roll out the remaining pastry disc to a roughly 24cm-diameter circle and lay on top. Twist the pastry edges together all the way round to seal firmly. Beat the remaining egg and brush over the pastry. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and bake for 30-35 minutes, until deeply golden.
Rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving or leave to cool to room temperature. This torta goes particularly well with a rocket salad.

Red onion, wheat berry, lentil and pomegranate salad with goat’s curd

Farro, spelt, barley or even wild rice makes an excellent alternative to the wheat berries in this hearty salad.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, peeled and finely sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed
  • 200g wheat berries or grains
  • 120g Puy or Beluga lentils
  • Large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds and 3 tbsp juice
  • 150g goat’s curd (or soft goat’s cheese)
  • For the dressing
  • 1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tsp clear honey
  •  1/4 tsp sumac, plus extra to serve

Method

1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan. Add the sliced onions with a generous pinch of salt and soften over a low heat for 20 minutes.

2. Turn up the heat and fry for another 10 minutes, until the onions begin to crisp at the edges. Add the coriander seeds and cook for 1 minute more. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, put the wheat berries and lentils in a saucepan with 700ml cool water and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce the heat, leaving the berries to simmer for 25-30 minutes, until tender.

4. Drain any remaining water, then cover the pan and set aside.

5. To make the dressing, combine all of the ingredients with the pomegranate juice in a lidded jar and shake vigorously. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

6. Toss the grains and lentils with the dressing, parsley and pomegranate seeds. Top with spoonfuls of goat’s curd, a little extra olive oil and a scattering of sumac.

Four-allium soup

The attention you give the alliums – a full house of sweet onions, shallots, leeks and garlic in this case – as they slowly soften and caramelise is the key to this comforting, richly flavoured soup.

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 600g sweet onions, peeled, halved
  • and thinly sliced
  • 300g banana shallots, peeled, halved
  • and thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and finely sliced
  • (white and pale green parts only)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • 1.2 litres hot fresh beef stock
  • 4 slices French bread
  • 100g Manchego cheese, finely grated
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Method

1. Melt the butter and oil in a large, heavy-based lidded saucepan. Add the onions, shallots and leeks with a pinch of salt, partially cover and cook gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very soft and hardly coloured.

2. Sprinkle with sugar and cook uncovered for 20 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the onions and leeks begin to caramelise to a rich, golden colour. You may need to increase the heat slightly to encourage this; they should be extremely sweet and tender. Stir in the garlic and cook for 5 minutes more.

3. Add the flour, stirring well. Increase the heat and gradually add the wine and stock as you stir. Bring to the boil, partially cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste.

Video Of The Week

4. To serve, toast the bread lightly on both sides under the grill. Divide the soup between heatproof bowls and put a slice of toast on top of each. Top with the grated cheese and half the thyme and grill until melted and bubbling. Scatter with the remaining thyme leaves and serve, taking care as the bowls will be very hot.

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