It’s National Vegetarian Week(16th -22nd May 2016), a week to take a step back from meat products and celebrate the wonderful array of spring and summer vegetables that we have to offer, both fresh from the UK and some of the marvelous imports that as an island, we can still offer.
Now in its 24th year, this week showcases the nation’s attitude towards fresh fruit and vegetables and the growing interest in living a healthy, meat-free life.From superfood berries, packed with antioxidants to fresh spring greens, to spinach and a vast collection of salad leaves, all worthy to feast on.
For those with a sweet tooth, apricots can be made into delicious ‘crumbles or tarts’. For the savoury palates, asparagus is at its prime and Jersey Royal new potatoes are featured on every home or restaurant table, not forgetting fresh herbs to experiment with, constantly bringing life and a twist in the taste to almost all vegetarian dishes. Healthy fruits and vegetables are literally a touch away.
Vegetarian dishes twenty to thirty years ago were once attached with the stigma of being ‘dull and boring’ and for strange people who ate pulses and hugged trees – but no more. Top chefs and cookery schools will teach you how to make such mouth-watering dishes that you will wonder why you always worried about meat in your diet. Work with the experts to discover new taste sensations and create exotic and beautifully presented dishes that you never thought you would be capable of! Main meals, salads and sides are all within your learning reach to impress your friends and family at your table, and to get your ‘5 a day’ in line with government recommendations.
Many celebrities have taken either the vegetarian or vegan pathway – some for moral and ethical reasons, and others purely because they feel at the top of their game after giving up meat. We are not talking about todays’ ‘superstars’ only – notable characters from history such as Einstein and George Bernard Shaw were avid supporters of vegetarianism. But we shouldn’t discount Leonardo di Caprio or Johnny Depp!
Here are 5 of our recommendations for you to learn about vegetarianism and the best ways of cooking and serving some of the quality produce in the UK.
Raised under Bengali culture, Shahnaz has been cooking traditional Bengali food since a very young age and is now a well-known expert, food writer and a prominent figure in the Bengali community in Hackney, from where she runs her classes. Her classes are an inspiration for those looking to add some spice to their lives and create vegetarian dishes second to none, with the unique use of spices from the region. Dishes such as pan-fried spiced aubergine steaks, spring greens with garlic and red chilli, red lentil and tomato dahl and the most delicious coconut rice feature in Shahnaz’s repertoire of mouth-watering dishes, prepared in the two and a half hour cookery class.
Shahnaz is the perfect hostess – you are welcomed with a traditional drink and ‘nibbles’ before embarking on a taste tour through the Bengal region. Even better, you can take home the dishes that you have lovingly prepared, along with recipe cards, discount vouchers for future bookings and a personal edible treat from Shahnaz herself!
The cost of this economical grand tour of Bengal is £45 inclusive of all the gastronomic treats – not to be missed. Classes are also held in Battersea, and may include dishes outside of the vegetarian realm.
Encompassing ‘Beb’s Bites’, you will be welcomed into Beb’s own home with classes being conducted in her own adapted conservatory. Her passion for Indian food shines through during her fun and informative classes, and in depth knowledge is gained from the very small classes of up to 4 people.
Cooking for over 25 years, your hostess knows Indian food very well, which is reflected in the flavours of some dishes that you prepare and cook. Eating and chatting once the meal is ready is something that Beb feels is essential – this is what Indian families do all the time. But don’t worry, you can take your leftovers home for your family to enjoy, but do remember to bring your own Tupperware or airtight plastic storage boxes! As in all great Indian food, spices are at the forefront of the dishes, manipulated to make the very best and memorable tastes.
You can choose from her list of delicious dishes – 1 starter and 2 main dishes, which are accompanied by steamed rice and fresh natural yoghurt. Beb manages to combine both vegetables and some fruit, typically mango, in her traditional dishes but with her own unique touch.
The cost of each 2 and a half hour course is £38, and vouchers are available as gifts for friends and family. So if you really want to know what to do with paneer (Indian cheese) or how to make a tasty curry for any season, nip along to Woodford Green. Classes are run 7 days a week, both daytime and evening. You will be amazed what you can do with vegetables such as okra and pumpkin – you would probably walk past them in your local supermarket!
In the B & H kitchen (Bourne and Hollingsworth) state of the art facility, you can experience a one-on-one cookery class involving the best of British produce bought straight from New Covent Garden to the door – you cannot get much fresher than that. Run by Group Executive Chef Adam Gray, and his team of experienced professional chefs, you can pick from courses that are run 3 days a week, at a cost of £60, whether you are a novice or a more seasoned cook.
Not only that, you gain some great nutritional advice on all the vegetables used, why you should include them in your diet, their benefits and reasons why ‘5-a-day’ is the way to go. Seasonal vegetables are treated with the respect they deserve and the cooking methods that bring out the best in each and every one. Braising and roasting techniques are perfectly demonstrated, along with dips or sauces that will provide a match made in heaven. You will work your way through the classics available at this time of the year – Jersey Royals, asparagus, broad beans, turning them into masterpieces of fine British cooking.
This 3 hour course will teach you how to make your vegetables the ‘stars of the show’ that need no supporting cast. No more soggy vegetables, but dishes to be proud of. Give yourself time to book, as these courses will definitely be very well subscribed.
Corporate team building tasks take various forms, from physical activity to group fun and games. Venturi’s have turned cooking into a corporate pursuit which is not only informative but tremendous fun!
Some of the tastiest vegetarian dishes often involve pasta, whatever shape or size the ubiquitous pasta may be. At Venturi’s, located in Wandsworth and easily accessible by public transport, you will learn the art of pasta making with delicious sauces to accompany it, whether mushroom or vegetable based, or simple but tasty pestos.
Courses are held in the evenings to match corporate working hours, and last for 2 and a half hours at a cost of £60 per person. Group bookings can be made up to 16 people in Venturi’s beautiful kitchens, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know one piece of dough from another – Venturi’s teach everyone from beginners to the next budding Italian super chef. Classes are for a minimum of 6, but then no real corporate event should be less than that! Demonstrate your competitive nature, eat some delicious dishes, and if the fancy takes you (and you are not driving) beers, wine, prosecco etc. are available to purchase, to wash down your classic Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli (example) with flourish.
Perhaps you have no confidence cooking with others, or want a more intensive one-on-one experience, in which case this course if definitely for you. Held in the central location of Oxford Circus, The Cookery School has a modern and simple approach to vegetarian cooking, with the end result being delicious and tantalising tastes for your palate. This course will turn you into a confident and skilled home cook, and as well as a depth of hands on cooking, all questions are welcome and expertly answered by your professional tutor. Learn about the produce you are cooking with, its sustainability and how to turn it into the best and tastiest dishes imaginable. Buying wisely and with provenance is an underlying lesson taught by the Cookery School.
From soufflés to risottos and lasagnes, you will learn with ease some of what appear to be demanding techniques, and enjoy eating the fruits of your labour. Patés and polenta dishes also feature, with freshly baked rolls to enjoy them with.
This 5 hour class will cost £175 – a fabulous treat for a loved one or a gift for someone special.