Monday, February 13, 2012

Food glorious food

Most of my friends and family know that I no longer eat meat (apart from fish!). I would have to say that the overwhelming reaction I get from people is not a positive one which I find that difficult to understand.

For a long time I've enjoyed eating healthy food and cutting out meat is one more step in making my diet healthier. It's over a year now since I stopped eating meat and I don't miss it at all. A positive side effect has been a reduction in weight. I am guessing some of this can be attributed to not eating meat. Cycling to and from work everyday and tramping on weekends might also have contributed to the weight loss.

For me, the reasons behind this new lifestyle are health based. It's not an ethical issue for me. I am fitter, stronger and healthier now than I was previously. Maybe this can be attributed to the vegetarian diet. Maybe not. What this has taught me is that I don't need meat to satisfy my hunger. I thought I would struggle with not eating things like bacon and a good steak but this is not the case. What has happened is that this lifestyle change (which is what it is - it's certainly not a "diet") has opened up my eyes to a whole new range of food.

Eating out is not quite as simple as it used to be but that's not an issue as we only eat out on rare occasions. Usually there will be one or two items on a menu that are either seafood or vegetarian. We have found a few great places to eat around Wellington where the menu caters for our needs. One such place is Nature Vegetarian. This is a tiny Asian-style place on High Street in Lower Hutt (across the road from Pak n Save). Their food is pretty good. They do have menu items that include fake meat which we're not into but, if you're after a vegetarian chop, they can cater for you. Their golden fried tofu is a great starter.

Generally ethnic restaurants are a better bet than pubs, etc. We've had some great meals at Indian, Vietnamese, Turkish and Thai restaurants in the Hutt Valley and in Wellington. For the record, Kilim in Petone is the best Turkish restaurant I've eaten at for a long time. They're BYO and their food prices are cheap so it's possible to have a great meal out on a budget.

Hmmm, this post has turned into a bit of a restaurant review edition which was not my intention. I actually wanted to talk more about what we're eating at home. Of course we're lapping up all the wonderful fresh summer fruit and vegetables at the moment. Our grocery bill for the past few weeks has been around $45 for fresh produce from the markets. We've managed to avoid the supermarket for three weeks now although this weekend we'll need to go stock up on a few things.

Two memorable meals in the last few days have been homemade corn tortillas on Saturday night and then zucchini fritters, broccoli soup and fresh sweetcorn last night.

I can recommend making corn tortillas from scratch. They were delicious and super easy to make! We should have made more. For the tortillas you need to buy some Masa Harina. This is available from some New World stores, usually found in their specialty food / gluten free aisle. You can also buy it online - (their website looks slightly broken - especially when you access it via IE6!).

To make the tortillas you mix two parts Masa Harina to one part water to make a slightly tacky dough. Two cups of the flour with one cup of water should make about 12 tortillas. Roll balls of the dough between two sheets of waxed paper, cook in a hot pan with no oil (30 seconds one side, 45 seconds the next, flip back for a further 20 seconds) and you're done! Fill with beans, onion, carrot, lettuce, tomato (urgh), chilli sauce, etc and you have a tasty meal. Like I say we should have made more - the ones we made were inhaled pretty quickly.

If you're thinking of going vegetarian I think the trick is to embrace fresh produce and cooking at home to ensure you eat an interesting variety of food. If it all seems a little too hard you could always try reducing the number of meat meals you have and experiment with some vege meals.

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