It’s officially the beginning of the Holy Week, and in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, this comes with fasting, abstinence, and days of reflection and prayer. These practices actually start at the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days until Easter. However, according to aboutcatholics.com, “the Catholic Church, in an attempt to help Catholics do at least a minimum during Lent, asks all Catholics to fast and abstain from meat on certain days. Fasting means to limit food to one full meal a day with the possibility of two smaller meals (not adding up to a full meal) as needed. Abstinence means not eating meat, although fish is allowed. Catholics are required to observe all days of fasting and abstinence which is one of the precepts of the Church.”
But whether or not your a Catholic, eating meat-free dishes does have its immense health benefits. Mayo Clinic states that “a plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. And people who don’t eat meat — vegetarians — generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weigh less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than non-vegetarians do.” According to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
“Appropriately planned” is the operative term. You should consult with your doctor, research on the best meat-alternatives, and plan your meals accordingly. We did some digging for you so you can whip up meat-free or partial vegetarian meals easily:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 3 carrots, finely chopped
- 3 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 500g bag dried red lentils
- 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tsp each dried oregano and thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1l vegetable stock
- 500g spaghetti
- parmesan or vegetarian cheese, grated, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook gently for 15-20 mins until everything is softened. Stir in the lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, herbs and stock. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 40-50 mins until the lentils are tender and saucy – splash in water if you need. Season.
- If eating straight away, keep on a low heat while you cook the spaghetti, following pack instructions. Drain well, divide between pasta bowls or plates, spoon sauce over the top and grate over some cheese. Alternatively, cool the sauce and chill for up to 3 days. Or freeze for up to 3 months. Simply defrost portions overnight at room temperature, then reheat gently to serve.
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
- 2 sweet potatoes (about 400g/14oz), cut into even chunks
- 250g red split lentils
- 600ml vegetable stock
- 80g bag of spinach
- 4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal, to serve
- ½ small pack of Thai basil, leaves torn, to serve
- Heat the oil in a wide-based pan with a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and cook over a low heat for 10 mins, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli, cook for 1 min, then add the spices and cook for 1 min more.
- Turn up the heat to medium, add the sweet potato and stir everything together so the potato is coated in the spice mixture. Tip in the lentils, stock and some seasoning. Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 20 mins until the lentils are tender and the potato is just holding its shape
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, then gently stir in the spinach. Once wilted, top with the spring onions and basil to serve. Or allow to cool completely, then divide between airtight containers and store in the fridge for a healthy lunchbox (see tip below).
Butternut Squash Pizza
- 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rings
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1-pound package refrigerated pizza dough
- 1 tablespoon cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
Heat oven to 400° F/ 200° C.
Cut the squash into 1/2-inch-thick slices, then cut each slice into 1-inch chunks. Place the squash and onion on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil, season with the salt and pepper, and toss. Roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Increase oven temperature to 450° F or 250°C. Roll the dough out 1/4 inch thick. Clean the baking sheet and sprinkle it with the cornmeal. Place the dough on top. Scatter the squash and onion mixture over the dough, sprinkle with the thyme, and add dollops of the ricotta. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Slice into wedges.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 250g bag spinach
- 5 slices white bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs (or 150g dried breadcrumbs)
- good grating of fresh nutmeg
- 100g mature cheddar, grated
- 40g parmesan, finely grated
- 1-2 large eggs, beaten
- 3 tbsp plain flour
- Heat half the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onions for about 10 mins until pale and soft, then leave to cool a little.
- Finely chop the spinach in a food processor and tip into a bowl. Add the cooled onion, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, cheddar and Parmesan, and mash together. Add the beaten egg, a little at a time (you may not need all of it), until the mixture holds together. Divide into eight (see tip below) and shape into fat burgers.
- Put the flour in a shallow bowl, season well and dip the burgers into the flour to coat. Store in a plastic container between layers of baking parchment. Either chill until ready to cook, or freeze.
- Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and fry for about 5 mins each side until browned all over. Serve in the crusty rolls, with a couple of slices of tomato, ketchup and sweet potato fries on the side, if you like.
Source: www.aboutcatholics.com, www.mayoclinic.com, www.health.harvard.edu
Recipes and photos from: www.bbcgoodfood.com, www.realsimple.com