Meat Free Monday inspiration interview

We're delighted our first Meat Free Monday (partly inspired by our time with Mary McCartney) was such a success we're rolling it out as a regular class in 2016 to join our Tale of 2 Continents and Kitchen Basics and Confidence series as a regular Monday evening class.

Just before our Christmas parties start, we managed to grab a minute with Val McArthur our key tutor for Meat Free Mondays to get her take on the increasing interest in reducing your meat content and how to do it without feeling deprived.

What got you interested in vegetarian food?

I have found a gradual shift in my tastes over the last few years. I think there are lots of reasons: financial, wanting to eat lighter, nutritious and healthier food, and also environmental, too. I want to eat food that makes me feel good and I found eating too much meat didn’t sit with me well. As my interest grew I discovered new interesting chefs and bloggers, cookery books, street food and restaurants which has been an exciting discovery!

Who you think this class might be interesting for?

The class would appeal to anyone who wants to eat less meat in their diet; they might enjoy vegetarian food but wants to try something new; or someone that wants to eat lighter and healthier food and wants some different ideas. Healthier doesn't mean you lose the flavour though ...and we do finish with a slightly less healthy (but ever so delicious) dessert, like our parsnip, pear and walnut cake, a different take on the traditional carrot or more adventurous courgette cake!

What influences your cooking?

The seasons definitely influence my cooking. I like to browse food markets where the choice and quality of ingredients are in abundance, so if something looks particularly colourful and appealing I’ll buy it and cook with it. I get a wealth of ideas from the many food magazines I buy; there’s always a stack piled up on my living room table! I’ll earmark specific recipes I want to try and then cook something new as often as I can - there aren’t enough meals in the day! There’s some great blogs and food websites out there too which I love reading and picking up inspiration from.

Any chefs in particular cooking veggie food that you admire?

Yotam Ottolenghi is a huge inspiration for me and I find his food so exciting. Like me, he isn’t vegetarian, but can elevate vegetables into stunning delicious combinations. Sometimes he used unususal ingredients but his recipes are always so full of flavour and textures. Anna Jones, who is a young cook and writer and worked with Jamie Oliver, does fantastic modern and healthy vegetarian food. It’s uncomplicated, accessible and utterly delicious.
 Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls’s EveryDay Veg is also great for inspiring everyday vegetarian cooking.

Do you have any tips for cooking veggie food?

It’s all about getting as much flavour out of your ingredients. I like to roast or griddle veg, which brings out far more flavour than just simply boiling it. They key is also to add lots of contrasting flavours, textures and colour by dressing up different veg with nuts, seeds, grains, leaves, spices, flavoursome dressings and using lots of fresh herbs.

John loves a gadget and this class introduces the trendy spiralizer, are there any other gadgets you’re eyeing up?

The spiralizer is a really fun gadget and I was surprised by how many veg it can work with.  I don’t have much room in my kitchen for lots of gadgets but my essential gadget is my mini food processor which has a stick blender and whisk attachment, which is brilliant for whizzing up pastes, soup, mayo, pesto, hummus….

What was your first class like?

Great fun, such a good group! Heidi Roberts from Kitchen Talk did a great write up, read it and see more photos here. Hope to see you at my new classes in 2016 (click here for more).