What, no meat? Catering for vegetarians

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Tony O'Reilly looks at vegetarian meals, offering two interesting meat-free dishes for non-meat eaters.With some diners opting for a meat-free meal,...

Tony O'Reilly looks at vegetarian meals, offering two interesting meat-free dishes for non-meat eaters.

With some diners opting for a meat-free meal, it is imperative that you offer a selection of imaginative and well-balanced meals.

A meat-free meal used to be considered somewhat of a challenge and the myth that a vegetarian meal was too complex to prepare is, thankfully, a thing of the past!

As a general rule try to aim to serve a substantial main dish with a light starter and vice versa and try not to duplicate the ingredients in each course.

Try to make the most of seasonal vegetables by using them when they are at their cheapest and best.

And, as a vegetarian meal is relatively inexpensive to produce, it is well worth spoiling your customers by serving a good selection of dishes.

Spinach is an excellent source of iron and particularly important to vegetarians who do not get their iron intake from eating red meats.

For the ricotta cheese pancakes below you may use either frozen or fresh spinach whichever you prefer.

The pancakes make a refreshing change from cannelloni and can be used in much the same way; filled with a delicious ricotta cheese and spinach sauce or a bolognaise sauce if you prefer.

Serve with a mushroom risotto or parsnip croquettes.

Mushroom Risotto

Portions:​ 10Preparation time:​ 10 minutesCooking time:​ 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • 1kg button mushrooms, sliced
  • 400g onion, finely chopped
  • 1kg Italian Arborio rice
  • 2 litre vegetables stock
  • 15gsalt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

  • 400g parmesan

Method:

In a medium-size non-stick saucepan heat the oil and sauté the onion and mushrooms until tender. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the stock and season with salt. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and transfer rice to a warm dish. Season with pepper.

Garnish with cheese.

Ricotta cheese pancakes

Portions:​ 10 (20 pancakes)Preparation time:​ 15 minutesCooking time:​ 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 700g plain flour (white or wholewheat)
  • 2.5 litre semi-skimmed milk
  • 6 egg, beaten
  • salt to taste

Filling:

  • 1kg ricotta cheese
  • 1kg cooked spinach, chopped

Method:

Sieve the flour and salt, and then carefully beat in the egg and milk to achieve a smooth batter.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and pour in a thin layer of batter. Cook pancakes for approximately one minute on each side. When cooked, set aside and keep warm.

To make the filling: Mix together the ricotta cheese and spinach. Lay a pancake out flat and place filling in the centre. Carefully roll up each pancake.

To assemble dish: place a selection of roasted vegetables in an ovenproof dish and place two pancakes on top. Brush the pancakes with a little butter and place in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes to heat.

Serve on a bed of roasted vegetables.

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