As a self-confessed weekday vegetarian, my friends tease me that I have it easy during Lent; that I have a readymade forbearance. I see what they mean, however, I keep telling them, it is about a lifestyle, not deprivation – thoughts I shared years ago in this column.
I believe in a gradual change that can be adopted long after Lent is over.
My weekday vegetarian style of eating was borne out of a desire to return to the kind of eating I enjoyed when I lived in Guyana. I must say though that my weekday eating in Guyana was not purely vegetarian, there was plenty of seafood and a wide variety. However, fresh local seafood here in Barbados can be very expensive and it is seasonal. There is not a lot of variety, unless you plan to buy imported, farm raised, frozen seafood from faraway lands – I don’t. On the other hand, buying Guyanese seafood from some Guyanese importers/vendors is a chance I am no longer willing to take – you pay the premium prices they demand (because they know you long for a taste of home) but they sell you old stock that is freezer burnt and ultimately void of taste no matter how well you prepare it and cook it. Therefore, instead of the hassle and high cost of local seafood, the frozen farm raised seafood or the high-priced-poor-quality seafood, my weekday meals are vegetarian.
During Lent, I challenge myself to think of different flavour profiles and ways of cooking my vegetarian food. I like to think of it as veggies upon veggies. Let me share some of those ideas with you, especially if your plan this year is to eat more vegetarian food during Lent.
● I use eggs as my lunch or dinner entrée instead of breakfast because they make for a hearty meal and provide excellent protein. I scramble them with vegetables such broccoli, baby spinach (callaloo) and carrots. Of course, the way we cook them with tomatoes, onions and herbs is perfection.
● Potatoes get mixed and cooked with vegetables – pumpkin, callaloo, okra.
● Fried green plantains with eggs I make often and eat for lunch or dinner.
● Fresh spring rolls filled with rice noodles, lettuce, basil, carrots and cilantro are filling and tasty with a peanut or sweet chili dip.
● Eggs Fried Rice is an absolute favourite – I like to keep that for Good Friday. However, I make things like okra fried rice and salt fish fried rice too. For the okra fried rice, fry the okra crisp and add towards the end of frying up the rice. For the salt fish fried rice, after you have removed the excess salt from the fish, shred it with your fingers and toss with the ginger, garlic and pepper along with the veggies before adding the rice.
● Vegetables and rice cooked are in the style of a Pilaf, and on other occasions, it’s rice and peas cooked with coconut milk for added nutrition. I often eaten it with grated carrots or pickled cucumbers; it goes well with a couple of boiled eggs too.
● Using other noodles such as pasta and rice noodles and cooking them in the style of vegetable chowmein adds a lot of variety to the list of vegetarian dishes you can enjoy.
● My coconut milk curried karaila is a favourite, make this and you would think you are eating meat – snip the top and bottom of the karaila, remove the seeds and fry the karaila whole to brown. Fry the masala, add back the karaila along with coconut milk to cook.
● There is a lot of carb on carb action that takes place with potatoes. I curry the potatoes using different types of masalas but one of the things I like to do is simply fry the potatoes with tomatoes, onions and garlic, goes well with rice or roti.
You have a few ideas there to get you going. Feel free to shout me if you have questions.