Meat-free menus

If you’re on this website, the chances are you’re looking to try to minimise your impact on the planet. One of the changes that we can make to minimise our carbon footprint is to switch to a mainly plant-based diet. But life is short and food is one of its pleasures, so how can we make these changes and still look forward to dinner?


One starting point is to simply think about the foods that you already enjoy, that happen to be meat-free. A margherita pizza, cheese and mushroom omelette, beans on toast, pasta with pesto, sweetcorn chowder, caramelised onion quiche, baked potato with creamy coleslaw…these are all family favourites in our household that don’t have meat in them. Choosing your existing veggie favourites more often will automatically cut your meat consumption.

One such favourite for me is a twist on Cauliflower Cheese. Accompanied by a couple of thick slices of fresh granary bread it makes a thoroughly comforting mid-week supper. This recipe can be made with all kinds of veg although cauliflower and broccoli make a great base.  Try adding different seasonal veg at different times of the year. At this time of year you can usually find locally grown cauliflowers, broccoli, carrots, leeks etc at the Milk Shed at the Real Milk Company, down the road from them towards Halam at the veg truck, or at Maxey’s Farm Shop.

Cauliflower Cheese with Seasonal Veg

Serves 4

  • Medium cauliflower
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 leek
  • Heaped tablespoon of plain flour
  • 25g butter
  • 425ml milk
  • 200g cheese
  • Couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs 
  1. Put a reasonably large pan on the hob 1/3 full of water and bring to a simmer.  Set a steamer over the top if you have one.
  2. Trim and wash the cauliflower, cut into florets and add to the pan or steamer.
  3. Peel and slice the carrot, but not too thin.  Add to the pan/steamer.
  4. Trim and wash the broccoli, cut into florets and add to the pan/steamer ( if you have run out of room in the steamer pop the remainder in the pan). 
  5. Remove the outer layer or two from the leek and cut into chunks.  Add to the pan.  Allow to steam for a further 5 mins or so until the veg are all just cooked, then remove from the heat and tip into an oven dish.
  6. Meanwhile melt the butter in a smaller pan. Add the flour and stir until thoroughly mixed with the butter.
  7. Over a medium/low heat, add a small amount of the milk and keep stirring.  
  8. Add more milk as it is absorbed, adding the milk in larger amounts over a slightly higher heat as you go until it is all added. Continue to cook and stir for a couple more minutes letting the sauce bubble gently until thickened. Turn off the heat, add two thirds of the cheese and stir until melted and smooth.
  9. Sprinkle a couple of handfuls of frozen peas over the veg in the oven dish, then pour the cheese sauce over everything.
  10. Put the dish in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs. 5-10 minutes into the cooking time, take the oven dish out of the oven, sprinkle the cheese and breadcrumb mixture over and return to the oven until it looks done.
  12. Serve with generously cut bread.

Food Waste Tips:

If you have a last few slices of bread or some crusts getting a bit stale, chuck them in the food processor or slightly toast and grate them to make breadcrumbs, then chuck them in the freezer for topping cauliflower or pasta bakes.  Or fry them in a little oil with some thyme leaves as a tasty crunchy sprinkle for pasta dishes

Whilst cheddar is your go-to for this recipe, it’s a great opportunity to use up any smaller slightly dried out bits of cheese that may be lurking at the back of the fridge.  Adding some blue cheese or Parmesan can boost the flavour, but it’s hard to go wrong here

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