Lentil does it

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Since becoming a total vegetarian 19 months ago I’ve found that vegetarians often lay low.

But volunteer that you are a vego and suddenly others of your acquaintance ‘fess up. Or are most of the time. Or want to be but for the tricky business of managing two or more different food requirements at dinner time. Or think they haven’t got the time.

Just as on St Patrick’s Day the Irish say everyone is or wants to be Irish it seems that when it comes to meal times many people would like to be vegetarian. They just haven’t figured out how.

What’s it like becoming vegetarian? Do I feel different, healthier?

Making this change in the second half of our lives has been a breath of fresh air and not just because it has revved up the interest in food and cooking. Transform something as fundamental to your life as the food you eat and you realise other changes are possible, too. It is liberating.

We’ve found the top 10 benefits of eating a whole food, plant-based diet are:

  • Weight settles into the ideal range – you lose it effortlessly if you are carrying more than you need and it is maintained in a healthy and sustainable way.
  • Whole foods – those in forms as close to their natural state as possible – release energy slowly and satisfy you for longer. No sugar highs, fat-induced sluggishness or lack-of-fuel lows.
  • Bolstering our health one meal at a time. Youth masks much of the abuse we wreak on our bodies. The debt is paid later in life, mostly by a dependency on pills and medical procedures. Plants are nature’s power packs and healers, preventing or reversing our major killers and disablers – heart disease, strokes, cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and much more.
  • Vegetarian friends have lowered cholesterol and reversed their type 2 diabetes. Personally, the hay fever that has made my life a snuffly hell from September through to January every year of my life has receded. Attacks are fewer and pass faster mostly without recourse to antihistamines.
  • Meals are tasty, satisfying and varied. There are many more varieties of plant than types of meat and our taste treats have expanded rather than contracted. We don’t go without old favourites. Clever vegetarians have an alternative for every beloved dish from the “old life”.
  • Taste buds change and appreciate more subtle flavours. You find yourself rhapsodising over the delicate flavour of a Brussel sprout – in the privacy of your own home, at least!
  • We have fewer disappointments when dining out. Vegetarian choices at a lot of restaurants may be limited but they are likely to please. Now we notice it’s frequently the meat in their meal that diners find wanting – too tough, over cooked, under cooked or disappointing in some other way.
  • You can look animals in the eye. A vegetarian’s lack of demand for animal products means less need for higher intensity or factory farming, which condemns millions of animals worldwide to miserable lives and contributes to pollution of land and water.
  • Becoming a vegetarian is the single most environmentally-friendly action an individual can take.

Curry in a hurry

Pumpkins and carrots are plentiful and cheap right now so this is the perfect time for this quick, delicious, mild curry. It can be eaten on its own or with brown rice, naan or other bread.

Vegetable & Lentil Curry

1 tbsp olive oilvegetable and lentil curry
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 carrots, sliced
100g red lentils
440g can chopped tomatoes
1½ cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp chilli sauce, or according to taste
500g pumpkin or potatoes cut into 2cm cubes
½ cauliflower, cut into florets or 400-500g of green beans, chopped
2 tbsp blanched, slivered almonds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a large pot, add onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric and carrots and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is soft.
Stir in lentils, tomatoes and stock or water and bring to the boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add chilli sauce, pumpkin and cauliflower or beans and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. Stir in almonds, salt and black pepper to taste. Serve.

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