It wasn’t very long ago that finding interesting and healthy vegetarian diet recipes was a difficult task but nowadays there seems to be almost as much choice for veggies as there is for meat eaters. But does that mean that as a non-meat eater you always have to search out a specifically vegetarian cookbook? No, not necessarily. Before vegetarian recipes became so popular and plentiful us veggies used to find a meat recipe that sounded good then just replace the meat and dairy elements with substitutes.
Here are some examples: there are plenty of meat substitutes available such as soy, quorn mycroprotein, tofu, textured vegetable protein and tempeh. In fact many of them are sold in the shape of chicken pieces, mincemeat, steaks, burgers, sausages and all sorts of other shapes and forms which make them even easier to substitute in a recipe. But you can use your imagination and use beans instead of meat pieces in dishes such as soups.
The same goes for dairy ingredients. Instead of adding slices of dairy cheese to the top of a dish try soy cheese. You can also get soy yoghurt and soy cream cheese which can easily replace conventional yoghurt or cream cheese. Instead of adding dairy milk to a recipe you can add soya milk; although you will need to be careful – soy milk doesn’t respond well to very hot temperatures and, if added, might seem to curdle so it is necessary to stir hard and fast to counteract that. Don’t worry, it won’t spoil it, you just need to stir! Rice milk is another possible replacement and, if it is sweetened, which it often is, then it is a perfect replacement for dairy milk in desert and sweet dishes whereas soy is better for savoury.
In many recipes it is possible to make these simple replacements and end up with a delicious non-meat or non-dairy dish. The more you experiment and work with these substitutes the better you will get to know them. One big difference between meat substitutes and real meat is the lack of fat in the substitute which means that not only is it more likely to absorb moisture but it has no intrinsic fat of its own in which to cook so additional oil may be needed. My particular favourite is quorn, which I have found to be highly versatile and tasty too and a staple ingredient in many of my vegetarian diet recipes.