Melting Pot : Part -time Plant Lovers

Plant-based eating is now a firm fixture on out of home menus as consumers focus on their health as well as sustainability.

The growth of vegetarianism and veganism has continued apace, and is being driven in part by a growing army of flexitarians, who choose meat-free meals on several days of the week.

The knock-on effect is that diners expect to see several meat-free options on eating out menus (rather than a token gesture as seen in years gone by).

Here, nine inventive chefs share their favourite meat-free meals…

Tom Booton – Head chef at Alyn Williams at The Westbury
I think meat-free days are really on the rise at the moment, and also very important because as a society, we have very greedy eating habits. One of my favourite dishes at the moment is a lovely cauliflower dish currently on our vegetarian tasting menu. It is a homage to the humble cauliflower. It is a cauliflower steak slowly cooked, topped with cauliflower couscous made from the raw bits, a cauliflower purée made from the other trim, and the leaves that have been finely chopped and cooked into a cauliflower ‘seaweed’. For added texture, we use some stunning roasted Italian hazelnuts.

Andrew Sheridan – Executive head chef at Sosban, Llanelli, South Wales
At Sosban I’m definitely seeing a rise not only in vegetarians and vegans but also in the people choosing not to eat so much fish or meat. We offer a seven-course vegetarian tasting menu so vegetarians don’t have to feel left out and pack in just as much flavour as we do our meat dishes. From January this will be a vegan tasting menu. We also let meat eaters swap dishes from the non-vegetarian tasting menu for vegetarian ones – e.g. some people don’t like lamb so choose our wild mushroom risotto, with truffle and black garlic instead. All our cooking is vegetable-led – even the meat dishes. We start by thinking about what vegetables are in season, whether that’s Jerusalem artichokes or asparagus and build dishes around that. One of my favourite dishes from our vegetarian menu is salt-baked swede, garlic emulsion, pistachio and goats’ cheese.

Ben Bartlett – BBQ chef and brand ambassador for Lion sauces, from AAK Foodservice
Minced mushrooms work well in chilli and burritos, complementing kidney beans to form an interesting overall texture. Use several mushroom varieties, including rich, earthy porcini, which you can buy dried and rehydrate – the leftover water can also be used as a stock for the dish. Cook the minced mushrooms slowly with onions, garlic, kidney beans and tomatoes. Once the mix has thickened, stir in Adobo Hot Sauce with its signature Mexican flavours brought to life with sweet ancho chilli and a bitter chocolate finish. Serve with rice, rolled into tortillas or stacked upon nachos, along with smashed avocado and yogurt.

Donna Crous – Professional food stylist and photographer www.eighty20nutrition.com
Cauliflower is a fantastic meat substitute and I like to use it as a healthy alternative in my Buffalo Cauli-Bite Tacos. Simply mix cauliflower florets with a chilli sauce and grill them until crisp – be sure to save some sauce to drizzle over the top. Then into the tacos add lambs lettuce, sliced red onion, finely chopped tomatoes, avocado and if you dare a few slices of chilli and a generous topping of crispy cauli-bites. Spoon over a little extra chilli sauce and level it up with a dollop of creamy blue cheese dressing.

Joe Howley – Head chef at Fitrovia’s Salt Yard
When I design my menu I always have flexibility in mind, so we can accommodate as many diners as possible. I keep one third of the menu solely vegetarian, and many other dishes are easily adaptable to become vegetarian. This is the case
with other dietary requirements too. For example, in the case of vegan diners I can remove the cheese filling from our signature courgette flowers. Some of our other hero vegetarian dishes include salt-baked beetroot with shaved goats
cheese and pickled walnut and grapes; wild mushroom risotto with poached quail egg and pickled mushroom and truffle, and the very popular truffled macaroni cheese.

Maggie Lister – Roving chef at V for Life
There are really simple ingredient swaps that most people will already have in their kitchens or store cupboards. For example, making pastry bases for a variety of savoury (and sweet) dishes like tarts is really straightforward. Just mix together walnuts, oats, baking powder, ground nutmeg, spelt flour, coconut oil and a splash of oat or any other plant-based milk. Or use the cheat’s version – Jus-Rol pastry.