Meat Free Monday: Green Bean Risotto

Many vegetarian risottos rely on cheese for the protein. In this quirky variant I use ½ rice and ½ red lentils to give some protein while still getting that risotto texture.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 150g red lentils
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 150g runner beans cut into short lengths
  • 200g cooked broad beans
  • 50g vegan Parmesan or Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh herbs or 1 tsp dry herbs.

Heat oil in large pan, add onion and lower heat keep stirring until onion is tender and transparent. Add rice and lentils (pre washed) to the pan and stir for a few minutes to slightly brown. Add vegetable stock and once up to boil reduce heat to simmer. 5 minutes before the end add the two different beans and stir through. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese (or vegan parmesan cheese), pepper and herbs for flavour before serving.

Cooking Beans, legumes, pulses etc

This post is really about the obvious end of the vegetarian diet -when you go vegetarian legumes become an important source of protein in your diet.

If you start cooking vegetarian food you quickly realize that doing beans out of cans is expensive. Dried beans are cheaper. Unfortunately they take a long time to cook in a pot on the stove. You can also end up with pot-burning disasters if you are like me and you wander off while cooking your beans and boil them dry.

Your remaining two options are slow cooker and pressure cooker beans.

Slow cooker beans

Slow cooker beans are great. Rinse the beans under cold water and discard broken, and odd looking beans. They do not need soaking, with the exception of red kidney beans, which need to be put in a pot and  covered with boiling water and left to stand for at least 1 hour. Once the red kidney beans have been soaked, then rinse them, cover them with water in the pot and bring to the boil, letting boil for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the slow cooker and cook for the remainder of time.

Bean/Legume Water for 500g Cook time
Black 1600 6-8 hrs
Pinto 1900 7-9 hrs
Cannelini 1900 7-9 hrs
Black eyed peas 1600 4 – 5.5 hrs
Chick peas 1750 4.5- 6 hrs
Brown Lentils 1250 3-4 hrs
Red Kidney Beans 1900 5-6 hrs after  1 hour hot soak and 10 min rapid boil

Pressure cooker beans

Not everyone has a pressure cooker but if you are making a commitment to eating at least 3 meals a week of vegetarian foods it soon becomes obvious that a pressure cooker is very useful. I have ended up getting some pressure cooker envy going into small appliance retailers as I use my cheap old-fashioned one, I picked up from a charity shop…here is hoping my family realizes my next big birthday is within a couple of years and I would really, really, really like one of the fancy ones!

Understanding pressure cooker times is what matters, and the different ways of reducing pressure once cooked. Also most beans (red kidney beans the MAJOR exception) can be cooked from hard rather than soaked, but if you do soak the cooking time of many beans is seriously short.

This link is excellent and has all the information you need on cooking with a pressure cooker. Most of our pressure cookers work at 15 PSI.

Pressure cooker beans

Storing your beans

If you are cooking up bulk beans, spreading them thinly on a tray to cool then freezing them so you can then put the free-flow into a container is a great idea. I have learned to label my recycled ice-cream containers extremely well to avoid disappointment of going into the fridge and hoping there is ice-cream.

Butternut squash pasta sauce

This started its life as an idea for a patient who appeared to be sensitive to tomatoes. It then reincarnated when my lovely partner pointed out he was getting sick of tomato based pasta sauces.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves or 2 tsp crushed garlic/
  • 1 kg of squash or pumpkin peeled, seeded and cut into 1 cm cubes.
  • 1 red chili de-seeded and cut into fine strips.

If you have time and a warm oven the day before, prepare the squash or pumpkin and put onto a lightly oiled tray for about 20 minutes in a moderate oven, this will roast it and give it a nice caramel taste. It is an optional step but a great option.

Heat oil in a pan and add onion and garlic and saute until soft. Add in the squash or pumpkin and chili. Add about 1 C water, bring to the boil, then reduce heat. Put lid on and leave 5 minutes. Check if the pumpkin is tender. If not add another ½ C boiling water and leave to simmer with lid on another 5 minutes. Blend until very thick and smooth. Use in place of tomato based pasta sauce. This can last in the fridge for about 5 days, but unfortunately is not good to preserve in jars unless you use a pressure cooker method, because it is not acidic enough to be safe to preserve.

Green Bean Salad

  • 500g green or runner beans, cut to 2cm lengths.
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped spring onions
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar.
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil.
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves.
  • ½ C vegan Parmesan cheese substitute (about 45g)
  • Freshly ground black pepper.

Most people leave runner beans too long before picking them. Ideally they should be not much bigger than regular green beans or they get kind of chewy.

Bring a large pot of water seasoned with 1 TBSP salt to the boil. When it is a rolling boil dunk a colander or sieve with your prepared beans into the water for 1 minute. Remove and run under cold water for 1 minute. This blanches the beans and makes them more flavoursome and less chewy for little people.

Mix vinegar oil, basil, cheese substitute together. Stir into beans. Season with pepper to taste.

This is another great salad if you hear people saying “salads are boring.

On Pesto – traditionally pesto is made with basil, but you can do it with just about anything green and pungent flavored…so try other herbs such as oregano.

Courgette and Lentil One Dish Meal

  • 1 C brown rice
  • 1 C french/puy/brown lentils – well rinsed

Cook together in a pot using an absorption method (i.e.3 C water, bring to boil, cover with tight fitting lid, reduce to a low heat and cook for 40 minutes. Switch off and let stand for 10 minutes)

  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 325g tomato tinned tomato OR 500g fresh tomatoes chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and then saute the onion and garlic until soft then add all other ingredients and cook until vegetables are tender.

Layer into a casserole dish (rice and lentils, vegetables, rice and lentils, ending with a vegetable layer).

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Vegan Parmesan cheese substitute

Sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs, if you wish add a couple of tablespoons of this homemade vegan Parmesan cheese substitute to your crumbs for extra flavor. Bake at 180 degrees until bubbling at the edges