The days are shorter and the nights are colder. My boyfriend is hungrier and I'm trying not to fatten up for the winter. The urge to eat nothing but pasta and pizza is strong. The cosy corner in the pub is calling my name. Thus lies the dilemma.
As a vegetarian, it's easy to fall into the nothing-but-carbs trap in winter. Over the last couple of years as we've been saving pennies for house buying (one day!) and been going out less than we used to, yes, no doubt a sign of age too. When we both get in after work, tired, starved and cold from walking or cycling home, we're looking for quick, delicious, healthy and cheap eats.
While I'm far from a chef, I know my way around the kitchen and like to think I'm a pretty good cook. Obviously not every dinner can be a masterpiece, so I've put together my favourite everyday meals that can whipped up in less than 30 minutes or made ahead. (I always thought batch cooking was just for soccer moms and weird culty types with 7+ children. Turns out, it's genius).
1. Anna Jones' Sweet Potato Dahl
Creamy, warming, coconutty and oh-so filling. Great for guests, perfect for cosy nights in. Possibly my favourite meal ever. I don't usually bother with the quick chutney, and serve it up with mango pickle or my friend's amazing Indian aubergine chutney (when we're lucky enough to have been given a batch). If really hungry, serve with naan or rice but it's usually enough on its own. This is a recipe is in her first book, A Modern Way to Eat which is my favourite cookbook ever. Fact. (You've all got it already though, right?)
2. Vegetarian Bibimbap
I started making my own kimchi about a year ago. When we run out, it's a disaster and off I trot to the shops to find another weird Chinese cabbage to ferment. Although it's equally good with a salad or in a sourdough and toasted cheese sandwich, my favourite way to eat it is with short grain brown rice, tofu or a fried egg, spinach and spring onions with lashings of hot sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. Delish. I loosely follow this recipe.
3. Red lentil soup
I've been making lentil soup for years. Red lentils and tinned tomatoes are always in my cupboard as are carrots, onions and garlic. It's easy as pie. Simply bung in carrots, celery, onion, loads of garlic, ginger, stock, some spices and herbs, and that's dinner sorted for a few days. This is ideal for making on a Sunday for work lunches or freezing for easy dinners. Add a slice or two of toast and it'll fill up even the hungriest of blokes. It's easy to make Italian or Moroccan variations with a tweak of herbs and spices. Just use whatever is in the cupboard. I've used this recipe (switching out curry powder for cumin and coriander) but it's super easy to make up your own version once you've got the swing of it.
4. Beetroot and carrot 'sausage' rolls
Anyone who knows me IRL, knows that I'm slightly obsessed with beetroot and have been for years. Roasted, juiced, in a cake, grated raw in a salad - it's uses know no bounds. But there is something about the combination of beetroot and pastry that really makes a winning combination. I stole this idea from Columbia Road's Lily Vanilli bakery. It's a cinch. Buy readymade puff pastry, fill with a mixture of grated carrot and beetroot and a dash of chutney or balsamic vinegar. Roll tightly and cut into 'sausage' rolls. Glaze with a little oil and top with poppy seeds. Bake until delicious and serve with salad or other vegetables.
5. Scrambled tofu
Not just for breakfast or a 'weird' vegan alternative to eggs. I bloody love tofu and scrambled is one of the quickest and tastiest ways to eat it. Throw in some tumeric, grated carrot, mushrooms and red pepper. Serve with brown rice or toast, some avocado and other veg. It's a winner in my books and ready in a few minutes and so perfect when you're just too tired to do anything else.
What are your favourite quick dinners in winter? Please share as I'm always looking for new things to try. Check out my vegetarian Pinterest board for lots more ideas.