I have a secret. I’m a part time vegetarian. I try not to eat meat during the week so that we can afford more ethical meat at the weekend. I have been a free-range egg person for years; you can really taste the difference between free-range and battery eggs, and I have found the same with meat. It seems logical. Why shouldn’t free range animals taste better? They are treated more humanely (well, as humanely as possible considering their fate is to be smothered in gravy and eaten for Sunday lunch) and somehow that translates into the way they taste. I know it sounds a bit wanky, but trust me.
I am a big fan of all Quorn products (ever tasted a Quorn mini scotch egg? They are like crack) so whenever I see the frozen stuff – Quorn mince and Quorn chicken style pieces – on offer at the supermarket, I get a few packets. I use the mince a lot in cooking and while it definitely doesn’t taste the same as meat, it bulks out things like bolognese sauce and chilli nicely. I don’t miss meat in these sorts of meals, and using Quorn saves on the calories and fat grams compared to meat, which is helpful to me as it means I can use more in other areas (such as my wine consumption).
A recent obsession of mine is quinoa. I know I sound like Gillian Poo McKeith but bear with me. Quinoa is gluten-free. Several of my pals have gluten allergies of varying degrees, ranging from full on coeliac disease to mild intolerance. I like cooking and baking stuff for my pals so quinoa works well in place of things like rice or couscous. It can also be used in baked goods, sweet and savoury. It’s a superfood, too, which makes me feel very virtuous when I feed it to my family. It’s packed full of protein, fibre and is high in calcium and iron. Basically it’s a good all-rounder, and a staple in my kitchen.
We’re a bit broke this week (thanks HSBC for losing my money in the ether then charging me for the pleasure) so I decided to get a bit inventive with Quorn and quinoa, both of which I had lying around, and had a lightbulb moment – well, more of a stomach growl – when I looked in my fridge and saw a slightly past-it bunch of choi sum, some goats cheese definitely past its best and three shiny bright peppers.
Quorn Mince and Goats Cheese Stuffed Peppers & Quinoa Stir Fried with Toasted Almonds and Choi Sum
Ingredients for peppers:
- 3 peppers
- 100g Quorn mince
- 1 small red onion
- 75g goats cheese
There are three of us so these quantities were perfect but obviously you can adapt to fewer/more people.
Ingredients for quinoa:
- 50g quinoa
- Handful of almonds
- Bunch of choi sum
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
- Rinse quinoa well and add to a pan. Add just enough water to cover quinoa. Bring to the boil, stir, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- While quinoa is cooking, add a spritz of fry light to a large frying pan (or wok) and heat the Quorn mince on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until it has just defrosted.
- Behead your peppers, scooping out the seeds, finely slice the red onion, and cut the goats cheese into chunks (I removed the rind as it was a bit old, crinkly and brown!)
- Remove Quorn mince from heat and mix the sliced red onion in, then stuff your peppers with the mince/onion mixture, layering with the goats cheese.
- Add fry light/olive oil to a small baking dish, place peppers in, drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper before bunging them in the oven for 20 minutes.
- The quinoa should be done by about now, so remove from heat and leave to stand uncovered for 10 minutes.
- While the quinoa is standing, slice the almonds vertically. Use the pan you used for the Quorn mince to toast them by adding fry light/veg oil then cooking on a medium-high heat. Shake the pan often and stir to avoid burning. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Slice the choi sum.
- Use a fork to separate the quinoa grains, then add quinoa, choi sum and sesame oil to the pan with the almonds. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
- Remove peppers from oven, slap them on a plate with the stir fried quinoa, and feel smug for eating a tasty yet filling vegetarian meal.
The quinoa, choi sum and almond stir fry is a great, nutritious vegan option, however obviously the goats cheese in the peppers negates this possibility. For me, I wouldn’t leave out the goats cheese, as I find Quorn mince can be quite dry and the goats cheese makes it lovely and moist, but if you wanted to adapt it to make it vegan you could always use a bit of olive oil or vegan cheese to keep the Quorn from drying out.