No country for vegetarians

Italians, being the Mediterranean and passionate types that they are, seem to nurture irrational but ardent feelings of hatred for the most unexpected things in their hearts. For instance, vegetarians. What’s so offensive about vegetarians, I ask? They’re nice to animals, they do their part for the environment, plus, what do you care what they eat? And yet they seem to be held in contempt by most of the country. Vegetarians, fussy eaters’s what they are. Think they’re so special, with their special needs, ruining our perfect dinner plans.

As you may have noticed by the recipes that I’ve been posting here lately, my meat intake has sky-rocketed ever since I’ve moved to Italy. Meat here is delicious and abundant and ubiquitous, and it’s always tempting me, at the market or in the shops. There’s all these marvellous cold cuts which you can have as a snack whilst you’re cooking or to go with your raw broad beans (the seasonal snack of the moment), there’s delicious sausages to go with your pasta or your cime di rapa, and you eat these types of meat in relatively modest quantities, so you don’t even feel like you’re eating that much of it. Another cause, I guess, is my feeder instinct: living with and cooking for other people has raised the bar a bit, and I’ve felt that I had to provide decent, nutritious meals for the people I live with, seeing that they do the same for me.

I’m not a vegetarian, so thankfully I don’t have to suffer or anything. In fact, I’ve been enjoying eating a bit more meat again, trying new things and looking for unfamiliar flavours. In Scotland, however, I ate mostly vegetarian food, and I actually quite liked it that way. When I did eat meat, it became something of a special occasion. Moreover, it’s pretty unhealthy to eat meat all the time, it’s really bad for the environment, plus it makes the animals sad. So it’s about time I started cutting down again.

This calls for chickpeas, because everyone knows that when you’re not having meat, chickpeas are your proteiny friends. Also, they’re tasty. Chickpea and carrot pilav with almonds! So delicious, totally vegetarian, vegan even.

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For 3 to 4 people, use:

  • 350 gr of rice (basmati or long grain)
  • four decent sized carrots
  • one can of chickpeas
  • enough almonds, to serve, four good fistfuls or something (take the ones with the skin still on, peeled but still brown, you know what I mean right?)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • one onion
  • one tsp of harissa
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • some olive oil, for frying
  • up to one litre of stock – make your own by boiling a litre of water with a quartered onion, a carrot in three or four chunks and a couple of stalks of celery – add in some salt when it’s almost ready

Chop your onion and your garlic. Fry them in some oil together with the harissa and a good pinch of cinnamon. Meanwhile, peel and slice up your carrots. Add them to your pot, along with the rice. Now pour in a bunch of stock and leave it to simmer gently. Add more stock when you feel it’s getting dry.

When the rice is almost done (taste it to check!), add in the chickpeas and stir well. Put your almonds in a little bowl, pour some salt over (if they’re unsalted, that is), mix well. Now serve up your pilav and top it with a handful of salty almonds. So easy.

pilav pilav

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