Although I’m not vegetarian, I also don’t feel like eating meat every night. So I do cook quite a few meat free dishes. Meat can get quite expensive, especially as I prefer to buy local, free range, top quality meat. I would rather eat meat less often and buy the best I can get, than eat cheaper/mass produced and imported products.
Meat free Mondays is an international campaign aimed at encouraging us to take a day off meat and raise awareness of the personal health and environmental benefits of reducing our meat consumption. A number of Australia’s celebrity chefs and cooks are involved, including Maggie Beer and Kylie Kwong. Some of the facts quoted on the campaigns website include:
- Australians are some of the world’s biggest meat eaters, with many consuming double the global average.
- 9 out of 10 Australian adults aren’t eating the recommended amount of vegetables.
- Health authorities recommend against eating large amounts of meat.
- Australian livestock industries are responsible for approximately 10% of our total greenhouse gas emissions.
- Livestock production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land around the world.
- Meat production is water intensive.
While I don’t limit myself to eating meat free dishes only on Mondays, I think anything that encourages people to add meat free meals to their diet and raises awareness of the benefits of a meat free meal once a week is a great initiative. With that in mind, here is the latest meat free dish I have tried. I added in a pinch of cayenne pepper to the recipe and I think the addition of the heat from the cayenne works well with the sweet and creamy pumpkin.
I also used filo pastry from the fridge rather than the freezer section for the first time, and found this so much easier to work with than frozen filo.
Pumpkin, spinach & ricotta filo parcels
- 500g (final weight) pumpkin (I used butternut) – peeled, deseeded and cubed
- Cooking oil spray
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika, plus extra to sprinkle
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 100g baby spinach leaves
- 400g tin brown lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 125g low-fat ricotta
- 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- 8 sheets filo pastry (cover with a tea towel and damp cloth to prevent from drying out when not using)
- Salad leaves, grape tomatoes, balsalmic vinegar and low fat greek yoghurt to serve
- Preheat the oven to 160C fan forced (180C). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the pumpkin on the tray and spray lightly with oil. Sprinkle with cumin, paprika and cayenne. Roast for 25-30 minutes until golden and tender, then allow to cool for 5 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the size of the pumpkin cubes. I aimed for roughly 2cm x 2cm cubes.
- Meanwhile, place the spinach into a large heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for 30 seconds and then rinse under cold water to cool. Drain well, squeezing out the excess water, then roughly chop.
- Once the pumpkin has cooled slightly, combine in a large bowl with the spinach, lentils, chives, ricotta and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- On a clean work surface, spray one sheet of filo with oil. Top with another sheet and spray lightly with the oil. Place ¼ of the pumpkin mixture on one side the filo sheet, leaving a 6cm border on the closest three sides. Fold in the ends and roll to enclose the filling. Repeat with the remaining filo and mix to make four parcels.
- Place the filo parcels on a baking tray and spray lightly with oil. Sprinkle with extra paprika (I forgot this step, hence my parcels are missing the colour of the paprika).
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the filo is golden brown.
- Serve with salad drizzled with balsamic and yoghurt on the side.
Adapted from Pumpkin, spinach & ricotta filo parcels – Healthy Food Guide October 2012