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.

Filo parcels

Pumpkin, spinach & ricotta filo parcels

Serves 4 

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the filo is golden brown.
  7. Serve with salad drizzled with balsamic and yoghurt on the side.

Adapted from Pumpkin, spinach & ricotta filo parcels –  Healthy Food Guide October 2012