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Roasted Veg, Rocket, Halloumi & Balsamic Dressing

I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years now, and I was recently asked what it was like in the early days. Well, the answer to that is it wasn’t easy, but if I’d known how to cook it would have been much easier.

I don’t miss eating meat at all, and thinking about it I don’t think I’ve ever liked it very much, either the texture or the taste. Growing up, you ate what was put in front of you, unless it made you ill, and it didn't really occur to me or my family that there were any other options. I've never been keen on fish, fish fingers were always smothered in tomato ketchup, and a visit to the chippy for me was always steak & kidney pie. In fact, the only meat products I actually liked were processed. I also really love all animals and would never intentionally harm any. It was only when I was in my early 20s and became friends with a couple from my local pub that I began to realise that there were other options. Colin & Ange were vegetarian and they really helped me made my decision to stop eating meat.

Back then, vegetarian options were limited - a lot of products had to be rehydrated and had so little taste that they needed to mixed with marmite to make them edible.

Nowadays, there are lots of processed options available, Quorn & Tofu being just two. The funny thing is that, even with so much more choice, I’ve discovered a real love of cooking from scratch, and enjoy experimenting with herbs and spices - the real problem being that I can never recreate the same gastronomic experience twice! I use beans and lentils far more now than ever before, and most of my meals don’t include anything remotely processed.

I cannot believe that for 40 years of my life I went without knowing what a Butternut Squash was, let alone creating meals with it. Nowadays my favourite meals are not complete without it - Winter Stew, any Curry, Risotto or Chilli, and let’s not forget roasted veg with rocket, halloumi, and balsamic dressing - heaven