Plant-based diets are all the rage and health professionals are urging us to eat more vegetables. ‘Swap out most of the meat for more veg.’

This makes sense when animal protein is so expensive although for many people meat and three veg is more important than five veg. But with two vegetarians in the family to cater for, I cook extra plant-based protein side dishes when they visit.

Some simple options include baked stuffed potatoes, pasta with five veg, hot pumpkin, onion, corn and spinach salad, vegetable stew and stir-fries. Just ensure there is some protein included such as beans, peas, lentils, nuts, egg or cheese. This provides a balanced diet for those non meat eaters.

Cheese sauce is good old-fashioned protein and great poured over a mix of broccoli, cauli and kale. Stir-fried rice with veg and cashew nuts, risotto with cheese, or Spanish rice with julienned veg and chopped egg are three rice delights with appeal.

A stew or casserole is also a wonderful way to consume more vegetables. Dice them or grate them and simmer in a good vegetable stock with herbs and canned beans — super to serve with grills or roasts — or as a main.


Delicious as a side or a main. Great with grills.

400g trimmed spinach leaves
1 large shallot, diced
25g butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g ricotta cheese
3 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Steam or microwave the spinach until limp. Cool a little then squeeze out the moisture. Chop.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly butter a 21cm round baking dish.

Meanwhile, sauté the shallot in the butter until softened. Stir in the garlic. Place in a large bowl with the spinach and ricotta. Mix until well combined. Stir in the eggs. Season.

Tip into the baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, until just set. Serves 6-8 as a side dish or 4 as a main.


Any leftovers can be formed into patties and fried or used for arancini (rice balls stuffed with cheese).

500g pumpkin
25g butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped sage leaves
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable stock 
Topping: 2 tablespoons butter, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese 
Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Peel and seed the pumpkin. Cut into 2cm cubes. 

Heat the butter in an oven-proof frying pan. Sauté the onion until softened then stir in the garlic and sage. Cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and stir to coat in the butter. Pour in the wine, stirring until evaporated. 

Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil. Gradually stir into the rice mixture. Stir in the pumpkin. Cover and cook in the oven for 25 minutes until the rice is just cooked. Top with the butter and parmesan. Stir in just before serving. Serves 8 as a side dish or 4-5 as a main.


Can be reheated. If serving as a main, add a crisp salad as an accompaniment.

1kg mashing potatoes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Topping:1/2 cup each finely grated tasty cheddar cheese 
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a six-cup baking dish.

Peel and chop the potatoes. Boil or steam until tender. Drain and mash until smooth. Place in a food processor (or use a stick blender) and add the mayo, sour cream, milk, eggs, and mustard. Season. Process until smooth. Stir in the parsley.

Spoon into the baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden. Serves 6 as a side dish.


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