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This is a vegetable cookbook

by HughFW published on
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This is a vegetable cookbook.

Whether or not it’s a vegetarian cookbook depends perhaps on your point of view, and your food politics.

It’s not written by a vegetarian, or with the intention of persuading you or anyone else to become a vegetarian.

But in the sense that not one of the recipes here contains a scrap of meat or fish, then it is indeed quite strictly vegetarian.

If you've seen my shows and read my books, you may be feeling a bit baffled to find yourself reading an article written by that notorious carnivore Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall about the joys of eating less meat.

I can appreciate that.

But I really have been eating a lot less meat lately and I'm feeling almost evangelical about persuading other people to do the same.

Let me be clear: I have not become a vegetarian, nor do I think I ever will.

So the dialogue I'm keen to begin with other meat-eaters is not about vegetarianism, it's about vegetables.

I would love to persuade you to eat more vegetables. And thereby to eat less meat – and maybe a bit less fish too.


To summarise, we need to eat more vegetables and less flesh because vegetables are the foods that do us the most good and our planet the least harm.

Do I need to spell out the arguments to support that assertion? Is there anyone who seriously doubts it to be true?

Just ask yourself if you, or anyone you know, might be in danger of eating too many vegetables.

Or if you think the world might be a better, cleaner, greener place with a few more factory chicken farms or intensive pig units.

We eat too much meat in the west – too much for our own health and far too much for the welfare of the many millions of animals we raise for food.

I believe that factory farming is plain wrong – environmentally and ethically.

So it saddens me to say that, despite some recent significant gains in the UK on poultry and pork welfare, the problems associated with the industrial production of meat are, globally speaking, as bad as ever.

I still believe in being a selective omnivore, casting a positive vote in favour of ethically produced meat and sustainably caught fish.

However, I now understand that in order to eat these foods in good conscience, I have to recognise, control and impose limits on my appetite for them.

To that end, over the last 18 months or so, I have undergone a sea change in the way I cook: it began as an exercise, but it became nothing short of a small revolution.

It is now the case that most of the meals I eat contain no meat or fish. And I can tell you, with my hand on my heart, that I eat better than ever.

River Cottage Veg Every Day! in the River Cottage Amazon shop >

34 replies
Replied on

Hi Hugh how are you? Greetings from Brazil.

I´ve found the River COttage Veg series one of the more intrestings to watch. You certainly made my mind. I was so carnivorous as you and now i eat meat and fish two times a week or so.
I´m sharing the recipes from the show in my blog for the people in Brazil, and i pair them with good artisanal beers to complement their flavor.

I´ve already tried Gill´s Beet Tarte, Tim´s Melanzane Parmigiana, Jamie Pastie e your ketchup chickpea curry.

Now i´m after to begin planting my fav veggies in my apartament. You have done the difference for me.

Best Regards. (hope you understand all that i wrote)

João Amstalden
Blog Panela de Malte

Replied on

Gosh why do people have to take everything so seriously and get into political arguments over everything??
This a great cookbook..end of. Regardless of the reasons behind it being written or whether you are a strict veggie or a meat lover. Really tasty recipes and many are very simple to do. I can't wait until I have some lovely home grown salad veg to use to make these recipes. Already love the leeks on toast, cauliflower and sweetcorn fritters were a huge hit and the tomatoes roasted with honey and garlic are absolutely delicious! I am always looking for new ways to use veg that might tempt my children (and husband), not always to replace meat based meals but to serve alongside them or just as a light snack.
So stop looking too deeply into is a cookbook and a damn good one. Well done Hugh!!

Replied on

Congratulations Hugh. Your body, the animals and the planet will thank you.

I hear what you say that you don't ever intend to become vegetarian. I was the same when I embarked on a lower meat diet. However, once I started feeling better on such a diet it was not only hard to go back to my old ways but also hard not to test how little animal products I needed. My own path went from omnivore to semi-vegetarian/pescetarian to vegetarian to vegan to low-fat vegan (mainly raw).

I have made a post on the forum to this effect. Unfortunately it has been locked due to a disagreement between a couple of members:

Replied on

I find myself to be far more concerned now about a great many food issues as a result of HFW and his ceaseless battling with issues surrounding food production and consumption. to me, HFW is arguably now one of, if not the most, influential voices on food consumption and production. I for one consider it a privilege to be able to share in this growing movement for change in how we eat and how we think about what we eat

The veg thing is a real kicker - books ordered, when it gets here we're going to two veggie only days a week from the off, possibly more when we get our heads around it all properly. Like a lot of people we're in the "but where do we start" mode having been so used to seasoning our roasts and stews for so very, very long

Things have to change

Replied on

Hugh, with you on the veg - we've found we're far more energised and feel healthier with a larger balance of veg and fruit in our diet. We regularly swap veg with friends who've grown a glut of particular veg. We also love meat and are very fortunate to have great local butchers and local abortoirs and are happy to pay more for quality. Incidently visiting Italy we found meat priced at a premium which premumably is better for the farmer and the consumers diet.

Cor Blimey!
Replied on

100% correct as ever, will comment more later, no time.

Replied on

This is a big change for a big meat and fish eater like yourself Hugh and I can only think it's about selling a book, I have attended a few events at River Cottage and eaten great meat and fish in the canteen at Axminster, I hope you soon get back to your roots

Replied on

Hi Hugh

Your new cook book sounds fantastic!

I agree that we need to eat more vegetables. Since moving out of the city my partner and I have put in a vegetable garden, and we both really enjoy both working in the garden, and eating the fresh produce - somehow it just tastes better than supermarket veges!

We've been watching River Cottage for a few years now. When my partner and I first got together, I was a strict vegetarian. Mainly because New Zealand has the same issues as the UK - factory farmed pigs, caged chickens... and it was difficult to tell whether what you were buying was free range or not - especially when it came to pork. In the last year however, there has been a major turn around. Footage of factory farmed pigs is shown on tv in the ad breaks, and people who had no knowledge of the condition these pigs were kept in before our now starting to look for pig welfare packaging. Your show also has a large following in New Zealand, and I really believe that you have made a big difference world wide.

Now that we live in Waikanae, I have gone back to eating meat. Our local butcher only stocks free range pork, and it is DELICIOUS! He also sells free range chicken, so we have a weekly shop and stock up on meat at the butcher instead of buying from the supermarket. I really hope that more butchers around the country will start to do the same - our butcher certainly has a lot of fans!!

Keep up the good work - and COME TO NEW ZEALAND!!!!

LB xx

Replied on

To some extent I agree with you Hugh, but be honest it's about selling a book at the end of the day!!

Replied on

Great news about the book, Hugh! Our daughter Sara will be delighted, she s been a vegetarian for nearly two years, and is a fan of yours, she'll even be more of a fan now. We've been growing our own for many years now, some years more, some less, but this year has seen the best harvest for some time, and we will be adding three raised beds to the plot soon. I agree that eating less meat (I myself don't eat any 'red' meat) is healthy and good for us and the planet. Ordering the book now, looking forward to perusing it together with Sara.

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  • .@Eco_Gite It spreads like mad so not in the veg patch, better in a big pot, but it does take nearly a year to produce good sized roots.
  • . @Lou_la_may Default topping is a sprinkling of soft brown sugar but a trickle of runny honey is also great. #askHugh
  • .@trishaocf Could be your choice of flour or that your sd starter needs a feed up, take a good tblsp, feed it for a few days & start again.
  • . @bookslinger always lovely to hear that people are cooking from my books and enjoying the results! #askHugh
  • .@harrycornwall Cider is a good choice, I would choose a fairly dry one as the onions are quite sweet #AskHugh
  • . @_DjTC_ soon! Early Feb is good, provided you can keep them frost-free. A sunny window is good. #askHugh
  • .@IantheCW I'm all over the roots right now, big trays of them roasted and finished with a sprinkling of toasted seeds and spices #AskHugh
  • . @ACoSfChildren but it's so flat! Actually I do have a soft spot for Norfolk and it's been a while so who knows. #askHugh
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  • .@pupspigspoulets We said goodbye to our Oxford Sandy & Blacks before Christmas, they were fab! We like ringing the changes though. #AskHugh
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  • .@GrowandEat That's a tough one to comment on without knowing the whole picture.
  • . @MyrtlesGarden there's a lovely potato gnocchi recipe in RC Veg and you could swap a GF flour in for the wheat flour. #askHugh
  • .@pickleshlee A good way to deliver vitamins and fibre but not to be drunk by the gallon as they are often quite high in sugar #AskHugh
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