vegetarianism for carnivores: a simple idea for healthier eating

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This time last year I was about to embark on an experiment of being vegetarian for a whole month.

While I enjoyed the challenge of approaching my cooking from a different mind set, for me it was a struggle. I missed my bacon. And my steak. And chorizo. And lamb shanks.

You get the picture.

After reading a blog post by vegan pin-up boy Leo Babauta on the The Simplest Diet for Lean Fitness a few months ago, the thought of trying out another diet experiment did cross my mind. For a few minutes I contemplated taking up the vegan life for a month, just to see what it was like.

And then I remembered my bacon cravings from last year. Maybe not.

But why not try it just one day a week?

And that’s how Meat-Free Mondays were born.

how to go a little bit vegetarian

1. Choose one day a week
For me it’s Mondays but choose whatever works best for you. And maybe it’s only every other week. Better to start small than be overwhelmed.

2. Focus on the food you can eat
This is when it’s time to get excited about visiting your farmers markets and letting the beauty of natural products guide your decisions and menu planning, rather than freaking about what you can’t have.

3. Eat real food
Something I tend to do naturally, but it’s nice to be reminded every now and then. If you’re just going to eat ‘vegan’ sausages it kinda defeats the purpose of going vegetarian in the first place.

4. Explore some simple new recipes
Either checkout the new and improved stonesoup recipe index or have a look at the guest post menu I created for a whole day of vegan eating based on Leo’s diet on Zen Habits. Or try the wonderful soup below, perfect for this time of year whether your sliding into Autumn or skipping into Spring.

5. Have some fun
Healthy eating isn’t about feeling deprived and miserable. It’s about enjoying your veggies and savouring them. There can be much pleasure in a simple bowl of greens as the best quality chocolate, it’s all about how you approach it.

white bean and eggplant soup recipe5
white bean and eggplant soup recipe6
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video version of the recipe

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white bean & eggplant soup recipe
serves 3-4

2 medium eggplant (aubergine)
2 knobs butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans white beans (400g / 14oz)
2-4 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to its highest setting.

2. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and place on an oven proof tray cut side down. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until eggplant is very soft.

3. Meanwhile melt butter in a large saucepan and cook onion, covered for about 15 minutes or until very soft and golden.

4. Add beans and the liquid to the onions and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes or until your eggplant is ready.

5. Srape the flesh from the cooked eggplant and add to the soup. Simmer for a minute or so then puree, if you like.

6. Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice.

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{ 46 comments }

Sally April 26, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I can’t get white beans where I live, but this soup sounds wonderful. Any ideas about another type of bean that would work well? Thanks!

jules April 26, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Hi Sally
No white beans? Wow.
Pretty much any canned bean would work well I would imagine. Or if you want to cook from scratch you can convert the recipe:

how to convert recipes from canned to dried

Standard can of beans (400g /14oz pack weight) = 240g (8.5oz) drained beans
240g (8.5oz) drained beans = 100g (3.5oz) dried beans

So if a recipe calls for a can of beans, you could use 240g (8.5oz) cooked beans or weigh 100g (3.5oz) dried beans and cook them.

Or for 100g dried beans, you could use 1 can drained beans – just be careful to adjust any liquid in the recipe.

bianca April 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm

I really like the idea of giving up meat for one day; change is good. I, likely, wouldnt last very long if I went veggie for a month, but one day a week is something I can commit to!

dayle April 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm

looks great! i adore eggplant & with white beans I would be very satisfied! dayle

Mandy - The Complete Cook Book April 26, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Meatless Mondays are a brilliant idea – I too could not go without bacon for too long so one day a week is a great balance. I can’t wait to get my hands on a couple of aubergines to try your recipe.
:-) Mandy

Erica April 26, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Why is there a need for a vegetarian day at all? I have no problem with a meatless meal, even though I aim for a high fat, low carb diet overall, but I don’t understand why it would be a good thing to do this.

Nate April 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I am a devout carnivore but I find I eat vegetarian meals probably three times a week or more. I think #3 on your list is why I end up doing that and is the most important part of this lesson – eating real, good fresh food which is tasty in its own right. If you try to make a poor copy of something it just doesn’t taste as good and leaves you dissatisfied – where having a fully vegetarian meal which is balanced around the flavour of the constituent vegetable ingredients makes for a wonderful meal.

I’ll really need to have a go at this soup – I love soups and I love aubergines but I’ve never thought to try an aubergine soup!

Tasha @ Voracious April 26, 2011 at 7:11 pm

That soup looks absolutely incredible. I adore all kinds of soup and am always looking for new ones to add to my menu. Thank you for this! Although, after 3 years of veganism took a serious toll on my health, I don’t plan to ever have an entirely vegan or vegetarian day again. But a vegetarian meal? Now, that’s no problem. Especially a meal this incredibly delicious! I love the texture of this soup and I can’t wait to give it a try.

Claire April 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I like the idea of cutting the eggplant in half before baking – I’ve always baked mine whole which is usually successful – but when it hasn’t been… let’s just say that nothing coats the inside of an oven like an exploded eggplant.. and the bang.. well, it’s surprising ;-). We’re definitely eating more beans and other pulses at the moment (although my love of chorizo is hard to go past cause it goes so well with beans) and I love it. Made my first casserole of the season yesterday and I’m getting quite excited about the long slow cooking ahead – vegetarian versions will definitely be on the list.

Merenia April 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Some good reasons for being a vegetarian or having a meatless day, Erica if you look into it. Environmentally, economically, animal welfare-wise and health-wise. Plus is delicious.

jules April 27, 2011 at 2:09 am

erica
great question!
for me the real benefit is from the change in mindset I get… if I focus on eating vegetarian one day a week I get to experience a little of what it is like to think that way…but if you’re happy with your own diet then it isn’t the thing for you. and that’s fine

clarie
yes! they cook quicker when they’re halved and no explosions. I used to have this mental thing where I thought baking eggplant took a long time… not any more.

I’m in the US at the moment so its coming into spring but I am a little excited about getting home and cranking up the slow cooking too.

thanks merenia
appreciate your points about the benefits of vegetarianism

Elizabeth April 27, 2011 at 3:29 am

I posted your broccoli soup recipe on our site (http://www.livebelowtheline.com/share-your-experiences/recipes/). Thanks so much!

Donna@NothingChocolate April 27, 2011 at 3:32 am

I’m all about vegetables cooked right! They are bland but when cooked with the right accompaniments and spices, they are THE BOMB!!! And that goes for beans as well. I’m finally upgrading my mini-chop for a real food processor in order to make more bean dishes like hummus and “veggie burgers”. Your photos, writing, and blog are wonderful! Thanks for this!

Collie April 27, 2011 at 3:43 am

I’m always amused by the rules about veg*nism that people who aren’t veg*n come up with. Vegan sausages “defeat the purpose”? Yeah, sure, whatever, if it makes you feel better to ignore centuries of meat analogs and the satisfaction of making your own, go ahead.

jules April 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm

thanks elizabeth
I’m sorry I can’t help out more this year,

donna
yes veggies cooked right AND buying good quality in the first place

collie
good point – i hadn’t ever thought of homemade vegan sausages – would love to see how they’re made..

Brooke April 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm

This recipe is just what I need. Picked an eggplant out of our garden to save it from the bugs and couldn’t think of what to do with it.

David April 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Jules, really like your food blog. I love to cook for my family and am always looking for alternatives to the regulars. Thanks for the bean/eggplant soup recipe.

David

aynsavoy April 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Made this for dinner tonight–excellent! The roast eggplant smelled and tasted really sweet. I added a clove of garlic and garnished with a dollop of sour cream and a dash of cayenne: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30368264@N08/5659854963/in/photostream

aynsavoy April 27, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Oh, and I subbed chickpeas for the white beans, since eggplant makes me think of Mediterranean food.

jules April 27, 2011 at 8:04 pm

lucky you brooke
I wish I had eggplants in my garden to save from bugs

thanks for dropping by and commenting david – appreciate you taking the time.

aynsavoy
yes chickpeas, garlic and cayenne would be wonderful additions!

peng peng April 28, 2011 at 2:03 am

oh, this soup sounds good! love your veggie/ vegan recipes! i’ve downloaded the free StoneSoup cookbook and have made many recipes for my husband and i. i am inspired by the 5 ingredient philosophy, the purity of ingredients, enjoying and savoring each bite, simple prepartions. also i find the recipes to be very kind on the digestion. thanks for sharing your recipes!

Cassie April 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Eggplants are so versatile and delicious, and easy to grow. This soup looks really good, especially with the colder weather settling in. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be trying this one out.

Tania.F.Walsh April 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I’ve been searching around for hearty soups and this one is perfect. And I’m totally up for the challenge to do one day a week without meat.

I wonder, could I add garlic to the soup, for that extra vitaim kick? What would it do to the soup?

Thanks for sharing.

olivia April 28, 2011 at 10:01 pm

hi jules,

thanks for a great recipe. we try to go meatless two days a week in our house (amazing how much our grocery bill has gone down, apart from all of the other benefits!)

i love your recipes for three reasons:
3. your photos are always so simply and elegantly styled and always enticing, even if it’s brown soup
2. the recipes are simple enough to make right away, no need to wait for the weekend or for a big grocery shop
1. they taste amazing!!

thanks again! i have been sharing your recipes around to friends and family and we are all big fans.
xxx

Lau@corridorkitchen April 28, 2011 at 10:11 pm

I was gonna say why do we even need to suggest one meatless day a week when surely people goes days at a time without eating any meat at all?! Then I read Erica’s comment and changed my mind, as for many people a day without meat would be some kind of crazy revolution.

Maybe it’s the ex-vego in me, but I can’t see why you’d need/want to eat meat every day.

So I salute meatless Mondays. Cheers, Jules.

jules April 28, 2011 at 10:34 pm

thanks olivia.
very sweet of you to say so.
and really appreciate you spreading the word about stonesoup.

lau
thanks for your comment- that the thing – everyone is different and comes from a different background / mindset.

tania
absolutely yes to the garlic! although I’d probably skip the onion if I were using garlic but that’s just me being a minimalist so feel free to use both if you like.

Alex April 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Many people of a particluar generation have problem with no meat in a dish (as in no meat at all – no chooped ham, no fish or chicken stock or no egg). Weird given how special meat once was to the west! My dad used to eat alot of meat because for him it was partly a status thing – all of a sudden he could afford it. So he ate it. As in alot of it! Beef was best, chicken and fish were not real ‘meat’. Funny.

I was vegan for a while and I know that is why I don’t eat meat every day now. Part of it is knowing how to use vegetables and see them as a meal, not just a side dish or a salad.

SharonG April 30, 2011 at 3:17 am

Hi Jules
I couldn’t find cans of just white beans, could only find cans of white beans in tomato sauce so i used those instead and i also added 2 cloves of garlic, minced. It turend out great! i’m a vegetarian but the rest of my family isn’t and they loved it too

mary April 30, 2011 at 4:35 am

Hi Jules,

I’m new to your site and just want to say it’s wonderful! I’ll definitely be a frequent visitor and try out your recipes. It’ll definitely be a time and money saver.

DWD May 2, 2011 at 1:01 am

Hi Jules,

I couldn’t find white beans, so I used a can of baby butter beans. Very tasty! I also don’t have a reliable blender, but my potato masher worked fine. Great recipe!

Culinary School: Three Semesters of Life, Learning, and Loss of Blood May 2, 2011 at 5:50 am

I agree on the roasting of the eggplant – roasting always makes a wonderful difference.

betty May 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

i made this last night with extra roast pumpkin in it and it turned out great although i probably should add abit more stock or water as it was quite thick! but so delicious anyway

jules May 3, 2011 at 12:16 am

betty
love the idea of extra roast pumpkin!

Scott May 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Thanks so much. I was searching for Leo’s article post in a very round about way and your re-mentioning it totally saved me a lot of heartache. I also like your post too, thx.

Deja May 6, 2011 at 3:17 am

Just wanted to say that I tried this, and loved it. Super duper loved it. I added a few jarred roasted red peppers, and used a bit of veggie stock to get it to blend. Thanks for a great vegetarian recipe!

jules May 6, 2011 at 7:12 am

pleasure deja
love the idea of adding some peppers

Sandra Fagan May 8, 2011 at 2:36 am

Just made this and it is delicious! Added a little harissa paste for some kick – going with a middle eastern theme and it was amazing. Might try with chickpeas next time. So many ideas here from all the posters from one basic recipe – love it!!

jules May 8, 2011 at 5:28 am

sandra
loving the sound of the harissa – a little ground cumin would be lovely as well
and I agree really LOVE the ideas and additions to this post – one of the best parts of blogging.

Ru May 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

My husband and I decided to go vegetarian for a month, and we’ve been starving our first week! I came across this recipe and knew from the pictures and easy instructions & ingredients that I would love it. I made it today and I haven’t felt this satisfied all week! It was absolutely hearty and delicious, and of course I added a few spices but the beans and eggplant really do all the work. As I was enjoying it, I realized it mimicked the flavors of a Southeast Asian dish we make called Haleem- which is usually beef, lentils and grains, and spices. It’s stewed for a LONG time, but the flavors are amazing. I can’t believe though that I found a vegetarian recipe that mimics that flavor in 30 mins! Thanks for making my veg month THAT much easier. I will be doubling the recipe next time!

zuza May 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm

I prepared it today. I’m a newborn cooker so I’m a bit unsecure at kitchen. When I mixed everything and looked at the colour…well to be honest i felt like “oh sh** unsuccesfull this time AGAIN, so many waisted bean livings, shame on me”. But i closed my eyes and gave it a try…IT WAS REALLY WORTH IT!!! great soup, totally new taste for me, thanks a lot!

jules May 17, 2011 at 8:36 am

wonderful zuza
so glad you enjoyed the soup!

Niall Sheridan August 1, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Hi Jules, If you’re tempted to try the vegan diet again and miss the taste of bacon, try some toasted sunflower seeds, tastes like bacon!!

jules August 3, 2011 at 10:22 am

really niall? will have to try them

Carl August 19, 2011 at 7:16 am

Does the eggplant contribute to the taste significantly? I find aubergine to be a nice ingredient, but it sometimes “drowns” in the tastes of more distinct flavors.

jules August 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm

carl
this soup is all about the eggplant… so it does dominate.. but that was the intention ;)

Carl August 20, 2011 at 5:04 am

Nice, will have to try it out :-)

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