Veggie might: Mark Hix's delicious, healthy and easy-to-prepare vegetarian dishes

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If you entertain regularly at home you must be familiar with the scenario when you find out at the last minute that one of your guests is a vegetarian and you need to rustle up something suitable in a hurry. First of all, you need to find out exactly what sort of vegetarians they are, as many people who claim to be vegetarians actually eat fish (they are pescatorians, in other words) and some of them eat chicken, which makes it even more confusing... And if your guests are vegans, then menu planning is even harder, as you won't be able to use butter, cream or eggs.

Anyway, here are some ideas for delicious dishes that you can make for that unexpected veggie guest with just a few quality ingredients.

Beetroot and feta salad

Serves 1

Beetroot and feta are the kind of items you may find already in your fridge, but if not they are easily sourced from shops and supermarkets and, combined with a few leaves, they make this lovely early-summer salad. It's always better if you cook your own beetroot, but some of the pre-cooked beetroot on the market is of pretty good quality and make this dish even easier to create if you're in a rush.

150-200g cooked beetroot, skins removed
A few small tasty salad leaves like rocket, watercress, landcress etc
60-70g good-quality feta cheese
Peeled segments from 1 orange
2tsp white wine vinegar
A squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the beetroot into wedges or even-sized chunks and arrange on serving plates with the salad leaves, orange and feta. Mix the vinegar, lemon and olive oil and season to taste, then spoon over the salad.

Aubergine escalope with a fried duck egg and capers

Serves 1

This is a veggie version of the classic veal Holstein. You can serve one or two slices per portion depending on the size of the aubergines.

A slice from a large aubergine about 1 cm thick, or 2 slices from a smaller one
1 slice of gruyere or Emmental cheese about the size of the aubergine
1tbsp plain flour
2 duck eggs
A handful of fresh white breadcrumbs
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
A good knob of butter
1tbsp capers, rinsed

Preheat the oven to 175C/gas mark 4. Lay the aubergine flat on a chopping board and with a sharp or serrated knife cut through it horizontally almost all the way through and put the slice of cheese in the centre.

Have 3 dishes ready, one with the flour seasoned with salt and pepper, the second with one of the duck eggs, beaten, and the third with the white breadcrumbs.

Lightly flour the aubergine on both sides then dip in the egg and finally the breadcrumbs, holding the cheese in place as you are doing it.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergine on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Remove from the pan and place on a tray in the oven while you are cooking the egg.

Wipe out the frying pan and return to a low heat with a little more vegetable oil and lightly fry the duck egg, seasoning the white a little as it's cooking.

To serve, place the aubergine on a warmed serving plate with the egg on top. Heat the butter in the pan that the egg was in until it's foaming, then remove from the heat, add the capers and spoon over and around the aubergine and egg. If you wish, you can sprinkle over a little chopped parsley at the end just before serving.

Sprouting broccoli with pickled walnuts

Serves 1

I love the combination of sprouting broccoli and pickled walnuts. You can serve this dish either as a starter or even as a main course, on toast rubbed with a little garlic.

150g or so of sprouting broccoli with any woody stems cut off

2-3 pickled walnuts, sliced or quartered

1-2tbsp extra virgin rapeseed or olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the broccoli in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes or until tender, then drain. Arrange on a warm serving plate, scatter the pickled walnuts on top, season and drizzle some oil on top.

Field mushroom lasagne

Serves 1

This is not a lasagne strictly speaking, but it's quick and easy to knock up for a single portion as a vegetarian. You can use just field mushrooms or a mixture for this.

1-2 sheets of lasagne
A good knob of butter
1 large shallot, peeled, halved and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
150-200g field mushrooms, sliced
120-150ml double cream
1tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently cook the shallots and garlic for a minute, add the mushrooms and cook with a lid on for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften. Add the cream, season and simmer for a few minutes until the cream thickens. Stir in the Parmesan and parsley; re-season if necessary. There should be a good amount of sauce to coat the mushrooms; if not, add a little more cream and simmer again. Meanwhile, cook the lasagne sheets in boiling salted water according to the cooking instructions; drain. To serve, lay a sheet of lasagne on a warmed serving plate, spoon over the mushrooms, reserving a spoonful of the sauce. If you wish, you can lay a second layer of lasagne and spoon the rest of the sauce on top.

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