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How to add flavour and zest to your vegetarian dishes

One of the main challenges to those making the transition to vegetarianism is how to render food flavourful without the aid of animal fat and meat? It is true that non-vegetarian cooking relies on meat and fat from different animals for flavour and taste.

There is no way to replicate gamey taste and meaty flavours in vegetarian cooking. It is just not possible. But there are many ways to jazz up mouth-watering dishes meat-free and animal-fat-free.

One easy and cheap way to add zing to mixed vegetable soup is by adding a tablespoon of either or both finely grated lemon and orange zest into the pot. For a more distinct taste, after zesting the orange, squeeze out every drop of the juice, before adding it to the pot. The soup will have a beautiful citrusy fragrance and a tangy orange flavour to it.

Both dry and fresh herbs are powerful flavour enhancer in stews, sauces, soups as well as grilled or baked dishes. A twig of fresh rosemary works well when baking potatoes. For a distinctive twist to baked sweet potatoes try adding a tablespoon of marmalade (diluted in hot water to a syrup-like consistency) and finely chopped fresh rosemary, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Fruit jams, preserves and dry fruits lend a subtle fruity sweetness in stews and curries. Dry figs or dates, chopped into chunks blend beautifully in a coconut-based South East Asian style curries.  Sultanas, raisins and currants are not uncommon ingredients in traditional signature dishes like Indian pilaf, biryani and Northern African couscous.

Another significant way to add flavours to vegetarian cooking is the usage of spices and condiments. Add coarsely chopped pickle lemon in steamed beetroot salad for an uplifting tang to the dish and try a pinch of saffron in stews and soups for that special flavour.

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to spicing up a dish vegetarian style. Be bold and experiment with different herbs, spices, condiments and ingredients. The key word is moderation. The aim is not to overpower the dish with any one taste or flavour but rather to strike a nice balance between all the main ingredients to create a flavoursome dish.


About Urban permaculturist

I have an interest in sustainability; from food security to renewable energy. I am also a keen food gardener and vegetarian cook. For more information, check out my blog at:


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