Meat Free Monday: not just for vegetarians

Illustration by Stefano Marrone, Nucco Brain Studio

Illustration by Stefano Marrone, Nucco Brain Studio

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George Bernard Shaw, the playwright and prominent vegetarian, said: “Animals are my friends… And I don’t eat my friends”. Now, the London Vegan and Vegetarian Society hope that on Mondays, Londoners will not be eating them either.

Their goal by 2015 is for 100,000 Londoners to go meat free every Monday. But for the insatiable carnivore it need not be the end of rib eyed steak, roast chicken and succulent ham.

According to Brian Jacobs, founder of VeganLondon, a website that is an aggregator for restaurants, cafes, and all things that cater to vegans, said: “what’s happened in the last year or so, is that now restaurants are having separate vegan and or vegetarian menus. Or at least they’ve itemised which items are suitable for vegans. For example Pizza Express have a pizza without cheese that is labeled as vegan. Before, you’d have to ask restaurants to change their ingredients.”

Flexitarianism is a growing trend that encourages people to reduce meat in their diet while opting for more vegetables. This approach is taken to gain the health benefits of eating more vegetables without sacrificing meat completely. It is seen as an easier way to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle, without needing to become a vegetarian. It could be argued that this is simply a compromise, an unwillingness to be a full out vegetarian or an unabashed carnivore, but flexitarianism simply makes the best of both worlds.

This is seen as a middle ground for people who want to be vegetarian but like to eat meat, and for those who hardly ever eat meat but would not classify themselves as vegetarian.

Flexitarianism is seen as a way to stay healthy materially and physically, with health benefits including  lower cholesterol levels, a decrease in blood pressure, and weight loss. The reduction of red meat in particular is also seen as a way to lower the risk of heart disease.

There are also environmental concerns in becoming a flexitarian. The loss of trees to provide more room for livestock, to meet the demand  for meat has meant an increase in the gases responsible for climate change. As Tom Micklewright, the founder of the London Vegan Society, said  the current consumption of meat is “unsustainable”.

Alison McNaught is a flexitarian and runs a vegetarian and pescatarian (fish) café in Croydon. Her jointly owned café, Domali, has been going for 17 years. McNaught is not a vegetarian but  she was when she begun Domali.

So why did she go back to eating meat? How did she become a flexitarian?

She said that she felt pressure to conform when she was travelling . In developing countries where food was not so abundant, disagreeing over meat when people were offering her food felt “ungrateful”. She succumbed when her friend made a roast dinner, with roast duck. She had one thought: “I want that”.

McNaught said: “I wasn’t veggie because I thought it was wrong to eat animals. I don’t think it’s morally wrong to eat animals. Animals eat each other, it’s something we’ve always done. I disagree with mass production and the meat industry.” As such the fish served at Domali is sustainable and from sources approved by the Marine Stewardship Council.

On the other side of Croydon is The Ship, a pub that has recently launched  a full vegetarian menu, with updates expected in the autumn. In 2010, Siobhan Terry began serving vegan and vegetarian dishes which proved to be a hit with the locals. So does she think it is becoming more popular to go out for vegetarian food when eating out? “I think it’s becoming more popular, and I think this is because a) more people are becoming vegetarian b)more people eat vegetarian food as we are more aware of the health benefits of a veggie diet and c)People are becoming increasingly conscious of the ethics of our food, and a safe option is usually veggie when eating out.”

Terry is optimistic for the future of vegetarian cuisine, she thinks there are more veggie choices in supermarkets and that the pub and restaurant trade are catching up: “Croydon has a lot of regeneration plans (new shopping centre etc) so new businesses will come to the area, also I think vegetarians will grow in number and keep growing.  The food trade will have to reflect this.”

Vegetarian advocates believe that Meat Free Mondays is one way of exploring flexitarianism. It might even lead to the option of becoming a vegetarian or vegan for that matter.

If you’d like to challenge yourself to a Meat Free Monday, check out a list of ten tips from someone celebrating 10 years of vegetarianism: here

The East London Lines team have been scouring the boroughs to help you give Meat Free Monday a go. It really doesn’t have be the ubiquitous egg and chips, cheese sandwich, or  baked beans on toast.

Here are some of the vegetarian options for eating out available in the area:

Now check out some of our vegetarian recipes from local restaurants in the four ELL boroughs:

Aubergine Caponata: Sicilian Vegetable Stew, recipe from Cafe Crema, 306 New Cross Road, SE14 6AF



  • oil
  • 2x aubergines, chopped into cubes
  • 1x red onion, finely chopped
  • 2x garlic cloves, sliced
  • oregano
  • 5x tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • Extra:
  • 8x olives, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Vinegar (a little)


  1. Chop the 2 aubergines into cubes
  2. Fry the aubergines in plenty of oil on high heat. Cook until golden brown and just starting to burn, around 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the finely chopped onions (red is best but others can be used), sliced garlic cloves, and ½ teaspoon of oregano, and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Most sure to add more oil if it is getting too dry.
  4. Add the 5 roughly chopped tomatoes and season well with salt and pepper.
  5. Allow to simmer for around 15 minutes, or until tender
  6. This is ready; but if you have, add 8 sliced olives, making sure the stones are out and 2 tablespoons of capers with a small splash of vinegar.
  7. Taste before serving

Like many dishes, this would be best after a couple of days. It can be served warm or cold, with bread, hummus or with a cheese omelette.

Welsh Rarebit (recipe from Domali38 Westow St, London SE19 3AH)


For 2 people


  • 160 grammes of  good quality mature grated vegetarian  cheddar
  • 1 meduim size free range or organic egg
  • 1 dessertspoon of mustard ( we use Dijon at domali)
  • 50 ml of beer /lager- we use Peroni ( it’s only a splash you will have to drink the rest)
  • 25ml double cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1 inch  thick slices of toast ( we use farmhouse bread at Domali- however you can use whatever you like- experiment!)


HOT TIP- place foil on your grillpan before making this dish- the mixture gets very bubbly and hot!

  1. Whip up the egg
  2. Add the grated cheddar
  3. Add the cream and beer and mustard until it all forms into a gooey paste.
  4. Spread the mixture on to the slices of toast
  5. Place the toast with the mixture on top under a hot grill
  6. Wait a couple of minutes- take the grill pan out from under your grill and turn the mixture over on top of the toast- this is to ensure it cooks properly all the way through- be careful to keep as much mixture on the toast as possible-this can get messy
  7. Return to under the grill for another couple of minutes
  8. The welsh is ready when it is golden and bubbly on top
  9. Remove and eat immediately! Washed down with the leftover Beer if you like
  10. This dish goes well with a crisp green salad- at Domali we serve it with Grilled tomatoes

Puy Lentil Chili (feeds 2-4) (recipe from Black Cat Cafe, 76 Clarence Rd, London E5 8HB)
  • One medium onion, diced
  • One medium bell pepper, diced
  • One small to medium carrot, diced
  • a few mushrooms if you have em, quartered.
  • Two cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • One can chopped tomatoes
  • Two tablespoons tomato pasteHalf a cup of dry puy lentils, or a can (drained) if you prefer. Any other kind of lentil will do the job here too, although if you use split red lentils, be aware you're going to end up with a much soupier result. 
  • A flat tsp of cumin
  • 1 Tbsp of paprika
  • 1 Tbsp of oregano
  • Half a tsp of chili powder or more/less to taste
  • A third of a tsp of cinnamon


  1. Fry the onions, peppers, carrot and mushrooms in a deep pot with some veg oil until they start to brown. Lower the heat, and add the garlic, spices and herbs. Stir and fry for about 30 seconds, then add in the lentils, and tomato. If you're using dry lentils, add about a cup of water, and cook for about 20 mins, until the lentils are tender. You may need to add more water as it cooks, if it looks like the lentils are absorbing a lot, go ahead and add more.
  2. If using canned lentils, don't add the extra water, just cook until all the veg is tender.
  3. Chopped coriander is an excellent garnish if you have it, and of course, chili is an extremely flexible dish, and you can throw in whatever veg or beans you like! You can even add beer or cold coffee instead of water! I often add a spoon of marmite for a beefier flavour, or some smoked paprika.
  4. Serve with rice, baked potato, mash, tortillas, cornbread, whatever your heart desires.

*Here's a super easy recipe which fills the gap that Snickers bars left in my life when I went's so good...

For Dessert:
No-bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Slabs (recipe from Black Cat Cafe)
(makes an 8 x 8 pan full, about 6 huge slices or 12 more reasonable slices)


  • Half a cup of margarine (Pure or Vitalite are probably the most commonly available)
  • 1 C peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, your choice!)
  • 200g (or about half a cup) Golden Syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 cups of oats (maybe a bit more)
  1. Melt the marg, peanut butter and syrup together either in a pot on the stove over low heat, or in a plastic bowl in the microwave. Stir frequently. When it's all melted, add in the oats and salt, and mix well. If needed, add more oats, until you have a consistency where it's still a bit sticky, and you could easily pick some up and shape it into a ball that would stay together.
  2. Press the mixture into your tin.
  3. Melt about 150g of chocolate with a spoon of margerine, again, either in a pot on low heat on the stove, or in the microwave, in short 10 second bursts. 
  4. When the choc is completely melted, spread it evenly over your peanut-oat mixture, and chill in the fridge for as long as you can bear it. (give it at least 15 mins!) Slice. Eat!

A summer soup (recipe from G&T Organic Shop and Coffee house, 204 Cambridge Heath Road, Tower Hamlets E2 9NQ)


Serves 4

Ingredients  (for the soup):

  • 1/2 large butternut squash (peeled, deseeded and chopped in 1inch cubes)2 sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped too)
  • 2 carrots (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • fresh thyme (leaves off 8-10 stalks)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • a pinch cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste

Ingredients (For the quinoa):

  • 2 cups of black quinoa
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (For asparagus and fennel):

  • 2 bunches of tender asparagus
  • 1 large fennel
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • salt


  1. Wash and trim the asparagus and the fennel. Cut asparagus in 1/2 inch pieces but leave the tops slightly longer. Cut fennel in small cubes.
  2. Wash quinoa rarefully. Drain it very well. Put it in a pot with 4 1/4 cups of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring it to boil and simmer till all the water will be absorbed. Move the pot from the stove, cover it with a kitchen towel and set it aside.
  3. While quinoa is cooking, you can start preparing the soup. In a large pot simmer all the ingredients till soft with enough water to cover them.
  4. Whiz the soup with a hand blender until you have a smooth texture, adding water until your desired thickness. Check the seasoning.
  5. Put it on the stove and bring it back to boil, then cover it and leave it aside while you sautee asparagus and fennel: heat 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on medium-hight heat, add fennel seeds and gently fry for a minute. Add asparagus and fennels and sautee for few minutes, adding just a little bit of water and salt.
  6. Assembling: place quinoa in the centre of a soup plate. Pour around the soup. Place few asparagus on top of quinoa and some around it, along with fennels. Sprinkle with thyme leaves  and drizzle with a swirl of good-quality extra virgin olive oil.

*All the ingredients used are available to buy at G&T (including organic veg)

By Martina Melli, Oluwatosin Oyeniyi, Shona Owen, and Yara Zeitoun

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