We are fast approaching The Three Weeks - the time between Tammuz 17 and Av 9 during which Jews mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
The final nine days of the Three Weeks, starting on the Av 1, are an intensified period of mourning when we refrain from eating meat or drinking wine, although the eating of meat is allowed on Shabbat.
A lot of people do go veggie during this period, partly because it is assumed that a meat-free diet is healthier. Eating vegetarian is not the automatic route to a healthy diet but it can be achieved by eating a wide range of different foods: nuts, beans, eggs, soya, and textured vegetable protein, such as quorn and lentils, are excellent sources of protein. A lack of iron can be a problem but it can be found in leafy green vegetables, pulses, tofu, bran cereals, wholemeal bread, dried fruit and pumpkin seeds.
Being kosher and vegetarian requires a bit more than basic knowledge. Most processed foods contain food additives, commonly referred to as E numbers, and manufacturers may not always check all aspects of their ingredients before labelling a product vegetarian. Certain E numbers may be derived from either animal or vegetable sources, so it is important to also look out for products that are made with E numbers originating from a vegetarian source and approved by the Beth Din.
Problematic E numbers include E570 stearic acid, which naturally occurs in animal fats and vegetable oils and is used as an anti-caking agent in spices.
E 572 magnesium sterate is prepared synthetically from commercial stearic acid. This is used for moulding confectionery. Rennet is used in cheese products as a clotting agent and is obtained from the intestines of calves or adult cattle. But there is also a non-animal version that is used in vegetarian cheeses and other similar products. Check the ingredients carefully and look for a kashrut approval logo on products.
Items labelled as edible fat and edible oils can also be misleading and it is vital to know their source. Gelatine, glycerine, glycerines, polysorbates and diacetin may be animal derived and, again, unless their origin is listed, it is best to assume that it is not kosher.
Other factors to be considered are the issue of sharing of production facilities where a perfectly vegetarian product is made on a production line that the day before made meat products. Without strict attention to detailed cleaning, this will not be a kosher product.
Garden Vegetable Quiche
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 30 minutes' chilling time
Cooking time: 1 hour
Serves: 6- 8 people
For the pastry:
● 250g plain flour
● Pinch of salt
● 125g cold butter
● 25g Parmesan cheese – finely grated
● 2 tablespoons fresh mint/parsley
● 1 egg
● 1- 2 teaspoons cold water
● 110g runner beans, stringed, halved lengthways and sliced
● 110g fresh or frozen peas
● 300ml milk
● 25g plain flour
● 3 large eggs
● 110g log full-fat soft goat's cheese, sliced
● 3 small vine tomatoes, quartered
● Garnish: Dusting of black pepper and torn leaves of fresh mint /parsley
● Put the flour, salt and mint or parsley into the food processor. Add the butter, cheese and an egg. Continue to whizz together until the pastry comes clean away from the side of the bowl. Add the water gradually as required.
● Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
● Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the pastry so that it fits a 25 cm /10 in deep loose based flan tin. (It needs to be approximately 8 cm/ 3 ¾ in larger to accommodate the depth of the tin.)
● Pre-heat the oven to 200° C/400° F/ gas mark 6.
● Carefully roll the rolling pin over the tin to neaten the edges and trim the excess pastry.
● Line the pastry base with aluminium foil. Fill with baking beans and bake blind for 20 minutes in the pre-heated oven.
● Place the beans and peas into a saucepan of boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes or until soft. Drain and put into the pastry case.
● Using the same saucepan, add the flour followed by the milk stirring continuously over a low heat until slowly thickened.
● Beat the eggs into the sauce and generously season. Pour into the pastry case and scatter with the goat's cheese and tomatoes.
● Bake for 40 minutes until the filling is set, turning golden.
● Cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin. Serve with a green salad.