This weekend the Irish Independent Weekend Magazine ran a feature on one of my deliciously healthy comfort food menus. I would love to hear your comments on the recipes if you got a chance to try any of them out over the weekend.

Vegetarians can enjoy comfort food just as much as our beef and Guinness stew-loving, shepherd’s pie-devouring carnivorous diners. As the weather turns colder outside there are just as many delicious, warming options for us non-meat eaters. This menu will heat up both your tummy and your kitchen.

For me, winter cooking revolves around warmth and nourishment — to maintain our energy levels and keep colds and the flu away. This menu is packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fibre, good fats and flavour.

Nut roasts have been on the classic vegetarian menu for years, but this time I have added some extra protein by including lentils. Lentils, nuts and seeds are a huge part of a balanced vegetarian diet. These little morsels are jam-packed with energy, fibre, nutrients and good fats.

Sweet potato is an excellent alternative to the much-loved white potato. Try these beautifully sweet wedges with the harissa mayonnaise for a guaranteed kick to your meal. I recommend buying an organic, free-range-egg mayonnaise. I promise you will taste the difference. You can add the harissa gradually to the mayo to get the right amount of heat, depending on how adventurous you feel.

I believe it is always important to have something lush and green on your plate, as greens are a great source of calcium, iron and are rich in antioxidants.
Edamame beans are high in protein, dietary fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients, such as folic acid, manganese and vitamin K. These special beans are a regular on Japanese menus, and we all know about the health benefits of their diet.

Whether you are vegetarian and looking for something new, having vegetarian guests for dinner or would like to reduce your meat intake, I recommend giving these recipes a try. Your tummy will thank you afterwards.

– Megan Young

Bean Salad with Pink Grapefruit Dressing

You will need
2 cups frozen edamame beans (soybeans)
2 large handfuls green beans
1 pink grapefruit, juiced
1 tbsp agave syrup
2 tsbps extra-virgin olive oil
½ clove crushed garlic
1 handful coriander leaves

Method
Add the frozen edamame beans to a medium pot of boiling water. Return to the boil and simmer for five minutes.
Strain the edamame beans immediately and refresh in a basin of cold water.
Top and tail the green beans and add to a medium pot of boiling water for three minutes.
Strain the beans immediately and refresh in a basin of cold water. Once the green beans and edamame beans are cold, strain and add to a large mixing bowl. Put the grapefruit juice, agave syrup, olive oil and crushed garlic in a medium glass jar, add the lid tightly, and shake.
Pour the dressing over the mixed beans and mix well. Transfer the salad to your serving bowl and garnish with the coriander leaves.

Sweet Potato and Beetroot Wedges with Harissa Mayo Dipping Sauce

you will need
2 large sweet potatoes
2 large beetroots
2 tbsps olive oil
Salt and pepper, to season
For the harissa mayo dipping sauce
1 cup high-quality free-range-egg mayonnaise
2 tbsps harissa paste

Method
Peel the vegetables and cut into equal-sized wedges.
Place the vegetables on a large baking tray, pour over the olive oil and toss well so they are evenly coated.
Bake in a moderate oven (180 Deg°C/356 Deg°F) for 35-45 minutes, or until the wedges are soft in the middle and crispy on the outside.
Combine the mayonnaise and harissa by mixing well with a spoon.
Harissa varies in heat from brand to brand, so test the dipping sauce as you add the harissa to make sure it has the right amount of chilli for you.
Serve the wedges straight from the oven, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Nut and Lentil loaf

You will need
1 ½ cups red lentils
3 cups boiling water
2 vegetable stock cubes
2 bay leaves
½ cup cashew nuts
½ cup walnuts
1 tbsp olive oil
4 spring onions chopped
1 ½ cups diced mushrooms
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried sage
¼ cup sunflower seeds
1 slice stale rye bread, crumbed
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method
Rinse the lentils thoroughly in a colander under running cold water. Put in a medium-sized saucepan with the boiling water, stock cubes and bay leaves.
Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pot.
Make sure you remove the bay leaves at the end of cooking.
Meanwhile, in a heavy frying pan, dry-roast the nuts over a medium heat for five minutes. Then chop the nuts and put in a large mixing bowl.
Take the same pan, add the olive oil and sauté the chopped spring onions over a medium heat for three to five minutes.
Add the chopped mushrooms, crushed garlic and dried herbs and stir for a further three to five minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft.
Add the mixture from the frying pan to the mixing bowl along with the sunflower seeds, breadcrumbs, beaten eggs and lentil mix. Combine all of the
ingredients well with a wooden spoon, then spoon the mixture into a greased loaf pan which is lined with greaseproof paper.
Bake in a moderate oven (180 Deg°C/356 Deg°F) for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown on top and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before running a knife around the edges and turning the loaf out on to a serving platter.
Slice with care using a serrated bread knife. Serve warm.