National Vegetarian Week 2022
About National Vegetarian Week
National Vegetarian Week (16 – 22 May 2022) aims to encourage people to cut down the amount of meat they eat in a bid to have a positive impact on the planet. According to the 2018 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), eating more vegetarian foods is one of the best things we can do to help reduce the effect of global warming.
Established by UK charity the Vegetarian Society in 1992, what started out as a single day quickly grew in popularity and is now celebrated for a full week in May. This year the theme is choose veggie, choose climate and choose wildlife.
“Many UK species are under threat due to the climate crisis. However, there are things we can all do to reduce our CO2 emissions, and our suggestion is easier, cheaper and tastier than buying an electric car! It’s choosing to eat more veggie food.”National Vegetarian Week website
If you sign up to the National Vegetarian Week website, you’ll also get access to some great vegetarian recipes from top plant-based chefs including Deliciously Ella, Anna Jones and The Happy Pear. Each recipe also shows you how many CO2 emissions you’re saving compared with a meat-based meal.
Making simple swaps to a few meat-free meals a week is better for you, your wallet and the planet. The National Food Strategy report published in 2021 advises that as a nation we need to reduce the amount of meat we eat by 30% by 2030, which equates to about two meat-free meals each week.
It seems that people in the UK are also actively looking to reduce the amount of meat they consume. A recent survey by YouGov found that one in four people (27%) are considering eating less meat, with climate change and health reasons given as the main motivations.
Moving to a vegetarian or flexitarian diet may also help people to lose weight, improve their gut health and reduce their risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
It’s important to be aware that not all cheese is vegetarian. Many cheeses are made with animal rennet, which comes from enzymes that occur naturally in the fourth stomach compartment of young ruminants. These are namely calves, lambs or kid goats who have only been fed on milk. You can find out more about the ingredients that go into cheese in my cheese making blog post.
However, there is a great variety of amazing British cheeses that only use vegetarian rennet. If you’re looking to have a go at making your own cheese at home, you can also buy vegetarian rennet from many online retailers. I’ve listed some of my favourite vegetarian cheeses below, with a few suggested drinks pairings.
Soft, mould-ripened cheese
Norfolk White Lady
A soft, white-mould cheese with a mild flavour. Similar to a Camembert but made with milk from a herd of white friesian sheep. This is the only ewe’s milk cheese produced in Norfolk.
Drinks pairing: Citrusy IPA or an apple cider.
Made in Berkshire and similar to Brie, this creamy and buttery cheese is made with Guernsey cow’s milk.
Drinks pairing: Belgian Kriek fruit beer or a blonde beer.
A mousse-like goat’s cheese made in Somerset. It’s soft, citrusy and coated in an ash rind.
Drinks pairing: A glass of your favourite sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre.
This semi-hard goat’s cheese is a real gem. It’s creamy, nutty and doesn’t have too much of a goaty taste.
Drinks pairing: A Kolsch-style lager or rose wine.
Creamy, lemony and wrapped with nettle leaves, Cornish Yarg is one of the most distinctive cheeses produced in the UK.
Drinks pairing: A crisp lager, hazy IPA, pinot noir or a zesty Chardonnay.
Lemony, salty, creamy and buttery – this cheese is very special indeed. Produced in Yorkshire using a recipe developed over 100 years ago, it shares similarities with a classic Wensleydale.
Drinks pairing: A citrusy IPA or a dry Riesling.
Washed rind cheese
Not for the faint-hearted. This pungent handmade cheese is produced in Gloucestershire and washed in perry.
Drinks pairing: Sweet cider, calvados, strong Belgian beers or Trappist ales.
Another powerful cheese, this is made by Feltham’s Farm in Somerset and is washed in ale for about four weeks.
Drinks pairing: A fruit beer. North x Stigbergets – Triple Fruited Gose is particularly good.
Made in Yorkshire with milk from a herd of water buffalos, this cheese won a silver medal at the World Cheese Awards in 2019.
Drinks pairing: Single malt whisky.
Produced by the family-run Two Hoots Cheese company. Made with a mixture of Guernsey and Jersey milk, it’s buttery with a nice bite.
Drinks pairing: A vintage port or a chocolatey or coffee stout or porter.
If you’re looking to cut down your meat intake but still want a whack of big, bold flavours, then a vegetarian cheese is the perfect substitute. It adds such luxury, depth and umami notes to vegetarian recipes, you really don’t miss the meat. Some of the recipes listed below already use vegetarian cheeses or can easily be adapted to use cheese with vegetarian rennet.
- Winter salad with Lypiatt – although Lypiatt is made with animal rennet, you could swap this for a soft goat’s cheese or even a blue cheese listed above.
- Baked ricotta and aubergine with spicy tomato sauce and pangritata
- Tunworth, potato and onion pie – although Tunworth is not vegetarian, you can swap this out with one of the other Brie or Camembert style mould-ripened cheeses listed above.
- Spiced beans with cheese – although this Extra-Mature Cornish Gouda is not vegetarian, there are lots of alternative hard or crumbly cheeses you can substitute this with.
- Grilled cheese and tomato soup – a mixture of three different vegetarian cheeses (a hard, a blue and a mould-rinded) in a grilled cheese with a the sharp tang of a homemade tomato soup is a delicious contrasting pairing.