Brown Rice with Roasted Squash and Onions, with Herby Yogurt Dressing

It’s no use. I might as well face the facts and admit it to the world. I’m a closet vegetarian.

For so long I have been tooting the horn for pork-lovers everywhere, wrapping things in bacon and eating pork rinds with all the fat attached. I’ve revelled in the intricacies of pig’s ears and cheeks and every permutation of pork belly. I’ll eat bacon fried with sugar or crumbled in a chocolate bar. I love pork and all the wonderful adventures I have with it, from nose to curly tail. Let’s not forget that the “chicha” in Chichajo stand for chicharon – my all time favourite pork snack.

In truth, although pork is definitely my first and most passionate love, I like all kinds of meat. From land, sea, or air. I relish trying new things and I will try anything at least once...especially if it has some nice cultural or historical significance. The only things I draw the line at are things which are endangered – because really, any true consumer knows that finishing up supplies that can no longer be replaced is, for lack of a better word, quite stupid (I mean, if chocolate were running out you wouldn’t damn us all and finish it right? No, you would find a way to make more).

So, in between my undying love story with pork, and my quest to eat everything, I am sometimes (understandably) cast as a rabid carnivore. But what my friends, and myself, forget, is that “everything” includes animals and plants. There is, after all, no way somebody who eats as much as me is going to ignore a whole food group. And I don’t. A vegetable, as much as a meat, has got equal opportunities to be eaten by me.

I do love vegetables as much as I love meat, the same way I do love Jamie Oliver as much as I love Daniel Craig. Perhaps a different kind of love for each, but love nonetheless, and I am equally likely to run away with one as the other (um, I mean if I wasn’t already married to Benicio del Toro of course). AnyWAY, lately my love for veggies has been turning into a full-on infatuation for vegetarian cuisine (and yes, I do consider it a cuisine). There have been people who have actually mistaken me for vegetarian because of all my blabbing about it! I’ll probably never be a vegetarian (giving up pork is just not in the cards for me) but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the food :)

Brown Rice with Roasted Squash and Onions, with Herby Yogurt Dressing
(happily inspired by this recipe on 101 Cookbooks)

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 200-250 gram wedge of squash, peeled and seeded
  • 3-4 small red onions
  • 2 tablespoons natural yogurt (if you have Greek or Greek-style even better!)
  • 1 teaspoon roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon roughly chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped spring onions
  • Olive oil (1 teaspoon for the dressing, plus more for drizzling on the veggies)
  • Sea salt & freshly cracked black pepper

- Chop the squash into small cubes and set on one side of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, and toss until the squash is pretty evenly coated with the oil.
- Peel and quarter the onions, and place on the other side of the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, and toss as with the squash.
- Roast in a 180-190C oven for about 30 minutes or until both squash and onions are soft and caramelized. You may have to flip them and toss them around once or twice so they are evenly browned. The reason I roast them on separate sides of the baking sheet is so just in case you need to take the onions out earlier you won’t be fishing for them amongst the squash cubes.
- Make the dressing while your veg are roasting. In a bowl mix the yogurt, cilantro, parsley, and spring onions with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir, and set aside in the fridge.
- When the squash and onions are ready, place the rice in a bowl, top with squash and onions and a generous splodge of the dressing.
- Serves one.

In my little romance with vegetarian cooking, 101 Cookbooks is my porn, my guide, and my absolute blog-crush. What Heidi Swanson has done to this little pork-lover is nothing short of amazing. She has enthralled me with photos and recipes that make vegetarian dishes seem like a cross between Mr. Big and that Hermes bag that’s got a 5,673-person waitlist. Yup, I’m talking about longing folks, and yearning. She makes me want to eat nothing but vegetables (and nuts and grains and any mixture thereof) forever and ever. I know in my heart that that’s not going to happen, but still. Nobody has ever made me want it like that.

This dish, inspired by a Roasted Pumpkin Salad recipe at 101 Cookbooks, did not only look good, but tasted good as well. And although I’ve deviated from the original recipe, this is my humble homage to Heidi and her genius. The rice I’ve used here is local Kalinga mountain rice from the Cordillera region – a blend of five different native varieties. The rice is sourced from family farmers who still grow it according to tradition. It’s 100% whole grain and absolutely delicious. The little wedge of squash and the red onions were from my veggie basket :)

At the end of the day, you don’t have to be French to enjoy French food, and you don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy the incredibly fresh and colourful world of vegetarian cuisine. As for me...I’m still a half-breed meat-eater, pork-lover, vegetarian-wannabe. Am I a cheat and a fink for wanting it all? I’ve decided I don’t really care...I’m just happy my veggie-self is out of the closet :)