I was recently chatting with a girl who works at a Chinese takeaway near my house, and she told me that most Irish who order from her restaurant request “no veg.” For example, they’d order a Kung Po Chicken, “no veg,” which means all they want is chicken, peanuts and sauce. Another interesting observation is that many prefer to get it with chips (French fries) – a common side dish offered by nearly all the Chinese restaurants around here – rather than with white rice. It should also be noted that one can also get onion rings, sausages or chicken nuggets on the side. These are all items you’d find on the menu of a Chinese restaurant in Drogheda and all are wildly popular.

Some Irish cite the over boiled turnips, waterlogged carrots and mushy peas cooked by their mums for their dislike of veg. The memories of such unappetizing dishes as Sopping Broccoli Surprise has been to painful to overcome, but the real victims here are the vegetables. Flagrantly tossed aside in favor of deep-fried starches and processed carbohydrates, the gorgeous mushrooms, onions and bell peppers of Ireland face slow deteoriation and even death on supermarket shelves. So in the interest of vegetables, I’d like to share my recipe for Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms, which are savory and delicious and gives vegetables the recognition they deserve. Go on, give vegetables a chance!

Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms
(Serves 2)

4 Portobello or other large mushrooms
1 tablespoon of olive oil
½ white onion, minced
½ red bell pepper, minced
½ green bell pepper, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons low-fat flavored cream cheese (like garlic & chive); or 4 Laughing Cow Lite wedges
¼ cup of Parmesan cheese, finely grated (use a microplane if you have one) plus more to sprinkle on top of finished mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Wipe the mushrooms gently with a soft, damp cloth. Don’t wash the mushrooms; they will soak up too much water. With a small paring knife, cut out the stems of the mushrooms, and using a small spoon, scrape out as much or the gills of the mushroom as possible. Chop the stems and gills and set aside.

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, and then add the chopped mushroom stems and gills. Cook for an additional 2 minutes or until mushroom stems are tender. In a large bowl, combine the hot onion/pepper/garlic/mushroom stem mixture, breadcrumbs, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese – the heat from the veg will help the cheeses melt and bind all the ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (or rub on a bit of olive oil) and arrange the mushroom caps. Sprinkle each cap with salt and pepper – this is very important as you want everything to be well seasoned. Fill each cap with the veg/breadcrumb mixture, packing it firmly with a spoon. Sprinkle a bit of Parmesan cheese on the top and bake for 20 minutes. Serve with a salad, corn and peas or whatever you’d like!