Photo: Vegetarian Society UK

I’ve often wondered why it is that top chefs are so ignorant about food.  I’m talking about vegetarian food in particular of course, so it could be a deliberate ignorance!  But Parmesan cheese turns up so often in restaurants and recipes as being suitable for vegetarians that the UK Vegetarian Society are currently running a campaign to tell chefs that Parmesan is never suitable for vegetarians!

It’s not a difficult concept.  Vegetarians don’t eat products that come from dead animals.  Parmesan cheese is made with calf rennet.  A lot of cheese is made with calf rennet, but because Parmesan has an EU Protected Designation of Origin, it must always be made with animal rennet or it cannot be called Parmesan.

You can always get vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, check out this one from Bookhams, or use a similar vegetarian hard cheese.

Of course as a vegetarian eating in a restaurant it’s possible avoid dishes containing parmesan or ask for it to be left off a pasta dish for example.  But that’s not so easy if you’ve been invited to a friend’s house for a meal and they’ve gone to the trouble of seeking out and preparing a vegetarian recipe, only for the meal to contain Parmesan.  That’s why it’s so important for recipe writers to get it right.  All round though, chefs of the world, it’s not hard, so just get it right!

Well here’s a recipe that does get it right from the cookery school at the lovely Demuth’s restaurant in Bath.

Fig, Pear and Parmesan Salad

Photo: Demuth's Cookery School

Ripe, fat juicy purple figs are essential for this salad and do be generous with the parmesan.

Serves: 4

4-6 ripe figs, cut in thick wedges like the segments of an orange
2 pears, cores removed and sliced
vegetarian parmesan, shaved
rocket leaves

50g roasted hazelnuts, roughly crushed
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp hazelnut oil (optional)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

This salad needs to be prepared, just before eating otherwise the pears will discolour. To help prevent the pears discolouring, toss the sliced pears in a little lemon juice.
Make up the dressing.
To make the salad, arrange the rocket leaves on a serving dish. Mix in the figs and pears. Shave thin slices of parmesan with a potato peeler and sprinkle over the salad.
Drizzle on the dressing.

Tips: The amount of figs to use does depend on their size. Just make sure they are unblemished and perfectly ripe.
Vegetarian parmesan is available in wholefood stores and most supermarkets.