Veg Out! Peter Kuruvita Cooks Up All Vegetarian Menu
Inspired by his travels and a childhood spent in Sri Lanka, Noosa Beach House’s head chef Peter Kuruvita invited Noosa locals to try a traditional dinner made only from vegetables. Jolene Ogle INdulged in this unique dinner experience.
As a vegetarian, I was ecstatic to finally see a dinner menu that was purely vegetables. For tonight, I wouldn’t be ‘that’ person asking for the meat-free version of the menu.
My (absolutely fabulous and entertaining) dinner companions were all from Noosa, one of which enjoyed a mainly plant-based diet. The rest were avid meat-eaters and admitted they wouldn’t usually choose vegetarian dishes but said the Lands of the Curry Leaf dinner was a great way to sample what a meat-free meal might be like.
In total, 16 dishes were brought to our table and not a single one contained meat. We tasted cashew curries from Sri Lanka, Mooli Sabzi, a dry radish curry from India, and the delicious Shamu Datsi, which is a mouthwatering blend of mushrooms and cheese best eaten with the Roghni roti of Bangladesh.
It was a liberating experience to not ask if any of the plates contained meat, and it was wonderful to see the meat-eaters enthusiastically tucking into the scrumptious dishes from India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and so much more.
During the meal, Peter explained to the sold-out restaurant just why he wanted to host such a unique dinner.
“If you’re in a country like India, Bangladesh or Nepal, the first thing you are asked when you walk into a restaurant is whether you want to dine veg or meat. We’ve always struggled with that here in Australia,” he said.
“I remember having to make a vegetarian meal and being told to make a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and steamed vegetables. If you were a vegetarian, you had no choice.
“Here at Noosa Beach House, we have put together a vegetarian degustation, plus we have three vegetarian dishes on the menu.
“Something I have always wanted to do is that when someone orders a vegetarian dish, I want to make everybody else on the table jealous because it’s all about flavor and texture.”
The Lands of the Curry Leaf dinner was also an opportunity for Peter to launch his new cook book of the same name. The book takes you on a vegetarian culinary journey from Sri Lanka to Nepal.
By the end of our meal, everyone at the table said they were full, proving you don’t have to go hungry when meat is replaced with other sources of protein.
Who knows, maybe through this unique dinner Peter has encouraged more people to see vegetarian dishes not as a ‘diet for hippies’ but as a gourmet indulgence that is just as flavourful and delicious as a meat-based meal, if not more.
INspiration to go-Veg
If you’re looking to incorporate more plant-based meals in your diet, you don’t have to go cold turkey on your meaty meals. There are a few simple ways to add more greens to your diet.
On average, Aussies eat 95kg of meat per year, which is significantly more than the OECD average of 69kg and with only 11% of the population vegetarian, it’s clear Australians love their meat. Cutting out meat completely is unrealistic.
If you want to reduce your meat intake to help the environment, you can swap out meats with a high environmental impact (beef and lamb) with others such as chicken and pork. Always look for meat that has been raised humanely and ethically. We are lucky in Noosa where the Slow Food Snail of Approval program recognises local food outlets and producers who abide by the global Slow Food ethos of Good, Clean & Fair. www.slowfoodnoosa.com.au
If you want to make a diet change for health reasons, get to know legumes and beans. Most things you make with mince can be replaced with beans and legumes – spaghetti Bolognese, patties for burgers and chilli con carne for example.
Mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamins and protein. You can stuff them, grill them and fry them in butter to use as an alternative to meat in your breakfast dishes.