THE rise of healthy eating at home and abroad has taken vegetarian and vegan food into the mainstream gastrosphere and finally on to restaurant tables.

Being a vegetarian in Andalucia has never been easy unless of course you are a fan of ‘ensalada mixta’ (order without the tuna!) and the ubiquitous tortilla Española the heavyweight cousin of the simple omelette.

Local venta menus are meat heavy where even a ham bone will find its way into the stock used for what would otherwise be a simple pumpkin and bean stew.

Meanwhile, most of the coast’s chiringuitos are simply fried food joints, where any real quality goes out of the window.

All that changes however in Middle Eastern cooking where the soul of a meal is primarily vegetable-based dishes, with spices and grains to fill the flavour and protein needs of a meal.

I have long sought to incorporate many of these dishes into my variety of restaurants on the Costa de la Luz.

Our Califa group of eateries in Vejer have become an increasingly popular destination for vegans and vegetarians with more than 50 dishes for them on our menus.

The Jardín del Califa’s top-selling dish, for example, is our ‘Mezze’, which is entirely vegetarian and comprising a mix of Hummus, Baba Ganoush, Taboule, Feta cheese and a Marrakesh salad.

Other favourites include the ‘Palmyra’ salad with roast aubergine, basil, red pepper, dill and a black garlic yoghurt sauce – full of flavour!

Meanwhile, Corredera 55’s summer offerings include ‘Green Gazpacho with peas, mint, avocado and cucumber’, a ‘Beetroot Risotto with Manzanilla sherry and fresh goats cheese topped with toasted pine nuts’ or the ‘Fresh Cauliflower Fritters with turmeric and coriander and a yoghurt and honey sauce’. There are many more to boot.

The top-selling vegetarian dish at Califa Tapas meanwhile, is the ‘Goats cheese from Grazalema, deep-fried and served with apple compote’ followed by the beguilingly simple ‘Aubergine slices, fried with honey’, both an Andaluz and Moroccan cooks’ favourites.

Making vegetarian dishes at home is also incredibly simple.

My 10-year-old daughter Isabella whizzes up a slick hummus in less than 5 minutes and with a big smile on her face.

Add in some cubed steamed beetroot and you have a delicious vitamin and protein-rich dish almost at the drop of a hat.

Here, James offers a simple recipe to make one of his restaurants’ favourite dishes:

EASY AS A,B,C

Corredera 55’s Green Gazpacho with peas, mint, avocado and cucumber

1 green pepper

1 large avocado (stone and peel removed)

1 cucumber

Half a cup of mint leaves

Cup of packet peas

2 cups of chilled vegetable stock

Half a cup of coconut milk

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic

Whizz up all together in a blender.

Dress with Apple vinegar and a slice of cucumber and serve straight away.

Visit www.califavejer.com for more information

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