24 March 2015

How to Eat Less Meat ~ and enjoy it!

I have just realised that it is both Meat Free Week and National Butchers Week here in the UK – how embarrassing!

Not sure what Meat Free Week is about I looked it up here and discovered that it is in fact a global campaign (different parts of the globe having different meat free weeks) to make people aware of how much meat they eat and the harm it can do to them, the environment and edible animals.

It is also a fund raising event with the monies raised going to various appropriate charities – these ones, in fact

On the other hand I have a good idea what National Butchers Week is; a way to encourage us to shop from real, expert butchers who prepare and sell meat of the highest quality from happy (but dead!) animals.


A guy who writes interesting on the happy animal side of farming, incidentally, is Simon Dawson who wrote Pigs in Clover: Or How I Accidentally Fell in Love with the Good Life which I enjoyed very much. 






So I have a suggestion – yes, eat meat, but in smaller portions. That should keep everyone happy! In fact the Meat Free Week people say “Going meat free for one week is a positive step towards change, with the hope that for the other 51 weeks of the year you'll consider eating smaller portions

Whilst not a vegetarian I don’t eat a lot of meat and the reason for this is that to me rather than being the focal part of a meal it may or may not be in a dish. I suggest you adopt the same attitude!

I don’t even understand why there is so much focus on meat (and fish) although I suppose from a dietary point of view it provides protein, but then so do beans and nuts and leafy green veggies and quinoa and several other things. Meat can be delicious, it can contribute flavour and texture to a meal butas I say, it is just one of so many, many options.

So here are a dozen dishes which lend themselves to the addition of a little meat (or none or, I suppose, a lot!).

1.     Soup – either make a meat soup or add a little meat to an existing soup. I have a very easy “genius” recipe for soup which I have written a book “SOUP (almost) the Only Recipe You'll Ever Need”  which includes recipes for 15 ish meat or fish soups, such as Smoky Bacon Chowder and White Bean Soup with Chicken & Spinach, plus instructions on how to invent your own soup, which is actually the whole point of my Genius Recipes Series! It only costs about the same price as two cans of the red stuff! 



2.     Salad – add frazzled prosciutto or crispy bacon bits (by which I do not mean some bought in thing) to a cheese salad or try crisply fried pulled pork or chicken or whatever you fancy.


3.     Stir fries are a great way of enjoying a little meat together with lots of other goodies. This is a good way of using up leftovers from a roast dinner, add rice or noodles together with garlic and ginger, fresh veggies and maybe cashew nuts. Here’s one I made earlier, the steak has been marinated for a while in soy sauce together with fresh ginger, garlic, sesame oil and sweet chilli sauce.


4.     Pasta dishes of all sorts can happily take the addition of meat or fish – see here for lovely easy and rich Alfredo Sauce recipe and add chicken or seafood or bacon or ham or chorizo or shrimp or smoked fish, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon - you get the point. Tomato based pasta dishes welcome meat too. Furthermore a little leftover stew of most persuasions makes a good meaty sauce for pasta such as is oxtail stew with penne.


5.     Risotto – add meat and, if you can, use an appropriately flavoured stock too. Risotto also takes well to a little leftover stew folded through at the end of cooking and see here for a simple recipe for Pea and Smoky Bacon Risotto.


6.     Chilli con (or non or just a bit of) Carne – make your favourite chilli recipe but with a higher bean to meat ratio.

7.     Burgers – speaking of beans, which are delicious and protein, how about using half beef and half beans in your next homemade burger (I assume you do make them yourself!), the result will be moist and a delicious change.

8.     Pizza can of course be topped with all sorts of meats and some fish - good options are sausages of all types such as pepperoni, chorizo, sausage meat , minced beef (if using raw mince I fry it off slightly and drain it before adding to the pizza, this stops the juices soaking the crust), chicken (although I would add cooked chicken towards the end of cooking the pizza just to heat through – that way it won’t toughen and dry out in the high heat) and so on. Here’s the recipe for a great Creamy Onion and Bacon Flatbread from Alsace ...

Flammekueche aka Tarte Flambée – for 2

1 batch of my awfully easy pizza dough
2 medium onions – thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil or 15g butter
200g smoky bacon lardons
salt and pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg if poss
240g crème fraîche

~   Make the dough and leave to rise.
~   Whilst it is rising gently cook the onions in the olive oil thus ... heat the oil in a small pan, stir in the onions, press a piece of foil on top of the onions to cover completely, put on the lid and cook very gently for 20 minutes or so.
~   When the onions are tender turn up the heat, add the bacon and cook a few minutes stirring till the onions are starting to caramelise and the bacon lightly cooked.
~   Set aside to cool.

When the dough is risen ...

~   Preheat the oven to 425ºF/220ºC/200ºC fan/gas 7.
~   Prepare the pizza bases.
~   Season the crème fraîche with salt, pepper and nutmeg and spread over the bases.
~   Top with the onion and bacon mix and bake till hot and crisp and delicious.

Et voila!


9.     Gratins –an easy way to add some meaty flavour to any kind of savoury gratin is to add bacon to the mix and maybe scatter some on top too.


10.     Pommes Dauphinoise and similar – simply put this is a delicious dish of sliced potatoes layered up and baked in cream. Add bacon or ham or, as in the recipe here with hot smoked salmon.


11.     Strata – this is a savoury bread and butter pudding and there is a recipe here for onecontaining cheese and chorizo . In the same post you will also find a recipe for ...

12.     Bubble and Squeak – which is great with added (and possibly leftover) meat or fish.

So that’s it really, I just cobbled this tpgether in a hurry having realised what a difficult situation we find ourselves in.

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