Monday, 21 May 2012

It's National Vegetarian Week...

I'm not a vegetarian, and despite my fussiness about the meat I eat, I don't aspire to be one. I believe we humans are meant to eat meat and animal products - that it is an important part of healthy nutrition. (This account from a young vegan forced to realise that not everybody can survive on a vegan diet is fascinating and eye-opening.) I also believe the replenishment animals provide to the soil is vital to farming; that the healthiest way to produce food is in a polycultural system where animals and plants support and feed off each other, and that a wide variety of produce reduces the need for chemicals and treatments and encourages a healthier, more natural ecosystem where 'good' and 'bad' organisms are in balance.

But I also believe the amount of meat many are accustomed to eating these days is far too much. The amount we eat can be detrimental to our health, and too-often takes the place in our diets of other essentials such as vegetables. The amount we eat forces producers to farm animals intensively, which compromises animal welfare as well as the quality of the meat we eat. The amount we eat necessitates vast monocultures to feed the livestock, which deplete the soil, interfere with natural ecosystems and are detrimental to the planet. The amount we eat is ultimately unsustainable, and if we all ate less meat - perhaps just two or three times a week - the world would undoubtedly be a better place.

So this week, why not try a few meat-free recipes and cut down a little? I don't mean baked potatoes and beans, or macaroni cheese, or a mushroom pizza - vegetarian food can be far more exciting and nutritious than that; if you're stuck for ideas, try here or here for inspiration. Or check out Meat Free Monday - a campaign to get everyone eating meat-free at least once a week, with lots of recipes to tempt you to join in! (I was thinking of feeding my lot meat-free all week this week and seeing if they noticed, but planned badly and have half a pack of mince in my fridge to use up, and I promised I'd do steak one night... but five nights out of seven still ain't bad!)

And here's a simple offering to get your mouth watering; a beanburger recipe I've been working on recently (loosely based on a standard recipe that's all over the internet in various forms) which my family loves. (Not exciting enough for you? You haven't tasted it yet!) It's not quite seasonal right now, I confess, but summer round the corner means burgers on my mind. It's seriously tasty, family-friendly, and couldn't be much healthier either. Give it a try!

Mexican Beanburgers
(makes eight large burgers)
  • Finely chop a large onion, a green pepper and a red pepper, and fry gently in a teaspoon of olive or rapeseed oil.
  • Peel and chop a large carrot, and steam/boil in a little water until soft. 
  • When the onions are translucent and the peppers soft, add a small can sweetcorn (160g), a clove or two chopped garlic, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste), 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried coriander leaf, a tbsp lemon or lime juice, a good grinding of black pepper and a pinch or two of salt. Stir in and cook for a couple more minutes, then turn off the heat.
  • Mash the carrot (or puree in the food processor) and add it to the pan.
  • Drain and rinse two cans beans (I use one can cannellini, one can kidney), pulse half in the food processor until finely chopped, then add the rest and pulse until coarsely chopped for texture. Add to the pan.
  • Add 100g plain flour. Mix everything together really well.
  • Separate the mixture into eight balls and flatten them into patties about 2cm thick. It's messy, but stick with it!
  • Place on an oiled and floured baking tray, and bake at 200C for around 20 minutes, turning halfway through, until the burgers are lightly browned and firm.
  • Serve in bread rolls, with guacamole (or avocado), salsa (or sliced tomato), salad and a little cheese.

1 comment:

RainStorm said...

We've gravitated towards eating more vegetarian meals nowadays. Not many, but some. And I've actually got a vegetarian red curry planned for tonight! Might try to fit another couple in before the week's out :) and try out the bean burgers!

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