How to go meat free in 2018
Many people now see the health and economic benefits of replacing meat with vegetables in their diet. Some of us may only be able to commit to a ‘Meat Free Monday’, others may be considering going vegetarian or even vegan. In this post we have some tasty meat replacement ideas that will make the move that little bit easier.
‘Vegan’, until not so long ago, was a word that frightened people, especially dinner party cooks! Over the past few years though, veganism has rapidly become more and more popular, and nowadays it’s a lot easier to achieve as companies catch up and begin producing different ranges to capitalise on those who choose to consume no animal products.
There are a number of reasons why people choose to go vegan: ethics, health, and the environment, are just a few. Whatever the reason, there are still many taboos and false myths that push people away from this choice. Protein, vitamins and nutrients can easily be obtained from plant based meals, and despite the common beliefs, they don’t necessarily require hours to be prepared.
Here are some tasty and healthy meat replacement suggestions that won’t make you regret leaving actual meat behind!
No need to buy fancy or expensive products for cooking some healthy and delicious vegan dishes. Prior to the modern era, when only rich people could afford meat, legumes were considered for decades as the “meat of the poor”. They are indeed an excellent source of protein, iron, fibre, minerals and carbohydrates, therefore they provide a lot of energy. Some of the most common legumes we can find in grocery stores include peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, beans and peanuts. Bear in mind that canned legumes don’t have the same amount of nutrients as the dry/frozen ones as they’ve already been cooked, so it’s always best to cook them fresh.
The best part about legumes is that they are cheap and extremely versatile. If you don’t feel like having soup daily, you can get creative: burgers, veggie-balls and even roasts make superb, yummy, original dishes!
Here’s a small selection of recipes using legumes:
Many people believe tofu is boring and tasteless. Truth is it partly depends on the brand (we strongly suggest you buy it from Chinese food shops – and remember, “firm” not “silken”!), but we can generally agree on one thing: you need to cook it properly. Tofu derives from soy; it is rich in protein, and yet low in calories and fat. It is also very versatile. For all these reasons, it makes a great meat (and egg) substitute. You can marinate it, stir-fry it, grill it, add it in soups, turn it into breaded nuggets, and even scramble it for a tasty traditional breakfast. You might not succeed at the first attempt, but don’t get discouraged: keep trying until you’re satisfied.
If you really like meat but you want to avoid it, then you need to give soya mince a try. Organic grocery stores sell it dry, while the major supermarkets sell it frozen. The difference is you need to soak the first in warm water – or veggie stock – for about 10 minutes before adding it to your recipes. The second just needs to be defrosted prior to cooking. Soya mince is a real saviour as it allows to prepare fancy recipes such as regular or Swedish meatballs, chilli con carne, beef-style burgers, lasagne, stuffings, Bolognese sauce and such. The main feature of this ingredient is its texture: it really resembles the meat one, therefore it makes the most perfect replacement when it comes to dishes like the ones mentioned above.
Here are some ideas about how to cook your soya mince:
SEITAN (“WHEAT MEAT”)
Despite its name – which is pronounced “say-tan”, just like the devil – there’s nothing to be afraid of! Seitan, aka “wheat meat”, is the most loved vegan meat of all time. It comes in different flavours and textures, and it’s utilised to recreate steaks, Sunday roasts, bacon and literally anything meaty. Be careful though, if you’re on a gluten-free diet, this meat replacement won’t suit you as it is actually made of gluten.
Generally in the UK you can’t buy blocks of seitan in grocery stores or supermarkets, although you may be able to find it sliced in some organic food shops. If you feel brave enough to make it yourself, there are plenty of recipes on the internet which show how to prepare your very own seitan step by step. Once you have your block of seitan, you can get inventive and prepare any vegan dishes of your choice!
We hope these few ideas will come in handy at the right time to surprise your guests, friends, children or partner.
Remember, when it comes to cooking the rule is: be bold, be brave!