THE SUNDAY COOK How to make (a little) meat go much further
*** Eating less beef, lamb and pork makes sense for our budgets, health and the environment. Look back to classic hotpots and Irish stew for inspiration
It seems being a little bit vegan is now a thing. The recent Food Trends report from Waitrose highlighted that a third of us are cutting down on meat, including the one in eight of us now vegan or vegetarian. But more than half of the “veggies” and “vegans” surveyed admit to occasionally tucking into meat.
While “usually vegan” seems right up there with “almost a virgin” in the wishful thinking stakes, I’m feeling the urge to cut back on meat too. Pondering what to cook for supper, I’m more likely to dwell on the possibilities of a nubbly cloud of cauliflower, or some dusky green globe artichokes, than be inspired by chicken or pork chops. Meat and two veg just isn’t how we eat any more.
There are plenty of reasons to cut down, including cost, the environmental benefits and, not least, health. Just last Wednesday a study by researchers at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food recommended that red meat and processed meats like bacon should attract a “cigarette-style” tax, to offset the cost to the health service of illnesses related to eating too much meat. In fact, looking to a future where we eat less meat, cooks need only look back. Traditional dishes such as Lancashire hotpot and Irish stew are all about stretching a small amount of meat in order to feed a family. And the same is true around the world.
Food writer Elisabeth Luard, author of the classic European Peasant Cookery (Grub Street £16.99) advises “It’s about adding flavour, not eating big bits of meat.” Many of the great dishes of the world are a version of “beans and bones”, she says, “which is basically any of the pulses. Take a Spanish cocido, cooked all in one pot with maybe a bit of chorizo, or some ham bones, or a bit of pork, but if you didn’t have any it wouldn’t really matter.”
Make the marinade by bringing the soy sauce and sugar to the boil in a small pan. Reduce the heat and simmer until thick. Stir in the garlic and cool. Mix in the tablespoon of oil. Marinate the pork and parsnips in this for an hour or overnight, turning once.
Make the curry paste by blending all ingredients until almost smooth.
Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Lift the parsnips out of the marinade and spread them in a roasting tin. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes.
Cook the pork over a medium heat in a frying pan on all sides until nicely browned and almost cooked through. Pop in the oven with the parsnips for 10 minutes to finish cooking. Leave to rest in a warm place.
To make the curry, heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok, and stir-fry half the paste until fragrant (the rest can be frozen for up to two months). Add the lime leaves, fish sauce and sugar and stir-fry for a minute. Add the coconut milk. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir the broccoli into the curry mixture and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until tender. Add the parsnips for the last five minutes. Slice the pork and arrange on the curry, then scatter with coriander. Serve with sticky rice.