Many Roman Catholics around the world still abstain from meats on Friday even though the church itself has largely abolished the practice, cutting the observance to Lenten Fridays instead. Though raised Catholic, I had never heard of such rules until I met Renata. She told me that most Poles still strictly adhere to the practice, and told me that there were no meat products served at her university cafeteria in Poland on that day of the week.
I personally have no problem with not eating meats (like I have written before, I have not consumed either beef or pork – save on rare occasions – for the longest time), especially because I love preparing vegetarian dishes.
But it turns out that there is a good reason for giving up meat products at least once a week. According to a recent FAO report, “livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport.” So basically if people followed Catholics’ lead and abstained from eating meat at least once a week, this could considerably reduce emissions and help reduce the effects of climate change.
This never came to my mind until I picked up The Meat Free Monday Cookbook (Kyle Books), a 240-page guide to a great variety of recipes edited by Annie Rigg. The book has a foreword co-signed by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney, who have long been advocates for vegetarianism.
The book does not try to convince readers to fully convert into a full meat-free diet. Instead, if offers a week-by-week guide divided into summer, spring, winter and fall recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Not every recipe is easy to make – just last week I tested the vegetarian paella and it proved almost as hard to make as the seafood version (lots of vegetables to cut up and cook separately before bringing everything together). However, there are quite easy ones as huevos rancheros (Mexican-style eggs) and potato gnocci with pesto – all of which I have already prepared at home over the years.
Meat Free Mondays is a good guide for meatless alternatives, and many of the recipes could be a step into going veggie even more days of the week – for your own health and for the sake of our planet.
Below find a recipe from the book… many more can be found at www.meatfreemondays.com
Recipe: Thai Vegetable Curry
(source: Meat Free Mondays website)
For the curry paste:
2 shallots, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped
2 green chilies, deseeded and chopped
Zest of 1 lime
Small bunch fresh coriander
1 tbsp. sunflower oil
1 small eggplant, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into dice
8 chestnut mushrooms, halved (or quartered if large)
400ml can coconut milk
6 okra, cut on the diagonal into 3 pieces (zucchini can substitute)
8 baby corn, cut on the diagonal into 3 pieces
150g canned bamboo shoots, drained
Handful of sugar snaps, cut in half on the diagonal
2 handfuls of beansprouts
Palm or soft light brown sugar to taste
Fresh coriander leaves
Prepare the curry paste first. Place the shallots, garlic and ginger in a food-processor. Add the lemongrass, chilies, lime zest and coriander stalks (reserving the leaves) and whizz the mixture until finely chopped. You can also make this paste using a pestle and mortar if you prefer.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large sauté pan. Add the curry paste and cook over a medium heat for 1 minute until the mixture smells fragrant. Add the eggplant, red pepper and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute stirring frequently until starting to become tender. Add the coconut milk to the pan with 150ml of water and bring to the boil. Add the okra, baby corn and bamboo shoots and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes or so until the veggies are tender. Finally add the sugar snaps and beansprouts to the pan and cook for another 30 seconds.
Taste and add a dash of soy sauce or teaspoon of sugar if needed. Serve the curry in bowls, garnished with coriander leaves and with jasmine rice and lime wedges to squeeze over.