Many of us are trying to reduce our meat consumption. Whether we’re striving for a lighter footprint on the environment or a little more change in our pockets, meatless Mondays and vegan Januarys are now commonplace. My household is no different. I’m worried about the impact of eating meat on our environment and don’t enjoy the thought of animals suffering for our pleasure. Saving money is, for me, a happy side effect.
I’m no stranger to living meat and/or dairy free. I was vegetarian for 3 years and vegan for 1 year as a teenager, mainly because I didn’t enjoy the taste of eggs, milk or meat (pork in particular). I still don’t eat much meat but nowadays my diet is all about balance. I’m lucky that my boyfriend, who is a confirmed meat eater, is open-minded and willing to try a lot of new foods and different ways of preparing old favourites to minimise our meat consumption.
I used to hate the idea of meat substitutes, but I’m starting to warm to them, in moderation. I’d prefer to eat a slice of Quorn smoked ham than actual smoked ham (I did say I have issues with pork). And most of the time I prefer tofu in my stir fry to chicken. I don’t want to overly rely on meat substitutes as I think vegetables should have centre stage in most vegetarian meals, but it’s great to have these substitutes available for people who are trying to familiarise themselves with vegetarian cooking.
Here’s an example of a meat substitute meal I recently made. Lasagne made with beef or pork mince is often a family favourite because it’s filling and will easily feed lots of hungry mouths. Lots of people can make a lasagne in their sleep, so it’s easy to simply swap the ingredients (it also makes the preparation a lot easier as you don’t have to make a white sauce).
Ingredients – Serves 4 (depending on the size of your dish)
1 pack of tofu (not the silken kind – I used Cauldron Tofu which contains about 396g according to their website)
1 jar of tomato sauce or make your own (I used 1 can chopped tomatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, a handful of green beans, a red pepper, oregano, arrabiata spice mix, parsley, salt, sugar, olive oil)
Lasagne sheets (I used wholemeal)
2 packs of mozzarella cheese
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
If you are making your tomato sauce from scratch, start by chopping up the ingredients for your pasta sauce. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and brown the garlic slivers. Then add the chopped red pepper, sliced green beans (small enough to be bite size). Stir in the chopped tomatoes and add your desired herbs and spices. I used ½ teaspoon of the following: oregano, parsley, sugar, salt, arrabiata spice mix (I picked this up on holiday in Italy, but it’s basically just parsley and chilli flakes). Simmer the sauce for about 10 minutes.
When the sauce is complete you can start assembling your lasagne in a rectangular dish (mine was on the small side – 30x20cm I would say). First add a layer of sauce (about half of your mix) and top with either sliced tofu or crumble it over the top (similar to feta). Then layer the lasagne sheets across. Add another layer of tofu and lasagne sheets, topping it off with the rest of the pasta sauce. Place chopped or torn mozzarella cheese over the uncooked lasagne. Place on a medium shelf in the oven and book for 40-45 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned and the lasagne sheets are cooked through.
This dish is quite healthy and has kept me supplied with leftovers for easy dinners and quick filling lunches. Although not traditional, I added green beans and peppers because I don’t like cooking without any vegetables, but I still served it with a side salad for dinners. I sliced my tofu, but next time I would try crumbling it to give a more even texture to the lasagne so I’ve added this option in to the recipe. My boyfriend doesn’t eat cheese, so next time I make it I would simply leave out the mozzarella, making this recipe fully vegan.
How do you feel about meat substitutes? Do you use them much in your cooking? Are you trying to eat less meat and do you have any tips from your kitchen for family-friendly meatless dinners?