Meatfree Monday – Chargrilled peppers in oil

There’s a movement gaining increased acceptance across the globe – Meatless Monday – if you  give up meat for one day a week, it cuts consumption by 15%. It started in the USA as non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns Inc. in association with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future.

“According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization the meat industry generates nearly one fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change. Geophysicists at the Bard Center and the University of Chicago estimate that curbing meat consumption by 20% (which could be achieved through Meatless Mondays) would lower greenhouse gas emissions as dramatically as every American switching to an ultra-efficient hybrid vehicle.

The United Nations also found that current meat production methods cause nearly half of all stream and river pollution. Meat also requires a great deal of fresh water to manufacture. The production of a pound of beef takes approximately 2,500 gallons of water, compared to a pound of soy, which requires only 220 gallons.  By switching to soy on Mondays each individual could save about 890 gallons of water a week.

As of 2006, forty calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of U.S. feed lot beef (manufacture, transport and storage included). By comparison, a calorie of plant-based protein only requires 2.2 calories of fossil fuel. If the population of the United States went meatless every Monday for a year, 12 billion gallons of gasoline would be saved.

Now, those figures are based on American calculations but the maths is probably as relevant, proportionally,  to those of us in the UK. As a committed carnivore, I could never give up meat all together, though I do know how delicious meat free meals are. I justify it to myself by eating as much of the animal as possible (I don’t hold back from innards, guts and glands)  and making the most of every morsel. I could (and often do) serve meatless meals. Perhaps the formality of sticking to a meatless meal on Mondays would concentrate my mind?

Even if I don’t want to save the planet (how very mean of me) or care about the the welfare of animals (how callous would that be?) then I should care about my health …

“On average Americans consume 8 ounces of meat per day, 45% more than the USDA recommends. Meat typically contains higher levels of saturated fat than plant based foods. Saturated fat intake has been linked to multiple preventable illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and various cancers.  By removing meat once a week, the average American reduces saturated fat intake by 15%, diminishing the risk of these diseases.

A ten year longitudinal study has also linked rates of personal meat consumption to age of death. The results of this research suggest that the deaths of 1.5 million Americans over a ten year period can be attributed to excessive consumption of red and processed meats.

Chronic preventable illnesses—including those associated with excessive saturated fat intake—cause 70% of all deaths in the United States. In 2007 alone Americans spent 1.7 trillion dollars on health care related to preventable illnesses”

Following on from that, here in the UK, Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney started Meatfree Monday , saying “In the future we are all going to have to change the way we eat. We believe that it is possible to do things like changing our diets with a sense of optimism, joy and the satisfaction that you are really helping to make a difference in the world.”.

It’s not just about saving the world.  It’s also about saving our purses. Cutting back on meat provides a good cost saving as well. It is a return to the way our families ate in years gone by. Nowadays we are (in the main) lucky enough to be able to buy meat, if we want to, every day. In previous centuries meat was seen as a luxury and what meat there was had to be eked out.  (One of my favourite books, Elisabeth Luard’s “European Peasant Cookery” would be a good thing to read if you were interested in finding out more. There’s a whole world of recipes just waiting to be explored.)

Anyway, on to what I am going to do. I will make that effort. I will make Monday my meat free day.

Now…. I said it would be meat free Monday. I said nothing about the Sunday….which wasn’t meat free. Not meat free by any means.

I was doing a barbecue and realised that the glowing embers of the charcoal would be perfect for chargrilling peppers.

I love chargrilled peppers – they are a wonderful addition to salads and for those of us who take packed lunches to work, they are truly gorgeous in sandwiches. I like to use red peppers best of all as they are sweeter but this time I had some green ones to add in.

Vegetarians.. look away! Yes they are sausages. Now, the success of the peppers does not rely on sausages being grilled next to them. It’s just, as you know, we only have a small balcony so I have to have a small bucket barbecue. I have to put on what I can, when I can.

Anyway, on they go and they are turned on the grill to get good and charred

Once that’s done and they are charred all round, pop the peppers (mind your fingers!) into a plastic bag so they can cool down.

As they cool, they steam and the skin loosens and is easy to peel off. Once they are cool, tip them out of the bag.

They will be juicy and dribble a lot so make sure you do this over a plate. It’s a messy job but oh-so-worth it.

Peel off the skin and scoop out the seeds – you will be left with just the glisteningly soft flesh of the peppers.

I cut them into slices so they are easier to deal with once they are in oil.

All you do then is get an air tight box and pour in some oil – I was using (because I had some left and I needed to finish the bottle) Rice Bran oil and olive oil

and I mixed it with some Lea and Perrins Tomato and Worcester Sauce.

Use whatever you like to flavour the oil slightly. The peppers have a lovely sweet and smokey flavour to them but adding just a hint of flavour to the oil really makes them special.

And then, all you do is add the sliced char grilled peppers.

And chill.

Actually, that could be an instruction to you as well as what you do with your box of peppers!  Because that’s all there is to it.

Into the fridge with the box and you have the perfect ingredient for salads or sandwiches.

Oh, and I use it in meat dishes too…… one of our favourites is Pork and Pepper Goulash 

I’m adding this bit in here because the lovely Lorraine added it to the Comment section after this was initially posted and unless you read through the comments you might not spot what she says. Lorraine lives in Canada and is married to Sonny, who is Italian…..

“As far as the grilled peppers, we grill a bushel of them every September when we get them cheap from the farmer’s market. My dear old mother-in-law (now l0l) got me into this a number of years ago as they are a staple in the Italian household. They appear on plates at every family meal. However, being only two of us, we grill the peppers and after cleaning them all, place them on paper towelling and then we place in small freezer bags and freeze for the winter. We take out a bag or two, place in a container and add olive oil, glove of garlic, dash of balsamic and if you like, some hot pepper flakes. Great on sandwiches and with grilled MEAT. Not a fan of the green ones – but the Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers are great – you must try.”

What a great idea that is. If you leave the peppers in oil for too long they soften too much. The way forward is, obviously, to do it Lorraine’s way and freeze any excess until you need them.

Today, though, is Meatfree Monday and I made sandwiches. Cream cheese and roasted pepper sandwiches…..


I’m on the way to saving the planet, my health and my cash…..pretty much of a result for the start of the week, eh?

Spicy Oxtail and the bump on the head

Yesterday was a work day and I was up before 6 as usual. I got up, showered, dried my hair and got ready for work and was out of the door by 7.25. I didn’t go to work though.

Instead, I spent the day here

stretched out on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, with an ice pack on my head.

Why? Well, I got out of the main doors of our apartments and slid along the black ice to my car. The pavements were like a skating rink and I thought things were bad, but at least it wasn’t snowing heavily.

I scraped the ice from the windows and waited till the car  was warmed up before setting off. The car (a huge and heavy old diesel, but excellent in bad weather) was slipping a bit… but at least I was moving. I got to the corner where we turn to go down the hill and saw cars sliding down sideways in the ice. Our grit ran out days ago and despite the best efforts of us all to keep the hill clear, there’s only so much we can do.

This was getting ridiculous and I thought that the best thing to do would be to put the car back and get the bus into work.

Turned out that the buses were cancelled. Our neighbours were all standing around and we watched the more foolish young ones try to drive up the hill to get out … the snow was whirling round and their cars were sliding backwards. One of the neighbours said the road had been closed to stop accidents and that the cars were being turned round.

So, being a good neighbour I went to see if they needed help pushing – the Bear and I had been out over the weekend to help and with just a couple of people helping, the cars can get moving again. Once it was clear maybe the roads would be better and we could all get out. Great idea, eh?

Except I stepped on black ice.  My feet soared upwards and I fell backwards cracking down on my head on the pavement. I lay there completely stunned until a really lovely neighbour picked his way across the ice to haul me up. That was it for me. I made it back home to show the Bear what a stupid thing I’d done.

I have a huge egg sized bump on the back of my head and all I wanted to do was to sit still with a bag of ice on the back of my head. I just lay there feeling very sorry for myself while the weather got worse outside. The snow had been thawing and the grass clearing  but now it was back with a vengeance.

Just as well, then, that I had started making the oxtail I had planned for tonight and the last thing I did before setting off was to turn on the slow cooker.

I’d been thinking about cooking the oxtail I had in the freezer and I wanted to do something different with it. I was thinking of a sharper taste to it than the normal beefy gravy and vegetables …… so at 11pm the night before,I started getting things ready.

That beautiful oxtail was only £1.98.

As with any slow cooked meat, you need to sear it, browning the outsides before you put it in the  pot. This is not just for cosmetic reasons, because the brown outside is so much more appealing, but because the slightly caramelised burt brown bits add to the flavour of the gravy.

While that was searing, I chopped an onion and put half of that in the base of the slow cooker pot.

A few cloves of garlic would be great with the flavours I was planning…….

The oxtail pieces went in on top of the onion, then the rest of the onion went on top

Then three dessertspoonfuls of hoisin sauce, with some ginger .. I was using a tube because, with all the bad weather, I hadn’t gone shopping much and I was running low on fresh ingredients.

I put in some Lea and Perrins to sharpen it slightly – a good shake of it, all over the top

and one of those lovely chillies from the chilli oil jar.

Some water and some stock granules to make sure there was enough liquid in there and that, as they say, was that.

OK so it was a bit late to be searing meat but I knew that all I had to do in the morning was turn it on.  I would get the Bear (who was to be working at home) to put in some cubed sweet potato at some point in the afternoon.

Still, it had only taken me ten minutes to get that ready so I couldn’t complain.

And how glad I was that I did it. I really couldn’t have managed to sort anything out after that bang on the head. I just lay there, listening to the occasional gloop and bubble sound from the slow cooker and breathin in  the spicy, meaty smell as it cooked.

I did manage to peel a sweet potato

and cube it, before putting it in on top of the half cooked oxtails, before going back to lie on the sofa.

And that was delicious. A jacket potato on the side was perfect to soak up the gravy.

We ate it at about 7 pm and it was a lovely mix of sweetness, sharpness and meatiness. You wouldn’t have particularly known that it was a mixture of hoisin and Worcestershire sauce but it did make a really lovely gravy.

All that from one oxtail, one sweet potato and one onion. Bargain!