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?

Parsley mayonnaise

When I made Ham Hock Terrine I thought there was something missing.

In the end, I decided that I needed just a little something to go with it… something both sharp and savoury, something to moisten the bread… that was what I wanted.

And what better than some delicious mayonnaise, made specifically to go with the lovely terrine?

It’s easy enough to do and I often make a bowlful and flavour it to a specific dish. This time I thought I would make it with parsley and add a few chopped gherkins to liven it up a bit and tie in with the ham hock terrine.

All you need are a couple of eggs, some dijon mustard, some salt, some oil (olive oil is very strong so plain vegetable oil should make up the majority of the oil used) You’ll need vinegar – either white wine or cider vinegar would be good in this – some parsley and some gherkins.

First of all, then separate two eggs and put the yolks into a reasonably sized bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a quarter of a teaspoon of mustard… stir them together and then start whisking

Whisk it good and hard (an electric whisk is a godsend if you have one… otherwise, think of it as replacing a work out in the gym).. this is the hardest  bit of the job and to be frank, it isn’t that hard!  After this it is all plain sailing.

When everything is smooth and whisked well, add a drop or two of oil and start again, whisking

And it suddenly starts to come together – look, you can see it thickening.

Now you can add the oil in greater quantities

And it’s off and away… just keep adding more oil until you get the amount you need. Those two egg yolks are all you need to make pints of mayonnaise – if that is what you want. Just add more oil… it all thickens up as you whisk.

It’s not enough just to use oil though – the flavour needs a touch of sharpness to bring the flavours together. Sometimes I use lemon juice but this time I wanted cider vinegar.

Add a teaspoon or so of vinegar – taste it and see if has sharpened everything up. Whisk it round to a smooth and glorious sauciness.

Once you have enough, all you have to do is flavour it the way you want it.

Start chopping the parsley and some gherkins and add them to the mayo

Taste again… the parsley adds a sort of rich, slightly bitter flavour and those little bits of gherkin run through it adding a lovely sweet and sharp bite.

Really, for maybe ten minutes work (and not hard work, either) you can have a delicious, fresh and tasty mayonnaise that goes exactly with whatever you are cooking. 

You’ve got a couple of eggs, haven’t you?  There’s some oil in the cupboard….. go on….

You know you’ll love it.

Tomato and chilli little loaves

Making bread is quick and easy and doing it yourself means you can tailor it to make the perfect match to whatever you are cooking. Because I was making pumpkin soup for Halloween I thought that some tomato and chilli mini loaves would be just the ticket…. a hint of chilli to liven the bread up and some sun dried tomato to round out the flavour.

So… get your flour out – you will need 350g for 8 mini loaves.

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I had dried a chilli that was left over… oh, OK, I had forgotten about a chilli that was in the kitchen fruit bowl (no, I don’t know why it was there) anyway, it had dried beautifully. Waste not want not, I always say

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So. I cut a bit of it off and chopped it finely

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Put that with the flour in a bowl with a 7g sachet of yeast… or two scant teaspoons if you are using a packet.

Add a teaspoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, a couple of dessertspoons of oil and 200ml of warm water and mix well…. either by hand or by mixer

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Whizz that round and round until it comes together into a smooth dough (or knead together by hand until you get the same effect)

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While that is kneading, chop some sundried tomatoes

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and knead them into the dough on a well dusted board. Cover the dough with cling film and leave it to rise

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I bought some tiny loaf tins (I don’t know where but they are easily found) and after an hour the dough had risen nicely. As I had 8 little loaf tins, I cut the dough into 8 pieces – how about that for logic?

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Leave them to rise again and preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

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There they are going in and after about 15 minutes, out they came….

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Perfect little white loaves studded with bits of sundried tomato and the tiniest hint of chilli. Just right for that pumpkin soup…. mmmmmhmmmmmm…