Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bean Feasts

In a much earlier posting I chatted about dividing the food budget into four, one quarter to be spent on the meat and fish (the rest on dairy, fruit and veg, groceries). This has been proved over and over again to work very well, but in the middle of last night I woke up with the thought that meat - being possibly the most expensive of all the foods served on a plate - could be dropped from our carnivore diet for a time, thus leaving money to spend on more fruit and vegetables. Just switch from thinking meat as a mouthwatering munch, and put on your nutritionists hat. Meat is protein, pure and simple, plus a bit of fat and fibre I suppose, which the body needs. But there are other and cheaper sources.

Not wishing to baffle you with facts and figures, it is worth nothing that a normal helping of meal is expected to be around 100g, so one wonders why many recipes seem to double that. Probably because 100g of meat (3 1/2 oz) seems meagre. Even the protein grammes vary according to the cut, with shin beef having more (5.4g per oz) than sirloin on the bone (3.9g) . (You need to times this by 4 for a daily serving).

A few more figures worth noting (taken from 'Ready Reckoner of Food Values' published by the Ministry of Education and Science. HMSO), some interesting facts jump out - canned pilchards in tomato sauce; sardines in oil; tinned salmon; all contain the same, or slightly more, grammes of protein than the same weight of stewing beef. One egg has 6.8g, one oz of dried skimmed milk 9.8g. cheddar cheese 7.2g. Even so - we need to first work out the cost of 1 oz stewing beef before we can find out which is a cheaper alternative to meat. It's not alway what you might expect.

On the other hand, vegetable protein is cheaper, but a bit more complicated. Apart from soya beans, which are a complete protein, you need to eat two types in one meal (eg. pulses and grains) for the body to take advantage. Alternatively (and easier to remember) is that any one type will release its protein when taken with an animal protein (eggs, cheese, milk etc.). In most cases we do this naturally as with beans on toast (4oz of baked beans = 7g protein), and rice pudding. Dried pulses are around 6g per oz. Dried lentils contain 6.8g. Oatmeal 3.4g, Cocoa 5.8g.

Given a meal of lentil soup, followed by a cheese souffle, ending up with a chocolate dessert, it could then be asked 'who need's meat?'
Here are some interesting and healthy recipes to play with:

1 onion, finely chopped, 10 oz (300g) sunflower seeds
6 oz. carrots, finely grated, 1 egg
chopped parsley, oatmeal to coat.
Grind up the sunflower seeds. Fry the onion in a little oil until softened, then mix together with the ground seeds and the rest of the ingredients (except the oatmeal), season to taste.
Form into burgers and coat with the oatmeal. Fry in a little oil for about 6 minutes on each side until browned. Can also be baked in the oven (180C) for 20 minutes.

Pearly Rissoto:
8 oz (225g) pearl barley
1 onion, finely chopped
1 sweet pepper (red or yellow), de-seeded and diced
1- 1 1/2 pints (600-850ml) hot water
vegetable stock cube
4 oz (110g) frozen peas
4 oz (110g) Stilton or any blue cheese
fhopped parsley
Soak the barley in cold water for half an hour. In a large frying pan, saute the onion in a little oil or butter. Add the peppers, cook for a further 3 minutes. Drain the barley and add to the pan, stir to coat in the oil then pour in half the water in which has been dissolved the stock cube. Simmer for half an hour, adding more liquid as needed. By this time the barley should be almost cooked. Stir in the peas and simmer for a further five minutes adding more liquid only if necessary. Sprinkle over the crumbled cheese and the parsley, stir and serve.

Roasted Vegetables with Lemon Cous-cous:
I haven't given amounts as this is more a method than a recipe. But do plenty as it is very moreish.
Use a mixture of red and white onions, courgettes, butternut squash, red and green bell peppers. Or anything else you fancy (mushrooms and baby tomatoes should be added 15 minutes before the end),.
Peel vegetables where necessary and cut into same size chunks. Place in a bowl and pour over a little olive oil, toss to coat. Place in a shallow roasting tin and roast at 200C, 300F, gas 6 for approx. 30-40mins. or until softened and slightly charred. If you like a bit of bite to your veg. then 30 mins should be enough. Check halfway through and turn vegetables over to cook on all sides.
Place the cous-cous in a bowl and cover with the same volume of boiling water. Stir in the grated rind and juice of one lemon. Leave to stand until the water has been absorbed. This takes about 15 minutes.
In a large frying pan melt a knob of butter and stir in the cous-cous. Heat gently and season to taste. Stir in some toasted flaked almonds if you wish. Top with the roasted vegetables. Take the pan to the table and serve. Instead of almonds in the cous-cous, you could sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the roasted veg.

And if anyone cares - I have cleared my kitchen table. 'Who are you expecting?' said my husband. Sometimes it is easy to go off people.