MEAT SUBSTITUTES ARE FINE AT HOME, BUT THAT BETTER NOT BE TVP IN MY CHILLI, CHEF!

I didn’t give up meat because I hate the taste. Quite the contrary, I love meat! I love the way it tastes, the way it smells.  It’s moist, it’s fatty, it’s lean, it’s an all-in-one great big fleshy delicious munchy bite. I do love meat more though when it’s still breathing and happily moo-ing, baa-ing or clucking its way through the field and living its happy little life and that’s the reason why I don’t eat it.  There are many other ways to get your Recommended Daily Amount of protein as many of you I’m sure will know. No, I don’t mean roaming the streets at night Nosferatu style, slurping on the neck of the nearest virgin bride, (they’re pretty rare nowadays), or seeking out the nearest road-kill badger to slap in your Panini. I am of course referring to protein rich meat substitutes.

The number of meat substitute products, (or ‘analogues’ as the food industry so delightfully refers to them), on our supermarket shelves seem to me to be growing at an exponential rate. Gone are the days of my then-student wife scouring the shelves for the last packet of BeanFeast or Sos Mix to accompany her instant mashed potato toasted sandwiches. (I honestly don’t know what worse; the fact the potato was instant or that she thought: “hey, I don’t have enough carbs here – let’s whack it in a toastie!”) Nowadays, you can buy sausages, burgers, bacon, mince, fake chicken bites, pork pies, the list is endless. You name it and somebody somewhere has probably made it. In fact, sales in meat substitute products reached $2.9bn in Europe and $326m in Northern America in 2009 and even though sales growth is slowing down, it’s still bloody big business! What’s more is that meat sales are also on the decline, indicating that people are moving away from eating so much animal and turning toward a more plant-based lifestyle. I sincerely hope it keeps moving in that direction.

Now I could sit here and witter on that as a vegan Chef, I don’t need to buy meat-free sausages and burgers because I can (and do), make my own and indeed that is true. But I do anyway. I’m only human you see, and there are times when I just can’t be bothered to make my own sausages and Just want to grab a pack of trusty old bangers out of the freezer, whack ‘em under the grill and stick ‘em between 2 bits of crusty bread smothered in Ketchup. I don’t make any apologies for this but if I did plan my time a bit better, I would make a big old batch of red onion and herb sausages, (see my recipe for Sausage Rolls from by previous blog), and delicious chunky burgers and freeze them. But I’m very busy and pretty rubbish with my time, so when I get home late after a hard days’ ahem…work, out come the tofu wieners and a jar of French Dijon Mustard and its cold hot dog dunkers for dinner yippee! Now whether you agree with and use meat substitute products is of course entirely your decision and I am not here to debate that; indeed some of my friends eat loads of them and some fellow chef friends of mine won’t touch them with a bloodied kebab skewer, which leads me rather neatly onto my next point: Even though I eat meat substitutes myself, I would never expect to see meat substitute products used or served in a good quality cafe or restaurant.

When I took over the last kitchen I worked in with a good friend of mine, we noticed the previous chef used pre-bought sausages and burgers. A little shocked, we promptly evicted these from the kitchen and made our own. This was an establishment renowned for its excellent vegetarian and vegan food and it wasn’t handmade?! That’s not the worst of it though sadly. There is a vegan cafe, (which shall remain nameless), which I visited last year and the menu was filled almost entirely with pre-bought meat substitute products; it seemed that nothing was made on the premises except  for the bland, under-seasoned tofu scramble and under-cooked tomato I endured for my breakfast. When I go out for a meal, I expect the thought, care, attention and skill of the person preparing my food is included in the price of the dish and not something that some microwave jockey has ripped out of a packet and zapped for two minutes that was made on a factory production line. Hell, even the fast-food burger place I go to make their own veggie burgers and you wouldn’t expect that from looking at it!

I realise I might be coming across as somewhat of a ranting hypocrite here but I’m not, really. You see, in amongst the many, many, many different sides to my personality, there are two here worth mentioning, (the rest I’ll save for Rikki Lake). On one side you have Chef Danny who will make you a delicious, well balanced dish using fresh ingredients and great flavoured sauces and on the other side, you have Dan who will come home, chuck on his pyjamas and scoff a plate of spaghetti with frozen peas and veggie sausages cut up in it. Dan never cooks for anyone but himself and that’s the way it shall always stay. I wouldn’t expect to go out to a restaurant and be served that spaghetti-sausage thing just as you wouldn’t expect to be served a tin of cold baked beans with a spoon in it so why is it OK for some vegetarian and vegan establishments to serve exactly the same thing you can buy off the shelf and cook at home? Well, I don’t think it is.

“Don’t Be Scared, It’s just Food!”

Love Danny x

(Figures listed are taken from this article: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Product-Categories/Meat-fish-and-savoury-ingredients/Have-meat-substitutes-missed-the-boat

OK, so here it is – Part two of my Valentine three course menu. This is my modern take on the great 1970’s Scandinavian export, the cheese and meat fondue by throwing Japan right there into the mix. It consists of a dish of raw vegetables & tofu, some brilliant dipping sauces and tempura batter. The idea is that like a fondue, you place the hot oil in a fondue bowl in the middle of the dining table and cook your food right there. You skewer your vegetable with your fondue fork, coat it in the batter and put it straight into the hot oil. After 30-45 seconds, it’s cooked and you remove it, placing it on a piece of absorbent cloth to remove any excess oil and then dip it in a sauce of your choice. BE WARNED, IT’S GOING TO BE HOT so you may want to put it on your plate and eat it with a knife & fork once it’s cooled.

I recommend you make the dips the day before and you can even prepare the vegetables & tofu at the same time. However, make the batter just before you are going to use it – the fresher the better.

There’s nothing like sharing and participating in a meal together and this is absolutely ideal for getting the two of you nice and cosy so enjoy!

Champagne Tempura Fondue (wf, gf)


There are three dips as part of this dish; one has a deep, miso & Tamari flavour, one is a zesty piquant lime & edamame bean and the final one is a poky smoked chilli & tarragon sauce. I developed these especially for this dish and they all complement each other perfectly. Making them a day in advance will allow them to develop and mature and shouldn’t take more than an hour to make all three. You will also need a blender or hand blender to make these: (Please remember to serve these at room temperature as they will taste better)

Miso, Tamari & Garlic Sauce

You will need:

35g                  Miso bean paste (I recommend Hatcho Miso as it’s very strong and deep)

2tbsp               Tamari (or soy sauce if you’re not wheat free)

1 clove             Garlic (roughly chopped)

4tbsp               Groundnut oil

2tbsp & 1tsp    White Wine Vinegar

Juice of 1         Lime

2tsp                 Maple Syrup or Agave

Pepper to season

A little water to thin it out

Method:

Place all the ingredients including a little water into the blender and blend until smooth. Add a little more water if necessary. It should be the consistency of salad cream.

Edamame, Ginger & Mint

You will need:

100g                Edamame beans (I use frozen as they’re easier to find in supermarkets)

2cm root         Fresh Ginger (Peeled)

1 clove             Garlic (finely sliced)

Zest & Juice of            1 Lime

1 med handful Fresh mint (very finely sliced)

1tbsp               Tamari

3tbsp               Groundnut Oil

2tbsp               White Wine Vinegar

1tsp                 Maple Syrup or Agave

½                     Red chilli (finely sliced, no seeds)

A Little warm water

Salt and pepper to season

Method:

Place the edamame bean into a bowl and pour over boiling water. Leave for 10 minutes then drain.

Whilst you are waiting for the beans, place the oil, tamari, vinegar, maple syrup, red chilli, pepper & garlic. Grate the ginger & squeeze the juice into the bowl. Squeeze as hard as you can then discard the remains.

Place the drained beans, a little salt and some water into a blender and puree until smooth. (you can use a hand blender for this too).

Once smooth, carefully spoon it into the tamari & vinegar mixture and stir gently. Add the chopped mint and season if necessary to finish.

Smoked Chilli, Tomato & Coriander

I used 2 smoked chipotle chillies with their seeds for this and it really packed a hefty punch! If you want to tone it down, use 1 chilli and remove the seeds. The smoky quality to this dip is fantastic – I eat it with spoon it’s so good!

You will need:

1 or 2               Dried Smoked chipotle chillies (chopped & seeds removed if you wish)

1                     Red Onion (peeled & sliced)

1 clove             Garlic (Peeled & chopped)

1                      Tin chopped tomatoes

1 bunch           Fresh Coriander leaf (Roughly chopped)

Salt & pepper to taste

Method:

Sautee the onion till soft & translucent

Add the chilli and stir well, allowing to cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for a further 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, salt & pepper and stir well. Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and add the coriander, keeping a little back for decoration.

Transfer the mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Season if necessary & transfer to a bowl.

For the Champagne Batter:


170g                Flour (I use Wheat & gluten Free flour but you can use plain)

2stp                 Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking soda

A little salt

125ml              Champagne (Prosecco & Cava is also fine or even sparkling water)

Method:

Place the flour, salt and Bicarbonate of Soda into a bowl. Gradually add the champagne and mix until you have a good coating batter.

It should be the consistency of double cream – not gloopy but thick enough to coat the vegetables.

Vegetables:

I used:

Baby Sweetcorn

Button Mushrooms

Tofu (drained & squeezed)

Mange Tout (Snow Peas)

I personally don’t like aubergine (egg plant) in this dish as it absorbs too much oil but feel free to use whatever vegetables are suitable to your taste.

Cooking Method:

Here it is again to save you going to the top of the recipe!

Place the hot oil in a fondue bowl in the middle of the dining table.

Skewer your vegetable with your fondue fork, coat it in the batter and put it straight into the hot oil.

After 30-45 seconds, it’s cooked. Remove it.

Place it on a piece of absorbent cloth to remove any excess oil and then dip it in a sauce of your choice.

BE WARNED, IT’S GOING TO BE HOT so you may want to put it on your plate and eat it with a knife & fork once it’s cooled.

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