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Reducing meat in your diet

If you want to cut down the amount of meat in your diet, follow these handy tips

When I wrote my new book, Make Do & Cook, (you can buy it here for £9.99 plus postage), one of the things I wanted to focus on was stretching meat.

Meat is greatly beloved of the average Brit - only something like 2 per cent of the population is fully vegetarian - but Brits also tend to eat way too much of it.

Meat in moderation is a good thing in the diet - it gives you essential fatty acids, iron and a boatload of vitamins, but it's also the major source of saturated fat in the diet (around 45 per cent of ALL fat in our diet comes from meat) and an excess of this is a leading cause of heart attack and stroke. 

Meat is also expensive when compared with similar sources of protein such as pulses (you can easily feed a family of six on a 99p pack of chickpeas, for instance), and it has a serious impact on the planet, with much good agricultural land put to beef production that could be better used for cereal production.

If you don't want to give up meat altogether but would like to reduce it, there are easy ways to cut it down fairly painlessly.

* When making something like a stir-fry, risotto or pasta, dice the meat and cook it separately, then scatter the dice over the top of the dish. This fools the eye (and the average carnivore) into thinking they're getting more meat than they actually are. The separate meat is usually best fried with garlic, onions and some herbs or spices for flavouring - don't just cook it on its own. 

* In stews and slow-cooked dishes such as chilli or boeuf bourginon, substitute a percentage of the meat with chickpeas or kidney beans (tinned, if you're not up to the routine of soaking and boiling them). Start out gradually by substituting a quarter, then a third, then half. Chickpeas and kidney beans have a satisfying 'meaty' texture and will soak up the flavour of the meat. NB: if you're not used to eating pulses, it is very important to go gradually or you'll get terrible flatulence. This is something that disappears as your digestive system begins to produce the necessary enzymes to break down the pulses, but it puts many people off pulses at first if they're not used to it.

* Use a small quantity of very flavoursome meat such as smoked chicken or bacon bits rather than larger amounts of blander meats to flavour a dish - one classic recipe I've included in my book is poulet fumé aux lentilles, where the basic dish of lentils, carrots and onions is flavoured by smoked chicken. 

* Use large quantities of herbs, spices, onions and garlic to build flavour in dishes rather than relying on meat. For instance, a pasta sauce tastes just as good when made from lots of onions, garlic, tomatoes, a dash of cayenne and a teaspoon of muscovado sugar as it does when it includes beef. 

* Eat from smaller plates, place the meat in the centre and pile up the vegetables and starch components of a meal around it. Brits were traditionally taught to think in thirds: one third meat, one third veg, one third starch, but meat should really be no more than a quarter of the dish and if you arrange your food in the traditional way, the lack is noticeable. 

* Eat vegetarian one day a week and build up to two days if you can. We usually have a veggie meal on a Wednesday, with two other days being set aside for fish, and I might try to sneak another veggie meal past the DH later in the week too. But Sunday is often a blow-out roast to make up for it.

Make Do & Cook by Patricia Mansfield-Devine is available now as a paperback for £9.99.

Or choose one of the e-book editions, available for all popular platforms including the Kindle, Sony Reader and (soon) the Apple iPad, with prices starting at $9.99.

» Find out more at WebVivant Press »



Easy ways to reduce your fashion footprint

Check out this video for how to throw away your clothes sensibly

There is a great video on the Guardian site that I urge you all to watch. It's about how to chuck out your unwanted clothes PROPERLY so that they don't end up in landfill.

As the presenter points out, women are the worst culprits by far when it comes to owning (and then having to throw away) useless garments. But even if you give your old clothes to charity, their usefulness varies. 

Good stuff

1 Denim. Any size, style or colour - this will find a home on the backs or the legs of workers in the third world. Denim is tough stuff, with years of life left in it long after its fashion possibilities have faded. 

2 Tights. Their Lycra content makes them invaluable as bandages in countries like Ethiopia. Send to:

Ethiopia Tights Appeal Tightsplease

2nd Floor, Albion Court

18-20 Frederick Street

Hockley, Birmingham

B1 3HE

3 Bras. British bras are well-made and engineered. Even when broken, they're valuable. But the presenter says you may need to educate charity shops as to their usefulness.

4 Towels. Animal charities can always use old towels, no matter how faded and threadbare. Personally, I use up my old, and other people's old, towels for the dog. 






A few eco-frocks here for the ecology minded with very deep pockets...

Daisy Lowe models eco-fashion for the Grauniad.

I see several of the items are from Equa, a women's wear boutique based in Camden Passage, Islington, which sells fashion, accessories and beauty products. 


Eco-friendly my arse

I was reading the November 2007 edition of US Vogue the other day.

Normally I'm a pretty big fan of American Vogue, which along with American Glamor is the only fashion mag I bother to open these days (excluding the loo reading of the dog-eared women's mags which circulate in this neighbourhood of broke British ex-pats, usually supplied in packs by somebody's mum from Blighty).

Vogue, under the leadership of Anna ('Nuclear') Wintour kind of makes me laugh, with its ridiculously elitist interviews and fantastically high-priced garments, but it does at least take fashion seriously and its Democratic principles aren't in doubt - it remains solidly on the side of pro-choice, pro-liberal.

But I'm disappointed with the November issue's article on wardrobe simplifying - Why less is more.

Damn, I thought, as I read the headline. I should've written that. I'm all in favour of a small wardrobe and slow clothes - from the fashion perspective for the sake of efficiency in dressing, and from a political perspective because I'm fundamentally anti-consumerist. But after a promising start with an interview with a woman who's downsized her wardrobe to just a few (read 'couple of hundred') items, it went on to tell you exactly how you ought to jettison everything you've currently got for a range of new eco-friendly and socially-aware 'basics' - which will, of course, last you a lifetime but which will also, of course, cost you a packet... "an investment, be it a $9 tee or a $1,900 coat that enriches with a degree of self-expression and self-respect".

Well, most of us don't need to spend $1,900 on a coat to improve our self-respect. Ethical clothing, we are informed, used to make you look like a crazy survivalist, but now that eco-friendly and organic are evidently FASHIONABLE, Vogue is getting (very belatedly) on the bandwagon.

A later article in the same issue covers 7 'must-haves', from teeshirts ($44) to sweatpants ($115). Shirts at over $300? Gimme a break. Hilditch and Key or Thomas Pink will supply you quite readily with a £40 shirt that you can wear for 20 years (though mine came from a second-hand shop, so I feel doubly pleased). The latest 'basic' must-have jean has a waist so low that most women's guts would cast a serious shadow on their gorgeous Repetto ballet flats ($195).

Here we go again. I haven't got a problem with all this 'must-have, dahling' crap, but to dress it up as what it ain't is a downright lie. The truth is none of us NEEDS more clothes - the average western woman's wardrobe could probably clothe a small African village. And yes it's fun to shop. You can see that from the strange glint that appeared in the eye of What Not To Wear victims, who, initially horrified by the descent of Trinny and Susannah, became very meek at the sight of that giant cheque. £2,000 for me? For myself? Oh, heavens... Most women are busy putting their kids, their mortgage, their bills and their husbands before themselves and the chance to splash out on a whole new wardrobe is both pleasurable and liberating, especially when it's not your money.

But I feel cheated by this issue. At the bottom line, it is not what it pretends to be. It is simply a sneaky and underhand way of advertising Vogue's favourite designers in the editorial pages. And of persuading women to part with yet more cash, but this time to get all touchy-feely about it, when what they should actually DO if they want to help the third world, or save the whale, is stop buying clothes altogether.


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