This won’t make happy news for butchers but I’m not eating so much meat these days. It’s not been a conscious choice. It has just sort of happened. I don’t think that meat is murder (unless it’s halal). I have not become a born again vegetarian: I like my bacon sarnie as much as the next man. But, little by little, life has become a lot less meatier.
Instead of thinking first of chops, a stew, corned beef or mince or any kind of meat and two veg I’m planning a meal of pasta, beans, lentils, rice, vegetable curries and cashew nut stir-fries and any of a hundred other ways to make pulses and vegetables entertaining. After all, most of the world has to do it.
I’m sure I’m not the only one. Eten café in Sheffield city centre, just across from the strictly veggie Blue Moon café, makes a virtue out of its Meatless Mondays menu.
Now I love a chilli con carne but these days it is more often made with beans than meat. Look at those little jewels above this post, dried beans, rinsed and waiting to be cooked. Don’t they look beautiful?
They are black turtle beans, butter beans, red kidney beans, rose cocoa beans, black eyed beans, dublia beans, haricot beans, lima beans, pinto beans and mung beans. Reading the names off the packet on the shelf in Waitrose was like a poem.
A packet is far, far cheaper than a tin of mixed beans, which don’t have the same meaty texture when you cook dried beans yourself and, in any case, have to be rinsed clean of that gooey, sweet tomato sauce. And 120g of beans (for two) is cheaper than a pound of mince and you’ve got lots left in the packet for another day. Or two.
Yes, but you just have to get the mince out of the fridge, I hear you say. With beans you have to soak them overnight, then cook them the next day before you even begin your chilli. Not if you cook them, cool them, then pop them into portions in bags and freeze them until needed, is my answer. And I got that tip off the internet.
I’ll have cooked them until almost done before freezing and they defrost pretty quickly. Only trouble is they don’t look half as pretty as above when cooked! But mixed with vegetables in a chillied-up tomato sauce they don’t half taste good. After all, a proper chilli con carne is cooked with kidney beans.
I’ll still be down at Kempka’s the butchers for my bacon, sausage, pork belly and new season’s lamb chops – a couple of steaks if we’re feeling really flush – but not quite so often. It’s just that I’ve got another option in the larder and that can’t be a bad thing.