I’m increasingly dismayed by the often ill-informed and self-righteous debate on climate change. For many – Stop eating meat . . . is considered to be the solution to all our planetary and climate change ills. Farmers of all persuasions are being ‘tarred with the same brush’ and vilified. . .
Some farming methods certainly need to be reviewed and there is a growing consensus that business as usual is no longer an option particularly for very intensive pig and poultry units which despite economies of scale rarely even yield a decent income for the farmers themselves, many of whom feel trapped in the system, fuelled by our assumption that cheap food at any cost is our right!
If you ask most young people what we should eat to be sustainable and healthy, their immediate and well intentioned response will be, Go vegan or vegetarian. They are convinced by the argument that meat, particularly red meat is bad for us and damaging to the environment. However, there is a world of difference, both in health terms and in environmental terms in meat from pasture reared livestock and intensively reared animals from feedlot systems. Cattle are crucially important to a sustainable agricultural system; it is worth noting that worldwide, approx. 80% of the land that cattle graze on cannot be used for tillage or other forms of agriculture.
It is also important to understand that cattle, other animals and poultry build soil fertility. A crucially important factor at a time when the UN warns us that there are less than 60 harvests left in many intensively farmed soils.
In Ireland we are favoured by nature, with optimum conditions to produce superb food. Many farmers desperately want to be a part of the solution to global warming. They urgently need wise advice, training and support to embark on regenerative agriculture that encourages continual innovation and improvement of environmental, social and economic measures. The primary priority in regenerative organic agriculture is soil health. Vitally important when one realises that our health comes directly from the soil.
For optimum health enjoy a little of all the bounty of nature. . . Eat vegetables, herbs and foraged foods in season and seek out humanely reared meat with a nice covering of juicy fat so important for our health, include some beautiful wild fish when you can get it fresh, an increasingly difficult challenge.
This week, let’s show support for our farmers who work 24/7 to produce nourishing meat for us to enjoy. Buy from your local butcher preferably one with their own abattoir who knows the source of the meat and buys directly from local farmers or the local mart. Let’s eat a little less but seek out pasture raised meat, from native breeds.
If you are confused about what to eat for optimum health start by cutting all processed and fake food out of your diet, just eat real food in season. . . One could do worse than listen to the sage advice of the Weston A. Price foundation www.westonaprice.org and wise tradition podcasts https://www.westonaprice.org/podcast/ – Some are literally life changing
The reality is, nutrient dense sustainable food can be more expensive to produce. As tax payers we all contribute to a farm support system.
Our taxes help to fund the health service, clean up the environment. . . . I strongly believe that politicians urgently need to be courageous. . . move the support to more sustainable forms of food production which I believe will help to reduce climate change and benefit our health, a win, win situation all the way… meanwhile back to the comfort of the kitchen and a few of my favorite recipes for super delicious beef dishes.
Homemade Beef Burgers with Ginger Mushrooms and Buffalo Chips
15g (1/2oz) butter
75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped (optional)
450g (1lb) freshly minced beef – flank, or chump or even shin would be perfect
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
pork caul fat, optional
oil or dripping
25g (1oz/) butter
75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped
225g (1/2 lb) mushrooms
125ml (4 1/2fl oz) cream
freshly chopped parsley
1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
20g (3/4oz) nibbed almonds, lightly toasted
6 large potatoes unpeeled
Beef dripping or oil for deep-frying –
Green salad and cherry tomatoes (optional).
burger buns (see recipe)
First make the burgers.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, toss in the chopped onions, sweat until soft but not coloured, then allow to get cold. Meanwhile mix the mince with the herbs, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the onions and mix well. Fry off a tiny bit on the pan to check the seasoning and tweak if necessary. Then shape into burgers, 4-6 depending on the size you require. Wrap each one loosely in caul fat if using. Keep refrigerated.
Next make the Ginger mushrooms.
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured. Meanwhile slice and cook the mushrooms in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream, ginger, toasted almonds and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used. Keep aside.
Scrub the potatoes and cut into wedges from top to bottom – they should be about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick and at least 2 1/2 inches (6 1/2 cm) long. If you like rinse the chips quickly in cold water but do not soak, dry them meticulously with a tea towel or kitchen paper before cooking.
Heat the beef dripping or oil in the deep fry to 180°C/350°F, fry twice, once at this temperature for 5-8 minutes depending on size then drain.
Meanwhile fry the burgers and reheat the ginger mushrooms.
Increase the heat to 220°C/425°F and cook the Buffalo chips for a further 1-2 minutes until crisp and golden. Shake the basket, drain well, toss on to kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt. Put the burgers onto hot plates, spoon some ginger mushrooms over the side of the burgers and pile on the crispy buffalo chips.
Put a little green salad dressed in a well flavoured dressing on the side with one or two ripe cherry tomatoes and a perky spring onion
Serve immediately and tuck in.
Italian Beef Stew
A good gutsy beef stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank
2 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices
285g (10 oz) sliced onions
1 heaped tablespoon flour
150ml (5fl oz) red wine
150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock
250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomatoes -pureed and sieved
175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons, chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
Polenta, mashed potato or noodles.
Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm
(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions and carrots on a gentle heat with a lid on for 8-10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking. Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, add to the casserole. Sprinkle in the flour over the meat stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the red wine, stock and tomato purée together and bring to the boil. Deglaze the pan, with a little stock, scrape to dissolve the flavoursome sediment, bring back to the boil and then add to the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently for 2 to 21/2 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.
Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking. Serve with Polenta, mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.
Italian Beef Stew with Gremolata
Sprinkle a little gremolata (see recipe below) over each portion of Italian Beef Stew and serve.
Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!
4 tablespoons, preferably flat parsley, chopped
1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.
Beef Fajitas with Tomato and Coriander Salsa and Guacamole
For the marinade
2 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp crushed chilli flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
2 teaspoon freshly chopped marjoram OR
1 dried oregano teasp
¼ tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp Mexican beer, or lager
1 tbsp olive oil
500g (1 lb) rump steak, cut 2.5 cm (1in) thick.
1-2 fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
2-4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 ripe avocados, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 flour tortillas
1 handful shredded lettuce
tomato and coriander salsa (see recipe below)
125ml (4 floz) sour cream
First make the marinade, combine the garlic, chilli flakes, cumin, oregano, allspice, beer and oil. Add steak and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. For guacamole, combine chillies, coriander, lime juice and avocado. Mash with a potato masher until well combined but still chunky. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate.
Grill the steak and leave to stand for 5 minutes before carving into 1cm (1/2 in) thick slices. Warm the tortillas and divide steak slices between the warmed tortillas. Sprinkle with flakey sea salt and pepper. Top with shredded lettuce, tomato salsa, a good dollop of guacamole and sour cream. Roll up and serve hot
Tomato and Coriander Salsa
Tomato salsa is best in summer and early autumn when tomatoes are super ripe and juicy.
Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have become a favourite accompaniment to everything from pan grilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish.
4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Julija’s Lithuanian Beef Goulash
One day when I was madly busy at the Cookery School, I asked Julija Makejeva, who had recently arrived from Lithuania with little English, if she could cook. She looked at me as though she
hadn’t understood the question. So I asked her again and she said, ‘Of course I cook. Everyone cook’.
Afterwards I realised it seemed to her to be the most ridiculous question. She learned how to cook this goulash from her mother, and now I pass it on to you.
1.1kg (21⁄2lb) stewing beef, cut in 2.5cm (1in) cubes
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon paprika
1⁄4 –1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
225g (8oz) onions, sliced
450g (1lb) carrots, cut into 1cm (1⁄2in) cubes
50g (2oz) white flour
850ml (11⁄2 pints)good Beef Stock
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/ gas mark 2.
Put the cubes of beef in a bowl and add the garlic, paprika, cayenne and salt and pepper. Mix well and leave to rest while you prepare the other ingredients.
Heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the sliced onions and cubed carrots. Fry for a few minutes until slightly soft and beginning to colour. Remove from the pan and transfer to a casserole.
Increase the heat under the pan, add more oil and brown the beef in batches. When brown on all sides, transfer the meat to the casserole.
Put the casserole on a medium heat, add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the frying pan with the stock. Gradually add it to the casserole and bring to a simmer. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2–21⁄2 hours (depending on the cut of meat) until meltingly tender. Serve with boiled potatoes or plain boiled rice.