When I first became a flexitarian and decided to eat less meat I was not sure how to make the transition after 40 years as a meat eater. I wasn’t ready to stop at once.
I started small by planning one vegetarian meal. Then I moved on to one meat-free day a week then two and so on. One thing that helped me was finding ways to cook with less meat.
Today while I still eat fish once or twice a week, I have stopped eating meat almost entirely. Reducing your meat consumption will not only benefit your health and the environment but it will also help you to reduce your weekly food bill.
Here are my 6 favourite techniques to cook with less meat:
This technique is generally used in cooking to flatten a chicken breast and reduce its thickness so that it cooks more evenly. Once the chicken breast is halved, there is a larger surface of meat so one breast can easily be split between two people without anyone noticing any significant difference.
The technique is very easy. You need to put the chicken breast flat and cut it horizontally. When you butterfly a chicken breast, you normally do not cut all the way through and serve the piece as a whole. If you want to use less meat you can either, cook the halved chicken breast as one piece and cut it afterwards to make two portions, or cut the chicken breast in half straight away and cook two pieces.
This is used to flatten an uneven piece of meat or tenderise tough cuts of beef and pork by breaking up connective tissue. You can of course also use this technique with chicken. Similar to butterflying, pounding will make the piece of meat thinner and bigger (in surface) giving the illusion that more is there. You can then again split the piece between two people.
Before pounding meat, make sure you cover it with a heavy plastic wrap. Then pound it gently with a rolling pin or a meat mallet to the desired thickness.
This approach works particularly well with recipes that need ground meat. The idea is to halve the amount of meat required by the recipe and replace it with a grain (such as bulgur wheat, cracked wheat, couscous) or some vegetables or pulses. Grains work well in shepherds pie, meatloaf, chilli and casseroles. Vegetables such as courgettes, aubergines, mushrooms are a delicious complement to chilli, spaghetti sauce, lasagne and casseroles. Pulses such as lentils are ideal for shepherds pie, chilli, meatloaf, chilli and casseroles.
Not only do skewers make impressive starters but they are very versatile on a summer barbecue. Skewers work well with beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, chunky fish cuts, scallops or shrimps. For best results, marinate the fish, meat or seafood beforehand. When ready, bulk up the skewer with vegetables such as onions, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, courgettes or small potatoes (pre-cooked), adding just one or two pieces of meat, fish or seafood per skewer.
Shredding pork, beef, or poultry not only improves the texture and flavour of the meat but again helps give the impression that there is more. Shredding is perfect for sandwiches, soups, salads, stir fries, pasta and stews. It takes a little bit of time but shredding meat is very easy. All you need is one or two forks to scrape the meat with, until it breaks down to smaller pieces. A great way to use leftovers.
6) Cutting Up
Choose to cut your meat into smaller pieces. A sliced chicken breast coan then be divided between several people. Cooking meat in small chunks like it is done with stir fries will stretch a small amount of chicken or beef a long way.
Do you use any other techniques to reduce the amount of meat you cook with? Please share them with us.