Market to Table

DO MEN FEAR VEGGIES?

Artist Guy Buffet’s patrons appear ready to eat my veggie frittata

Yes, new research shows it’s true … men do fear veggies. Men choose meat over veggies every time. But as we move towards a more healthful regime. Some of us carnivores have to change our habits.

Personally, I spent the whole of my childhood hating veggies, and all those things I was forced to eat by wartime rationing and the rigors of British boarding school diets. Mind you, I didn’t care much for the thin slice of overdone beef on Sundays or the grey gruel-like consistency of “mince,” as any casserole made with ground beef was called. Sometimes, at my private school (called Public School in England with typical British contrariness) the cook deigned to produce a stew with bits of gristle in it, often described as Irish stew on the presumption that Irish peasantry would eat anything, and what was good for them was clearly good for the children of upper crust Brits who could afford the outrageous fees. That this gristle was occasionally attached to bones identifiable as left-over lamb chop, probably meant we were feasting on scrapings from the school staff plates. The house master and house staff ate with us, but at a raised head table where we could not see what they were served.

You’d think that would have been enough to put me off meat, but the veggies that went along with these meals were worse. Soggy parsnips, bitter swedes, dreadful turnips, ancient carrots, and tough old beets which bled all over everything else, were prime. Then there were ugly chunks of half-cooked onions, which I would not eat until well into my 20s, and waterlogged greens in great variety and in varying degrees of awfulness. Fortunately, when rescued by generous relatives, and occasionally by my own expat parents, for holidays, my diet and health improved immeasurably. My maternal grandmother was well versed in British staples, although she had an ancient cook to do most of the work during my childhood. Sunday roast was always superb and rotated between beef, lamb and pork, with lovely crisp roast potatoes, well-risen Yorkshire pudding with the beef, home-made mint sauce with the lamb and sweet apple sauce and crackling with the pork. All were awash in rich gravy. Once, when I was very sick with pneumonia, all I would eat was Grandma’s roast potatoes and gravy.

Normally I wouldn’t let a plate overwhelm the food

It wasn’t until I started cooking for myself, that I finally overcame my acute hatred of most veggies and actually started to like some of them. I still can’t look most root vegetables in the face, but I’ve come to love beets and carrots, as well as onions, as long as I’ve cooked them myself. Eating out, I will often pick them out of a meal. It’s taken almost 60 years to change my habits!

So it was with keen interest I read in The Daily Telegraph a week or so ago, that new research shows British men on the whole will pick a dish containing meat over an all-veggie one, when eating out, “for fear of being socially shunned.”

It goes on: “Scientists from the University of Southampton found even men who dislike meat or are unable to eat it for health reasons find it difficult to pick a vegetarian or vegan dish from a menu for fear of being ridiculed.

“A year-long research project found men had experienced ‘social isolation’ among friends after admitting to reducing their consumption of meat.”

Researchers concluded: “As evidence shows that eating less meat is vital to a more sustainable future food supply, unpicking this strong cultural association between men and meat is an important aspect to global food security research.”

Amusing plates might disguise the veggie offerings tonight

Frankly, I couldn’t give a toss about ‘global food security’ even if I knew what it meant. What I do care about is my health, and we now know that red meat, eaten frequently, is not good for heart health, and veggies, eaten frequently, are very good for every aspect of your health. Since we are all quite selfish when it comes to our food and our health, I suspect that any man eating less meat and more veggies is doing so entirely for personal and not societal reasons.

Once we learn that veggies taste good and a full meal doesn’t have to include meat, we are on the way to a more healthful future, and perhaps we will bring global food security along for the ride.

With those thoughts in mind, I’ve been giving vegetarian lunch and dinner meals to long suffering friends who will put up with being experimented on and tolerating the accompanying photo sessions. Their frank opinions determine what survives into the recipes I present here and what improvements or adjustments I make too.

One of the vegetarian books I’ve enjoyed reading, if not cooking from, has been Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg (2013), and it is to this classic I’ve turned to for ideas this week. To make the meal less scary, I decided to use our amusing French-waiter themed plates designed by renowned artist Guy Buffet.

* * *

WARM KALE AND PEACH SALAD

Inspired by Gelf Alderson, River Cottage Executive Chef

Shopping list

  • 500 g cavolo nero, (an Italian variety of kale with very dark-colored leaves), or any dark kale, such as lacinto
  • 4 peaches, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
  • 150 g cashew nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 4 TBSP EVOO
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Garnish

  • 200 g feta OR ricotta, crumbled

Preparation and cooking

  1. Fresh peaches are still in season, so grab some now while the going is good. Dunk in a large pot of boiling water for no more than a minute. Lift out with a slotted spoon. When cooled slightly the skins will slip right off. Cut into segments and remove and discard the pits. (If you miss out on the fresh ones, try canned or bottled preserved peaches.)
  2. Toast the cashews in a dry frying pan until golden, then crush roughly or chop.
  3. Using the hot peach water, bring it back to a rapid boil. Tear or slice away the large centre stems from the dark kale leaves and put them into the boiling water for 1—2 minutes. Remove from the water and drain thoroughly, then spread out on kitchen towels or put in a spinner. Once fully dry and cold roughly chop the kale and place to one side.
  4. Heat a large heavy based frying pan, add the olive oil and peaches until they gain a nice golden-brown colour on one side, turn and add the chillies and cook for a further couple of minutes. Make sure the peaches are not stuck on the bottom of the pan and add the kale and spring onions and toasted cashews, toss together until hot, season with salt and pepper.
  5. To plate spread the ingredients evenly on to warmed plates and crumble the cheese over the top. Serves 4.

    * * *

OVEN ROASTED ROOTS FRITTATA

Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, ‘River Cottage Veg’

Shopping list

  • About 1 1/3 lb / 600 g mixed winter vegetables (approx. 2 shallots OR onions, 2 carrots, 2 beets, 2 potatoes)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 3 TBSP canola or EVOO
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • Mixed herbs (fresh parsley, chives, thyme) stems stripped, finely chopped, about a handful
  • Tabasco, a few drops
  • ¾ oz / 20 g Parmesan, OR Pecorino Romano OR Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Preparation and cooking

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190° Prep the veggies: parboil the beets for 30 minutes to make peeling easier; peel the shallots or onions and quarter or thickly slice; peel the carrots and cut into rounds, about ¼ in thick; peel the cooled beets and cut into cubes, about ½ in thick; peel and cut the potatoes into cubes, about ½ in thick.
  2. Toss all the veggies in oil, season with plenty of salt and pepper and lay out in an ovenproof dish, about 9 in / 23 cm square and about 2 ins deep. Roast for about 40 mins, stirring at the 20 min mark, until the veggies are tender and starting to caramelize.
  3. Beat the eggs together with a little Tabasco and the chopped herbs. Remove the dish from the oven and pour the egg mix over the roasted veggies. Top with the grated cheese.
  4. Return to the oven for 10 to 12 mins, until the egg is fully set and the top is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then lift the frittata out onto a serving plate, or chopping board. Do NOT overcook and if the middle is still runny, be aware that the eggs is still cooking while the dish is resting. Slice and serve warm or cold. Serves 4 to 6.

SHAMELESS PLUG FOR MY COOKBOOK: How about a copy of my e-book Market to Table: The Cookbook as a gift idea for yourself, friends, family or anyone who loves to cook? It’s available for an amazingly reasonable price on Lulu.comi-Tunes and Amazon. If you click on the link to any of these online publishers you can preview the first chapter for free.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.