Could you really enjoy a meat free summer?

The Good Life Letter 

13th May 2016

When the weather turns nice it seems to be a Pavlovian response for the British to start their barbeques up.

From last Saturday lunchtime onwards our locale was heavy with the fumes of grilled meat and the sounds of family life in the garden.

I have to admit that I quite like it.

Growing up we never had such a thing as a barbeque and the only smoke in the sky was due to a bonfire burning in the garden.

So seeing families and friends gather to share food in an outdoor and healthy setting is something that we should all applaud.

Of course just because the cooking has decamped outdoors doesn’t mean that it is all good and healthy – the insidious nature of the food giants has seen that.

Reconstituted burgers made from ground up bone, mechanically recovered meat and dyed slime, sausages that are made from bits of the animal at either end of the alimentary canal and chicken products that defy description are well known – but even veggie fare is now being destroyed.

Tesco make vegetarian burgers that have over 10% of your recommended daily salt intake in them (not the healthy salt I talked about last week either), Sainsbury’s equivalent is awash with nearly 15% of your fat allowance onboard and Morrisons has an ingredients list that is mostly rehydrated! (46% is Rehydrated Textured Soya Protein and 14% is Rehydrated Textured Wheat Protein.)

This really isn’t good enough and the fact they taste insipid and bland doesn’t help either.

Mary and Mike came down to stay with us and both are vegetarians of many years standing, although they do like a drink which makes them perfect company! We have been friends since university days and I know they both hate the barbeque season as they get a variety of salads and a blackened veggie sausage whilst everyone else is troughing cheeseburger, pork ribs and sticky chicken thighs...

...and they think this is unfair.

So, I set about to surprise them with something very different.

This was my offering...

A meat free feast for everyone to enjoy

Now I’m strictly a food lover and a meat eater after that, so making and eating vegetarian food is not something I bother about.

If it tastes good, has texture and fills the old tum then I don’t expect another creature to give up their life, and there is plenty of scope to make outdoor food purely from vegetables.

A great starter dish can be found in plain grilled fennel with a garlic cream sauce. Simply slice the fennel bulbs about a centimetre thick (1/4 inch in old money!) rub over with a drop of oil, season with fresh ground black pepper and grill for 5 minutes or so a side, until golden, then drizzle over a white sauce flavoured with crushed garlic and lemon juice.

Another favourite is halloumi cheese and honey – rub slices of the cheese with oil and pepper like the fennel, roll them in a few sesame seeds and grill. In a separate pan warm a spoon or two of honey, add in a teaspoon of lime juice and pour over the cheese, straight from the grill.

Now to the main part of the meal – a beetroot and chilli burger – bet you didn’t expect that one!

The last of the beets were stored wrapped in newspapers and make ideal ingredients for these surprising burgers, when peeled and grated, mixed with a similar quantity of grated courgette straight from the greenhouse and left to drain in a sieve for an hour, before combining with a handful of toasted breadcrumbs, some mashed butter beans, kidney beans and chickpeas and the all important chopped onion and chilli according to your taste.
Form into nice patties and grill so that the outside is a deep rich brown...

...they will be a total revelation I promise.

Alternatively try threading cubes of Indian Paneer cheese onto skewers with red peppers, courgette and onion and glaze them with chilli and mint oil and barbeque, turning on the grill as each side browns.

It really did make for an enjoyable and tasty treat... washed down with a nice cold Prosecco and a few Pimms cocktails with loads of mint.

How much better could life in the outdoor kitchen be, and not a burnt banger in sight!

The inside track for all football fans

One of the things Mike is known for is his passion for football – all things Liverpool are sacred in his world.

But like me he is a child of the Valleys and follows the Welsh National side all around the world, popping up in places like Israel and Andorra in the recent past.

So I was regaled with enthusiasm for the upcoming European Championships in France where mighty Wales are all set to humble England and beat a path to victory with a man who plies his trade in Madrid at the forefront, apparently!

Now I know very little about the football world, but I found Mike's knowledge and passion infectious and I began to look for more information about the chances for the Welsh and the roles and responsibilities of some of our key players.

Almost certain to figure in the squad are Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey, Crystal Palace's goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and the revered Gareth Bale from Real Madrid.

Other more traditional Welsh names also feature such as Ashley Williams, Emyr Huws and a fine chap called James Collins (no relation).

It does seem like we have a few boyos who could herald a new era of success for the round ball game, and I was tempted to have a flutter on the result before Mike stopped me.

He reminded me that some of my colleagues in the newsletter business had just launched a comprehensive free statistics, facts and figures report for all of the teams involved in the Euros...

...and that by grabbing that I would arm myself with all the information that even a complete novice like me would need.

He said he had got a copy and discovered things even he didn’t know about – so if it’s got his endorsement I must make sure I get my free copy before the squad is announced and the games kick off.

Apparently that is where all the best odds are to be found.

I hope you enjoy a few meat free delicacies and have the chance to cheer your national sides on in the summer – as long as it isn’t the English against my boys!

Yours, as always


Ray



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