Every year, food pundits retract what they say about a certain food item being good or bad for you – eggs are a great example- I still can’t figure out if it is ok to eat one every day or not? But alas and alack, they remain pretty steady in maintaining that a largely meat based diet is harmful for you- was it only last year that U.S. News and World Report put the Paleo diet in the lowest ranking of diets?
Be that as it may, we are lucky that in most countries, either traditionally or recently, there are plenty of meat alternatives, so don’t get too worried about where your protein intake comes from. And best of all, even when organic, they’re wayyyyyyyyy cheaper than buying meat and poultry!
Let me divide meat alternatives into 3 categories:
1. The Meat Mimics: These include tofu, textured soya, tempeh, quorn and seitan.
Tofu is also called beancurd and is equivalent to cheese but made from soya milk. I LOVE tofu and have been known to simply slice it and eat it raw without anything (Shock! horror! Carnivores pull their hair out in anguish when I admit to this in public – which I rarely do so as to maintain the peace). It is the king in Southeast and east Asia and any number of their cookbooks have whole chapters devoted to how to cook this cardboard tasting thing into a delight to swoon over. It comes in a number of forms – soft, hard, smoked etc and is very versatile.
I have, alas, stopped eating this as it comes wrapped in plastic. Boohoo. But can make soya milk so will experiment at making my own tofu, at some point, and will put up the recipe 🙂
This is originally from Indonesia and is made by fermenting soya beans together to form a somewhat thick wafer. I am not very fond of it and, just as well it comes in a plastic wrapping coz I have given this up.
Here is an article comparing tofu and seitan and, you can find loads of Indonesian recipes online.
c. Texturised soya
This is the byproduct of soya bean oil and is used either to mimic meat or make it go that bit further – you get it mainly as chunks or as a kind of mince. I find that Indians make amazing dry and wet curry dishes with this. Or just take an Indian cook book and substitute this for any meat/poultry in the recipe.
This is quite a processed food item so don’t go crazy over it!
Quorn is intended to replicate the taste and texture of meat and contains mycoprotein which is derived from the Fusarium venenatum fungus and is grown by fermentation. You can almost believe it is meat/poultry/bacon etc…almost! Again, I don’t buy this anymore as it comes, at least in Spain, in plastic packets, in the frozen foods area. Somehow I don’t think I will be growing a fungus deliberately….so, bye bye, Quorn.
This is made from wheat gluten ( therefore not for those intolerant or sensitive to gluten) and is, by far, my favourite meat alternative which is also very high in protein. The best thing is that I know how to make this and make a monthly supply, at almost a quarter of the price of the commercial one and tasting exactly the same. We will go into the recipe in a later post.
2. Lovely Legumes:
This is an exhaustive list!
3. Go nuts (and seeds):
Nuts and seeds are super healthy and most of us aren’t eating enough of them. They are a great natural source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber.