Meat substitutes

Health_Meat-substitutes

Don’t know what to use in place of meat in your favourite recipes? There are now widely available alternatives to just about every type of meat, including chicken-, pork-, fish-, and beef-style products. Plant-based meat substitutes have come a long way in both taste and texture since the days of the first veggie burger, thanks to the growing popularity of vegetarian diets. Faux meats are most often made from soy or wheat protein and are available fresh, dried, or frozen.

Tofu: First used in China around 200 B.C., tofu has long been a staple of Asian cuisine. Tofu soaks up flavours and is best when marinated for at least 30 minutes or served with a flavourful sauce.

There are two types of tofu that you’ll want to try: fresh, water-packed tofu (always refrigerated) for when you want the tofu to hold its shape, such as when baking or grilling, and silken tofu, which is packed in aseptic boxes and usually not refrigerated, for pureing. Try firm or extra-firm tofu for baking, grilling, sautéing, and frying and soft or silken tofu for creamy sauces, desserts, and dressings. Silken tofu is used for making a heavenly chocolate cream pie but will fall apart if you try to make it into shish kebab. When baking tofu, cook it in a marinade so it will soak up more flavour. To give tofu a meatier texture, try freezing it for two to 24 hours and then defrosting it.

This traditional food is made from fermented soybeans and other grains. Unlike tofu, which is made from soybean milk, tempeh contains whole soybeans, making it denser.

Press the water out of the tofu prior to preparing it. Wrap the tofu in a towel and set something heavy on top of it for at least 20 minutes, and it will be ready for marinades, sauces, freezing and cooking.

Tempeh: This traditional Indonesian food is made from fermented soybeans and other grains. Unlike tofu, which is made from soybean milk, tempeh contains whole soybeans, making it denser. Because of its density, tempeh should be braised in a flavourful liquid (see recipe below) for at least one hour prior to cooking. This softens it up and makes the flavour milder.

After braising, you can dredge the tempeh in flour, corn meal, or a mixture of ground nuts and flour and panfry it. Then try adding it to a sauce and continue cooking it for an enhanced flavour. PETA’s famous Tempeh Creole recipe is an example of how satisfying tempeh can be.

Seitan: Also known as wheat gluten, seitan is derived from wheat and is a great source of protein. Try seitan as a chicken substitute in your favourite recipes.

The Dutch are way ahead with a “vegetarian butcher” who transforms plants into “meat.”

Dubbed the “Frankenburger,” the lab-grown beef — developed at a cost of more than 250,000 euros ($330,000) — was unveiled by scientists in London and served to volunteers in what was billed as the start of a food revolution.

But “we are much more advanced, so-much-so that we have built an unassailable lead over meat produced from stem cells,” said Jaap Korteweg, founder of the “Vegetarian Butcher.”

Korteweg’s shop on a main street in downtown The Hague is packed with a range of products from veggie “hamburger” patties to “meatballs” and even “tuna” salad.

One of the secret ingredients is a soy paste, which when put through a special pressurisation machine, imitates meat fibres, a technology invented by the University of Wageningen in the central Netherlands.

Ingredients vary. For chicken, he uses more soy, while beef is made from carrots, peas and potatoes. The “meat” taste comes by adding herbs and spices and all the rest.

The vegetarian chicken “tastes just like real chicken,” and the tuna salad is also close to the real thing, according to an AFP journalist and several customers, who conceded some products weren’t quite realistic but said they tasted good.

The demand for an environmentally friendly and vegetarian alternative to meat is growing, with meat production notoriously inefficient, requiring huge swathes of land to grow the crops to feed the animals.

“Our hamburger’s environmental footprint is seven times less than that of a real hamburger,” claimed Korteweg.

“Our chicken only requires half to a third of what’s needed to produce a real chicken. I’m talking about use of land, water, the grain and feed normally fed to chicken,” he said.

Three years after opening, the Vegetarian Butcher sells its products in 500 stores around the Netherlands, mainly supermarkets and specialist food stores.

Korteweg says that sales have doubled each year since, and hopes to open his own factory next year to boost his share of the market and drop prices to below that of the real thing.

Though now slightly more expensive than real meat, his products cost about the same as organic meat.

The Vegetarian Butcher has struck a chord with Dutch animal welfare organisations and its pro-vegetarian Party for the Animals (PvdD), which has two seats in Parliament. One of those seats is held by Korteweg’s wife and PvdD leader Marianne Thieme.

But just as French beef farmers reacted with outrage at developers of the stem-cell burger, the Dutch meat sector has issues with the Vegetarian Butcher.

“Every consumer has the right to choose what they eat, of course,” Jos Goebbels, the head of the Dutch Central Meat Sector Organisation (COV) said.

“What we do have a problem with is that they use terminology specific to meat, while everybody knows that there’s no meat in there,” he said. “It shouldn’t be called chicken, or a hamburger but should rather have another name, because it tricks consumers.”

Goebbels did not, however, feel that veggie meat posed a threat to the chicken or beef industry.

In his quest to make veggie meat taste like the real thing, Korteweg has enlisted the help of chefs, as well as scientists.

“The great difficulty is to reproduce on a large scale what we’re able here to produce with our experiments in the kitchen,” chef Paul Bom said.

Another problem is people who say “they simply could not imagine consuming an alternative” to meat, said Bom, so “the only solution is to get them to taste it.”

Dutch environmental group Natuur & Milieu is doing just that, promoting veggie food with free tastings in supermarkets.

“We believe vegetarian food is a relatively easier alternative to achieve than say, finding an alternative to jet fuel or introducing electric cars on the road,” said Olof van der Gaag, the organisation’s campaign manager.

If everyone in this country of  17 million ate one less meat-containing meal a week, he asserted, it would be equivalent to cutting the carbon emissions of a million cars.

Courtesy: World Veg Digest

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