Eat less meat for yourself and for the planet
A vegetable-forward dish that I like to cook at this time of the year is roasted cauliflower with hazelnuts and lardo
A head of cauliflower rubbed in a red spicy sauce in a cast-iron pan ready to be roasted
To me eating less meat each week is an obligation as opposed to a trend, although it’s nice to see recent trends of a new type of veganism and vegetarian – for example, having meat-free days or trying to produce dishes where the meat component is not the central one. Though vegans and vegetarians may balk at this, I think a balanced approach is always better.
I love roasted whole turbot as much as I love a seaweed salsa, I love Ronan Byrne’s free range chicken as much the earthy organic beetroot from Beechlawn farm. We are part of an ecosystem, and we need to respect our surroundings if they are to be there for the next generation.
Some ideas for vegetable-forward dishes that I like to cook at this time of the year are roasted cauliflower with hazelnuts and lardo (cured back fat of the pig) and salt-baked beetroot with goats curd and trout roe. While both dishes contain animal protein they are not the central part of the dish.
In Finland recently I had a wonderful beetroot dish with shaved reindeer heart (a lesser used aspect of the animal). The heart was cured and dried, and then blended into a fine powder. The beetroot was smoked over kindling hay. The whole dish had a rich character which spoke of the land.
I have written before about cooking your vegetables like meat: slow roasting, pan-searing, curing and smoking, charring. A roasted cauliflower rubbed in butter will give the same maillard reaction of a steak. Twenty minutes in a 200 degree oven should have the whole vegetable nicely caramelised. Roast your hazelnuts until brown and then crush and sprinkle over the cauliflower.
Finish the dish with slices of lardo. You’ll find lardo in good delicatessens nationwide. If not pick up some good quality jamón in the supermarket. Of course the dish works without the ham, and can be enjoyed with some nice greens such as watercress or rocket. If you want to go for a forage, dandelion leaves will also work well.