Want to cut down on meat? Five recipes to get you started

A new study suggests we cut back on meat and dairy to avoid climate disaster

Shepardless pie with lentils

Shepardless pie with lentils


A new study warns that western countries such as Ireland will need to cut meat consumption by up to 90 per cent if we are to reverse the obesity epidemic and to avert a climate catastrophe.

To do this, the study suggests we adopt a “healthy, sustainable reference diet”. This means cutting beef and lamb consumption to just 7g a day, the equivalent of half a meatball or quarter of a burger. People would also be limited to 7g of pork a day (one cocktail sausage), and 29g of chicken (1.5 chicken nuggets).

We’d also be expected to cut milk intake to 250ml (one glass) a day and even less if you plan on eating cheese or butter.

To ensure we’re still ingesting enough calories each day, we’d need to eat a lot more plant-based foods – almost 18 times as much dry beans, soy and nuts.

These may be drastic cutbacks, but you can make small changes today that can still impact your overall intake of meat and dairy products. Vegetarian and vegan recipes that substitute plant proteins for animal proteins means you’ll still get a nutritious meal but without sacrificing flavour.

Holly White’s Shepherdless Pie is a vegan take on the family favourite. In the recipe below, she uses lentils instead of mince, and adds walnuts to the mix to give a chewy texture so you don’t notice you’re not eating a traditional pie.

In her weekly column, Lilly Higgins already focuses on how to vary her family’s diet, and this includes lots of comforting dishes that make the most of vegetables and plant-proteins, including her rich turnip gratin (recipe below) or a squash pasta that introduces nutritional yeast, which can be used to add the umami flavour of Parmesan cheese, if you’re hoping to cut back on dairy, too.

We might be reduced to eating a quarter of a burger under new recommendations, but you won’t miss the meat with Jess Murphy’s recipe for her bean burger – a sell-out success at her restaurant Kai, in Galway. This burger relies on mung beans for the base of its patties, soaked overnight to give a moist, chewy burger. Jess piles on the toppings so it packs a tasty punch.

Meanwhile Carmel Somers’s stew of cauliflower and squash forgoes meat, getting its flavour from a rich blend of spices and chilli, while adding nuts to boost the protein intake.

Holly White’s Shepherdless pie with lentils

Shepardless pie with lentils
Shepardless pie with lentils

Serves six
1 vegan stock cube
Olive oil, for frying
100g button mushrooms, quartered
3 large carrots, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
200g dried black or green lentils, rinsed, or 2 x 400g tins of green or black lentils, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a handful of chopped walnuts (optional)
300g frozen petit pois or peas
1 dessertspoon miso paste
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mash topping:
1kg potatoes, peeled and diced1 garlic clove, minced
250ml unsweetened plant-based milk
1tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

First dissolve the stock cube in 250ml of just-boiled water. Set aside.
Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the mushrooms, carrots, onions and garlic and sauté for 8 minutes, until they are beginning to soften. Add the lentils, tinned tomatoes, walnuts (if using) and stock and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam or boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, until soft. Drain and place in a large bowl with the garlic, milk, olive oil and nutritional yeast (if using). Mash until smooth with a potato masher or use a hand-held blender.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

To finish the filling, stir in the frozen peas and miso paste. Taste it at this stage to ensure you’re happy with the flavour and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Pour the filling into a baking dish. Top with the mash and add a drizzle of olive oil.

Irish Times
Food&Drink Club

Exclusive events, competitions, reviews & recipes Join now

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. For the last 3 minutes, put it under the grill to crisp up the mash topping. It will be piping hot, so allow it to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving on warmed plates.

The walnuts are optional, but they add an almost chewy texture.

If you happen to have a bottle of red wine open, adding a splash to the filling would make it even more tasty. You can make this pie in advance or freeze it – just allow it to defrost completely before cooking in the oven for 30 minutes.

From Vegan-ish, A Gentle Introduction to a Plant-Based Diet, by Holly White. Published by Gill

Lilly Higgins’ turnip gratin

Turnip gratin
Turnip gratin

Serves six
1 large turnip or 2 small, peeled
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pint milk, as creamy as possible
2tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
300g grated cheese (mature cheddar, Coolea, Gruyère)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Cut the turnip in half then peel using a sharp knife. Cut each half in half again, then thinly slice all of the turnip. You could use a food processor or mandoline to do this too.

Gently heat the milk in a medium pan with the crushed garlic. Rub the sides and base of a medium baking dish with butter. Place half of the turnip slices in the dish and season with salt, scatter with half the cheese and pour over half the garlic-infused milk.

Layer the remaining turnip slices on top and season with salt. Pour over the remaining milk – it should just cover the layers of turnip – and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and ensure all of the turnip is submerged in the milk before scattering with the remaining grated cheese. Bake for another 40 minutes until the turnip is soft and the top and edges are golden.

Lilly Higgins’ Squash pasta

Squash pasta
Squash pasta

Serves four
200g pasta
1 medium butternut squash, cut into cubes
85ml milk of choice
2 medium cloves garlic
2tbsp lemon juice
4tbsp Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast
1tbsp parsley or dill
4tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
Sea salt & black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Roast the butternut squash on a tray drizzled with oil until each piece is done.

Leave the squash to cool a little before blending it until smooth with the Parmesan, milk, lemon juice and garlic. Taste for seasoning, adding plenty of pepper and salt as needed.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

Add the sauce to the hot, just-cooked pasta and fold gently to mix. Divide between six bowls and top with a little extra Parmesan, parsley or dill and the toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.

Jess Murphy’s bean burger

Bean burger
Bean burger

Serves four
½ cup dry mung beans
1 medium potato, peeled, boiled, and mashed
1tsp grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 green chillies like serrano, very finely minced
1 small onion, finely minced
½tsp turmeric, optional
1tbsp coriander leaves, minced
1tbsp mint leaves, finely minced
Few twists of the salt and pepper mills
Glug of olive oil

To serve
Foccacia bread
Pimento cheese
Garlic mayo
Red onion

To make the burger, soak your mung beans overnight or for up to eight hours in enough water to cover them by at least three inches. Drain the beans in a colander, give them a thorough wash and let them sit in the colander, covered with a kitchen towel, until little white shoots appear. If they haven’t sprouted yet, rinse them a couple of times a day, once in the morning and again in the evening.

Once the beans have sprouted, cook the sprouts, with just enough water to cover them, for 30 minutes. You want the beans to be al dente and not too mushy. Pulse the beans in a food processor or mash them to break them into smaller pieces, but leave some big bits for texture.

In a large bowl, mix the mung beans with all of the other ingredients. The mixture should hold together when you press it together. Shape four burger patties, patting them out on your palm and shaping the edges with your fingers. Heat a non-stick or cast-iron griddle, add a little oil and cook the burgers over medium-high heat until golden-brown. Flip over and cook on the other side.

Serve with the pimento cheese, garlic mayo and thin slices of red onion. We serve our mung bean burgers on foccacia bread, but they taste great on a good quality sourdough also.

Carmel Somers’s cauliflower and squash stew with chilli, spices and ground nuts

Cauliflower and squash stew
Cauliflower and squash stew

Serves six
3tsp cumin seeds
2tsp fennel seeds
4tsp dried oregano
4tbsp sesame seeds
50g whole almonds
50g cashew nuts
1tsp chilli powder
Olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Small piece of fresh ginger
Salt and pepper
1 butternut squash, thickly sliced
500ml vegetable stock
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 tin of coconut milk
250g frozen peas
250g mushrooms, sliced or whole
Pak choi, shredded
Chopped coriander and mint

This stew is a complete meal in one pot. Feel free to use a mixture of root vegetables or what is lying around in your fridge. With a little effort this dish can be upgraded to dinner party status by serving it with fried polenta squares and a bowl of cucumber salsa dressed with lime juice.

Toast the cumin and fennel seeds in a dry pan until they start to brown and the aroma is filling the air. Mix the spices with the oregano and grind.

In the same pan toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned, followed by the almonds and cashews. Roughly chop the nuts and mix with the sesame seeds. Roughly process the mixture, remove half (to sprinkle over before serving) while still rough and continue to process the rest to a fine powder.

Now puree the onions, garlic, chilli and ginger. Add some oil to a large casserole pan and cook the puree for a few minutes, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Add the ground spice mixture and cook for another minute.

Next add the squash and the stock and cook for 15 minutes or until the squash is nearly soft.

Add the cauliflower and the powdered nut and seed mixture along with the tin of coconut milk. Bring back to the boil and simmer until the cauliflower is nearly tender. Add the peas and mix in well and allow to simmer for another couple of minutes.

In the meantime heat a frying pan until hot, add some oil followed by the mushrooms and season well with salt and pepper. Continue with the heat high until the mushrooms are nicely brown and no liquid remains.

To serve, scatter the mushrooms over the stew followed by the chopped nuts, the shredded pak choi and the chopped herbs.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.