Posts Tagged ‘butternut squash risotto’

Out of sheer convenience (and the aptitude for a bit of alliteration!) my Monday night dinners have ended up being meat free.  And whereas there have been some articles/recipes I’ve written heralding the vegetable as the star of the meal – the mantra behind this article is not about abandoning meat altogether but about the need to moderate meat consumption. 

Why am I trying to convince you not to eat meat every day? I hear you say.  Well I’m not trying to convince you – eat as you wish;

food should be relished and not merely fuel for our bodies.

Unfortunately, our busy working days have made a proper lunch a thing of the past as we literally grab something on the go to keep our hunger pangs at bay; it is the evening meal that is the focus of my culinary attention.

So where does the Meat-free-Monday-malarkey come from?

Are our bodies designed to eat red meat?  Of course they are – we chased woolly mammoth over Siberian plains and feasted on its bountiful flesh.  And if it hadn’t been for our ancestors who survived due to this nutrient rich food source, we perhaps might not have evolved at the rate we did or at all!  The need to feed made us great hunters.  But let’s be realistic, woolly mammoth was a treasured luxury food item during cavemen times – Bronto burgers and Dino ribs a la Bedrock were not a regular feature on the prehistoric menu.  After feasting on this mammoth meat – long periods of time were then spent foraging for fruit and edible vegetation.  If meat were eaten as regularly as we do at present, we would have eaten our way into extinction long before the invention of the wheel!

Throughout history eating meat was a reflection of affluence.  The poor were relegated to using cheap, gristly cuts of meat that required long, slow cooking as a means to tenderise and extract flavour but their diet was primarily cereal and vegetable based.  Meat was and still is expensive.  The rich could purchase any meat and poultry they wished and employed cooks and chefs to create elaborate creations with these.

Western affluence has, over time, changed our diets so that we are eating much more meat on a daily basis than before.  Fast food chains in major cities dedicated to the sale of chicken spew out thousands of whole chickens to their customers on a daily basis; whereas burger chains have had to destroy land to create grazing ground for cattle.  The impact this has on the environment is a huge but saddening reality of our modern society.  We plead ignorance but there is no denying that the casual attitude with which we accept the taking of an animal’s life makes us very comfortable in wasting parts of the animal that wouldn’t previously have gone uneaten.  This perpetual cycle of waste is a total injustice to the animals we rear as food.

These canines were not designed to tear through celery

Even though our teeth are clearly meant to cut, rip and tear through meat, eating a diet that is heavy in red meat has been scientifically proven to be detrimental to your health.  Other than the well reported cases of increased cases of colorectal cancers amongst meat eaters in comparison to vegetarians, there are now increasing studies suggesting that consumption of red meat can increase the risk of developing type-2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

In nations such as Switzerland it is good practice for children to dine on fish or vegetable dishes at dinnertime as meat can be very heavy on the stomach and takes a long time to digest.  Most evenings we become sedentary in front of the TV immediately after dinner; we all know the problems of going to bed on a full stomach.

So with a more informed outlook on the value of the animal, a seasonal ideology and a firm will to improve my health (as well as a cheaper shopping trolley) I feel I must equip you with meat free recipes for four meat-free Mondays in the month.

So after the Sunday Roast and all the trimmings why not give your stomach a rest with a meat-free monday dish? Click on any of the links to take you to the recipe.

Have you got any personal favourites?


With the uphill month of January hitting people’s pockets hard and everyone trying to stick to their new year’s resolutions of which generally losing weight is a major focus, the home cook is being challenged to provide food that is flavoursome but light and easy on the wallet.  A bowl of hot soup can usually tick all the boxes.

Soup is the epitome of thrift.

Think about it – you need a greater quantity – add more water; too watery and you can add a handful of rice/pasta/lentils to bulk it out.  You can use cheaper cuts of meat to add flavour and any back of the fridge vegetables that are on the turn and have become slimy can make a star appearance in your soup.  The possibilities are endless.  All you need to remember is that at the heart of any good soup is a good stock.

If however, like me, you are getting bored of the usual soup combinations, I must recommend my sister-in-law’s roasted garlic and butternut squash soup.  The roasted garlic turning into a sweet puree to the already sweet, orange flesh of the squash.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup

butternut1Peel and deseed a butternut squash.  Cut it into chunks of similar size and place onto a baking sheet.  Break a head of garlic and add around 5 medium sized cloves in their papery wrappers.  Deseed and chop a red chilli.  Cover in olive oil and mix well.  Place into a moderate oven for approx 40mins.

Whilst waiting prepare your stock of choice (approx double your rice quantity).  If making this for vegetarians make sure to use a vegetable stock but I usually use a chicken stock for extra flavour.

When you take the tray out of the oven, release the garlic cloves butternut2from their skins.  Put the roast veg and garlic into a blender with half of your prepared stock.  Alternatively you can use a stick blender.  Add more stock to slacken the soup.  Once you are happy with the consistency, and different people prefer it in different ways, you are ready to serve.  A bowl of this soup and some crusty bread for dunking, makes this dish a great light lunch and a convincing supper.

Eventually you get to eat most of the soup and there is that little bit left in a small bowl in the fridge – not enough to make a decent bowlful or you don’t fancy soup again for the third time that week!  So now is your chance to convert the soup into a flavoursome stock for a delicious butternut squash risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto


1st: First thin the soup with water and place into a saucepan to be heated through.

2nd: Heat a good knob of butter with some olive oil.

3rd: Chop an onion and add to a pan of foaming butter and soften until translucent.  Add your risotto rice (Arborio) and cook through for 5mins.  Add a splosh of sherry or vermouth to the pan and boil off the alcohol.

4th: Now, ladle the stock into the rice pan a ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding the next ladleful.  Stir well and continue this process until the rice is cooked through – you may not need to use all the stock – if more is needed add warm water.  Leave to stand for 3mins.

5th: Serve with a grating of parmesan cheese and a ribbon of extra virgin olive oil.

Who would have thought that from one humble butternut squash (£1) and store cupboard ingredients, you can create a duo of delicious dishes, where both in the soup and the risotto the squash is the star of the show.

Delicious, flavoursome, thrifty.