Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stretching Out the Meat

There is no denying it. Organic or small farm, local meat is not cheap. I order mine in bulk once or twice per year directly from the farm. This helps keep the costs down, but the price per kilogram is still much higher than what I'd pay at the grocery store for the conventionally-farmed variety. To stay in budget, preparing meat in the quantities common in many North American recipes is simply not an option for me. Neither is buying conventionally-farmed meat. So what to do?

One of the simplest solutions is to stretch out the meat. The trick is to make the recipe still feel meaty. This is easier in some recipes than others.

Stews are simple. For example, over the weekend I made a crock-pot stew for six using about 500g of stewing beef. To stretch out the beef, I added 2 cups of pre-cooked red kidney beans and 500g of mushrooms. The stew was served along-side baked potatoes and green beans. We all left the table full from a hearty meal. None of us missed the smaller portions of meat in the stew. We even had leftovers!

The addition of beans and mushrooms is one of my favourite ways of stretching out meat. They both tend to have a hearty flavour and texture, and are a good source of B-vitamins, folate, and some minerals. Beans are also relatively high in protein and add valuable fibre to our diets.

Meat loaf is another favourite in our household. Here I tend to do one of two things (or sometime both): mashed black beans or 'ground' TVP (textured vegetable protein) soaked in a Marmite broth. My preference is for the black beans since these are less processed. I use canned or pre-cooked beans, and mash them with a potato masher before adding them into the recipe.

Mashed black beans, TVP or crumbled tempeh are great additions to bulk up chili, spaghetti sauces or hearty stews and soups. I tend to avoid prepared vegetarian ground-beef substitutes because of the high sodium content and the high processing factor.

If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

1 comment:

Jan said...

My latest stretcher is bulghur in shepherd's pie. I used to use TVP, but like you, I'm trying to avoid overly-processed foods as much as possible. Soak 1 cup of bulghur in an equal amount of boiling water (a teaspoon of Marmite would porbably make it even nicer) and then mix it with the cooked ground beef for shepherd's pie.