Meat Free Part Three

there's nothing here for you, Lucy. Sorry.

There’s nothing for you here, Lucy. Sorry.

Meat Free Week is upon us again − and as usual, it’s taken me until the evening before this annual fundraising event launches to get my act together and commit myself. Thankfully, I live near a bloody amazing deli that is open seven days − MFC Supermarket, on Gardeners Road, Rosebery − which not only has a section filled with vats of different olives and other oily wonders, but all manner of curious convenience foods for slackers like me who spend more time faffing around on their smartphones or watching Dates on BBC First than being all artisanal and cultivating sourdough-frigging-starter. So for the next seven days, I’ll be racing home from work (not an easy feat when you live on Sydney’s slowest and least reliable bus route) to whip up something inventive and delicious from ingredients that, as far as I can ascertain, have never felt the pain, terror or depression of being ‘farmed’ in a cage smaller than those cookbooks above.

For a week at least, we can all live safe and happy in the knowledge that the only animal suffering in my household will be Lucy the chocolate lab, because no crumbs of flesh, whether beast, fish or fowl, will be dropping to the kitchen floor for her to hoover up.

This year, the challenge has been made a “little more interesting”, as they might say on MasterChef Pt 12 With a Vengeance or I’m a Nobody, Get Me Out of Here, when things have got so dull that even the contestants’ relatives aren’t watching, because Meat Free Week has gone global, or at least to the United Kingdom. Which means my oldest friend, Amanda, who lives in Bath, has signed up for the first time − and she can cook. Really cook, goddammit. She even told me last night that she just so happens to have vegetarian involtini ready to go in her freezer. I’m feeling quite faint already. I only have little cheese and spinach pies from the MFC freezer section in my freezer. And some broad beans.

Not that I’m competitive or anything (much) − but it is a matter of parochial pride that Australia, founder of this worthy initiative, should lead the field in both food fabulousness and money-raising ability.

So, I need your help, gentle readers, to keep my spirits up and the charitable coffers overflowing. I’ll be posting a daily pic of what I’ve cooked and/or something pertaining to meat-free matters over the course of the coming week on Instagram and Facebook, and you can show your appreciation (and the colour of your money) through my official fundraising page.

And thank you – on behalf of the animals – except Lucy.

 

Away with all flesh

Not a meat in sight

Once again, the time is almost nigh for Monetise This and her alter ego, Sally Feldman, to lay her omnivority on the line and launch into her second annual Meat Free Week (beginning next Monday, 24 March).

In this endeavour, I’m joining a host of far more able ambassadors, donation-gatherers, vegetarians, vegans, simpatico died-in-the-wool meat-eaters, environmental evangelistas, sustainability sisters and brothers, animal activists (the human kind, obviously; there aren’t any rabbits or beagles able to don balaclavas and harness the power of social media as yet, but, hey, I’m sure science’s finest are working on it) and the colon-concerned. Our aim – to boldly raise funds for, and awareness of, the unconscionable cruelty of factory farming, the short-sighted idiocy of unsustainable cultivation practices and the adverse health effects of excessive meat consumption (I’m talking to you, paleo nutbags).

Hello, Voiceless, Australian Conservation Foundation and Bowel Cancer Australia!

This week of meatlessness will be no laughing matter – especially now I have to commute on the infamous 310 bus to and from Surry Hills to earn a crust. Chopping up lots of stuff is far more irksome when you’re bus-lagged and buggered than chucking something hard to digest on the barbie or in a slow-cooker. It will, however, be a lot easier than my maiden week of meatlessness last year, which started badly due to my misapprehension as to the meat-free viability of tinned tuna. The shame. This year, no majestic creature of the deep – however unrecognisable once canned – will sully these lips. Promise.

In fact, since last year’s efforts (in which I managed to scrape together almost no sponsorship, thereby rendering myself not only chastened but broke) our household’s consumption of animal protein has pretty much halved. Not only Meat Free Mondays, my friends, but Wednesdays, Thursdays and more! This was due to our decision to cut down drastically for the betterment of our four-legged/wing-ed friends and as well as our own self-serving health concerns. My decision, actually – the silver fox goes along with it because it’s a choice of less meat or homelessness.

As some of my more patient blogthren will know, the salad, in all its wondrous configurations, is my most treasured food group, second only to cake, which I am far less equipped to construct without requiring therapy. I have photographed (shakily) and written recipes (snarkily) for some of these elsewhere on this site, and will doubtless plagiarise myself (and others, whom I promise to give due credit) to hell and back in the coming week.

Next week’s daily Instagram and Facebook updates will be illustrated predominantly by nude glamour shots of vegetables and fruits such as the one above, with the occasional legume and complex carbohydrate thrown in for extra raunch.

Rather than weary you with poorly rendered facsimiles of what those classy purveyors of food porn at The Food Dept do so much better, I’ve set myself the task of describing my travails instead. Unless something I cook happens to end up looking particularly edible.

All this, dear readers and prospective sponsors, in the cause of kindness, mindfulness and cleanliness (of the planetary kind) – plus, hopefully, money from you. My aim is to raise a pitiful $250 towards my chosen animal charity, Voiceless, and I’ll be damned grateful if you’d be kind enough to cough up some of your small change so that I don’t end up broke and chastened again this year.

To sponsor me (or anyone else taking part), follow the links at www.meatfreeweek.org.au where you’ll find me, hidden somewhere among luminaries such as Valli Little, of delicious., Simon Bryant, of Tasting Australia, and Maggie Beer, of pretty much everything else.

Spanakopita with a fringe on top

For now, though, here’s something I made earlier, for which I’ll rustle up a recipe and post next week. Kudos for the scrunchy, curly filo pastry lid goes to the indomitable food team of Kim Coverdale and Claire Brookman at Super Food Ideas, where I’m learning just what steeliness of character it takes to come up with a squillion recipes a month to feed a family in under 30 minutes and still be able to walk with a modicum of dignity in towering black patent court shoes. Respect.

Until Monday then – start fossicking down the back of the couch for a few coins – and may the fork be with you.

Stuff I like – February

Vegies and photography by Martin Boetz

Cooks Co-op
A host of chefs and restaurateurs around the country are turning to their own backyards (and coastline or countryside) to source ingredients through growing and foraging. Think Clint Nolan at Harvest in Fremantle, WA; in NSW, the boys at Three Blue Ducks in Bronte, and Alex Puskas and James Parry at Sixpenny in Stanmore; Luke Burgess at Garagistes in Hobart, and Ben Shewry of Attica in Melbourne. Martin Boetz, co-owner and executive chef of Longrain, Sydney and Melbourne, is now taking it a step further. He’s long been a committed exponent of sustainable and ethical produce, and, about a year ago, bought an 11-hectare property overlooking the Hawkesbury River, an hour or so north of Sydney. He’s spent the past year planting the acreage with an assortment of herbs and vegetables to supplement his restaurant kitchen and is now living there full-time – commuting daily to inner-city Surry Hills. “The plan is to link up with other like-minded chefs and cooks to grow our own produce as a co-op, and to include interested local small farmers, who’ll be guaranteed a more reliable and regular outlet by supplying their produce direct to the chefs, too.” The Cooks Co-op HQ is a converted barn on the property, set up as a commercial kitchen, where chefs can bring their teams to a “kind of chefs’ retreat – a creative space where they can work up recipe and menu ideas, or learn about growing efficiently and sustainably, away from the distractions of their restaurant kitchens,” says Marty. Local producers will also be able to use it to value-add to their surplus produce – to make preserves, pickles, jams and so on. Marty is also putting on regular events, dinners and lunches for the public – where he or guest chefs will cook with ingredients grown in the region: “Things like a lunch celebrating the first tomato harvest.” And it doesn’t stop there – Marty hopes to see this develop into an Australia-wide initiative, with chef-farmer collectives in each state. “Ultimately, it could mean that we have a national network where we can swap ingredients and share our knowledge and experiences.” Follow the Cooks Co-op at www.facebook.com/cookscoop.

Room with a view

You could also snuggle up in a cottage on Marty’s property, which has the most amazing views of the Hawkesbury river. It costs $180 per night (minimum two nights), which not only means you get to wake up to that view, but includes eggs from the local chooks, a few fresh fixings from the garden and a bottle of something nice and grapey. Check it out at www.james-rose.com.au.

 

 

Luke Mangan

 

Lucy Allon

Appetite for Excellence
While that tiresome twosome big it up on MasterChef: The Professionals, there’s another competition humming along nicely without the tears, tokenism and fake posh English accent. Launched by Luke Mangan and Lucy Allon in 2005, the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence awards have been helping to raise the, um, bar, of the hospitality industry by supporting and promoting the work of young chefs, waiters and, since 2009, restaurateurs. Among the fantastic prizes and opportunities available on offer, the winning chef and waiter go on to compete at the San’Pellegrino Cooking Cup in Venice, where the poor souls are confined to quarters on a luxury racing yacht, cooking and waiting against an international selection of their industry peers. This year’s judging panel includes Peter Gilmore, Peter Doyle and Christine Manfield and Mark Best, and the 2012 young restaurateur of the year, Katrina Birchmeier, of Hobart’s wonderful Garagistes. Among the cook-offs, masterclasses and regional tours contestants take part in, there are two events open to the public, called Whet Your Appetite. The first of these, featuring former winners from Adelaide and further afield, is in Adelaide in late April, at brand-spanking-new Public in the CBD, where last year’s young chef of the year, Stewart Wesson, is now manning the stoves. The second will be at a so-far-unconfirmed hotspot in Brisbane later this year. Entrants must nominate themselves, so if you know any talented young ‘uns in the industry who you think deserve recognition, badger them to go online and enter. Applications open 4 February and close 14 April. Check it all out at www.appetiteforexcellence.com.

And finally… a subject very close to my heart…

Tomato, bean and basil salad

Meat Free Week
Factory farming is anathema. And yes, I know we’re guilty of standing on our well-fed, rarefied, First World pedestals as we rail against the mass-production of cheap food. But there’s a cost – not just to the millions of animals that suffer untold (and told, thanks to the likes of Lyn White of Animals Australia and Voiceless) horrors in the name of affordable protein, but to us, both in terms of our own short-term health and the long-term health of this planet. Whether you’re rethinking your meat consumption for health, budgetary or ethical reasons, Australia’s first Meat Free Week campaign, 18 – 24 March, is an engaging, inclusive, non-confrontational way of considering the options. The website is a mine of information on the subject, and the women behind it: Melissa Dixon, Helen Lear, Lainie Bracher and Shonagh Walker, are enthusiastic, unbombastic (yeah, I know – no such word) exponents of the cause. Their initiative has been embraced by chefs such as Simon Bryant and Maggie Beer, Stephanie Alexander and Bill Granger, who are sharing vegie recipes to ease the meat-free pain. And the pic? That’s one of my own modest meat-free efforts – and, if I may say so myself, absolutely delicious. If you want the recipe, email me at sally@monetisethis.com.au. Otherwise, go to www.meatfreeweek.com and indulge your First World conscience.