Food news: It's time to think about the way we treat & eat veg
Chances are that one of your new year's resolutions involves eating better in 2017. For some, that means cutting back on junk food, or sugar or fizzy drinks. For others, it means less processed food and more food cooked from scratch at home. And for all of us it means increasing the amount of plant-based foods that we include in our diet, and reducing our reliance on animal protein.
We all know that the €3 chicken in the supermarket is too cheap, but popping a bird in the oven for dinner is one of the simplest options there is and it's usually a popular choice with all the family. Buying that bird and not thinking too hard about where it came from and the kind of life that it might have led is often the path of least resistance.
Along with encouraging everyone to buy better quality animal protein - a bird that's organic or free-range - and eating it less frequently, we need to re-consider the way we think about vegetables. It's not enough just to remove the chicken element from the Wednesday night dinner and replace it with larger helpings of roast potatoes and carrots. That's just not going to cut it, and there will be mutinies.
It's well worth investing in a couple of books for inspiration. One of the best from recent years is Alice Hart's The New Vegetarian, which was named as one of the cookbooks of 2016 by The Telegraph and The Guardian in the UK. The book features over 200 recipes and is not remotely po-faced or worthy, and will inspire you to think beyond your existing repertoire of vegetarian dishes.
Also good are Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook, both of which are packed with beguiling vegetarian recipes to encourage a meat-free Monday if nothing else.
The best way to learn about seasonality is by shopping in your local farmers' market. Visiting weekly is an effortless way of learning the cycle of growing, and to gain an understanding of what crops are at their best in which month. It's not something that's easy to figure out in the supermarkets, which stock most fruit and vegetables all year round. Ever wondered why the strawberries that you buy in January are hard and sour, tinged with green, and taste nothing like the ones that you buy in June and July? That's because fruit always tastes better in season, when its natural sugars are at their peak. You won't find strawberries in the farmers' market this month, but you will find plenty in the way of home-grown Irish veggies.
RETURN OF THE CAVEMENUS
From Monday until February 5 it's Caveman month at Dublin's Saba restaurant chain. That doesn't mean cooking up your own dinosaur, but rather a menu of paleo dishes such as Vietnamese monkfish yellow curry and chargrilled sirloin steak in red curry paste. See sabadublin.com
Phyllis McGovern won the National Brown Bread Baking Competition and her bread is now in Aldi, priced at €1.59. The recipe includes wholemeal flour, wheatgerm, oatflakes, pinhead oatmeal, wheatbran, buttermilk, milled chia and linseed, making it a wholesome January choice.
Along with kimchi, sauerkraut, salami and cheese, miso is a fermented food, and good for gut health. In Japan, cans of miso soup are sold in vending machines and thought to be good for a hangover, as well as for treating the common cold. Choose unpasteurised miso for maximum benefits.