Meatless for Meat Lovers: Meatless Monday Jamaica

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

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Meatless Monday is an international food security and climate action movement which is operating in over 50 countries and growing. The basic premise is to give up meat one day a week for health and environment. Indeed, one of the mission statements is: “less meat, less heat”. The global mass industrial meat industry and its practices are some of the culprits producing greenhouse gases which have depleted the ozone layer and increased world temperatures.

This has had a negative impact on our planet's climate and natural resources. If we consume less meat, we can help reduce the pressure on our water systems, decrease pollution and slow down deforestation as many green areas such as the Amazon have been cleared of trees to facilitate huge cattle farms.

All of us have witnessed wild weather phenomena from ferocious hurricanes, major blizzards, wildfires to death-inducing droughts in recent times, as well as dangerous levels of smog in huge cities. Jamaica, as a small island state, is vulnerable to climate change. Thankfully, we have not yet reached crisis levels, which is why it is important to take action now to preserve our future.

Preparing meat-free meals is an easy climate action anyone can do. Frequently consuming plant-based meals helps to reduce the risk of contracting some preventable lifestyle diseases by 15 to 20%. Many families are emotionally devastated by the ravages of diabetes, certain cancers and heart diseases, not to mention the financial cost of health care. By reducing our meat habits and increasing our consumption of plant-based foods we can contribute positively to both personal and community health.

In 2011, I was headhunted by Sid Lerner, chairman and founder of Global Meatless Monday, and invited to join the international team and add Jamaica to the list of countries campaigning for awareness of meat-free dining. Over the last few years I have been attending meetings in Europe and the US with my colleagues, educating myself and learning (from them) ways to promote the movement here. One of the highlights was being selected and participating in a panel discussion at COP21 in Paris, the venue of the historic UN climate accord. Each country has its own mandate. A few are extremely political, some focus on education and agriculture, others on health. Obviously Jamaica does not have mass industries which are ruining communities, so our mission will focus on healthy eating and making vegetables sexy again.

Our local mission is not anti-meat and trying to convert anyone to become vegan or vegetarian. We know there are many sceptics who are not sold on vegetarian/vegan food and some are turned off by what they perceive as sanctimonious preaching against meat eaters from vegans. We get that, and so are taking an all-inclusive approach to make everyone feel comfortable. Our group is comprised of meat lovers, flexitarians, vegetarians and pescetarians for a diversity of opinion, not to mention our backgrounds in media, diplomacy, education, climate, accounting, nutrition and law.

We do believe over time, as we share facts and recipes with you, that you will begin to consume food more consciously. You may eat less meat and when you do, more sustainably, as our ancestors did, from farmers and producers who adhere to ethical practices. We want to show you that there is a world of satisfying and delicious vegan and vegetarian meals on the days you are meat-free. Plant-based eating is here to stay, so please keep an open mind and include it in your dietary repertoire.

We will be creating a register of eateries, both traditional and vegan, where you can go to have meatless meals when you do not feel like cooking. Partnerships will also be sought via sponsorship from food, health and corporate entities, to spread the healthy message. A healthy nation is a productive one. Our vehicle to share this information is my original media home, the Jamaica Observer, over the next few months, to show you the relationship between what you eat, your health and the environment while we prepare our official series of events for later this year.

Our 2018 theme is Meatless for Meat Lovers. Do continue to enjoy curried goat, brown stewed chicken, jerk pork, steamed fish and oxtails; after all, they are intrinstic foods to our Jamaican culture and make our food scene so special. We simply ask that you strongly consider creating non-meat versions as substitutions from time to time. Have fun on days dedicated to yummy vegan and vegetarian curries, stews, snacks and salads. Trust us, some dishes are so well- seasoned and delicious you will not miss the meat! We hope our request of you to give up meet one day a week is not too much to ask. Join millions in other countries who are gladly doing it.

Today, I am sharing the meat-free menu I prepared for my Meatless Monday Jamaica colleagues while we brainstormed ideas for our campaign. I have indicated those which are vegetarian versus vegan.


From my kitchen to yours, with love,

JuicyChef xoxo


Welcome Drink
Blackberry Lime Refresher

I often entertain and like to set the tone with a welcome cocktail. I am a lover of gin, even when it fell out of fashion; a gin and tonic is my go-to aperitif. Gin is undergoing a renaissance in the beverage world and is currently uber-cool. I had some delicious local blackberry liqueur from a Jamaican company called Lillifield, which is a lovely substitution for my French crème de cassis. I created this drink on the spot to welcome my Meatless Monday Jamaica team. Truthfully, measurements are approximate because I just mixed until it tasted good.

300 ml Jamaican blackberry liqueur
250 ml gin
3 limes, juiced
150 ml simple syrup
1 litre tonic water
Mint leaves

• In a large jug pour in blackberry liqueur, gin, lime juice
and simple syrup. Mix well.
• Fill glass tumblers with ice to the brim.
• Add tonic water to liqueur, mix and pour into the
glasses. Garnish with mint leaves.
Serve immediately.

Greek Fava (Vegan)

There is so much more to the world of vegetable-based dips than the combination of artichoke and spinach and the ever-present hummus. I fell in love with this vegan dip in Greece. It is featured on most menus in tavernas on the mainland and the islands. Serve with bread or pita. Split peas are cheap and healthy legumes.

2 cups yellow split peas
1 large red onion, roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 fat sprig of thyme, leaves stripped
4 cups of water, plus more if needed
2 lemons, juiced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsps and extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper to taste
Capers for garnish (optional)
Extra thyme leaves for garnish
Thinly sliced red onion for garnish

• In a large pot over medium heat, add 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil. Add onions and cook until caramelised, then add
garlic and thyme. Mix well and cook for a couple minutes more.
• Rinse split peas, removing any odd bits, and add to the pot. Stir into onions and garlic, then pour in remaining extra virgin olive oil and water.
• Bring to a boil on high heat. Skim off the foam on the surface. Cover and turn down the heat to medium. Cook for 45
minutes or until peas are tender.
• Turn off heat, season with salt and pepper to taste and add lemon juice. Transfer to a food processor or blender and purée
until smooth and creamy.
• To serve at room temperature, add to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with thin slices of red onion, capers and thyme.


Plummy Tomato Fritters
I was inspired by the delightful tomato fritters, “domatokeftedes”, a local specialty on the island of
Santorini, this past summer while visiting with an old friend. Loved them so much that while I was there I created my own riff of these vegan treats to snack on whenever I felt peckish. The superior quality of our Jamaican plum tomatoes and scallions fit right in and our black mint, although different in flavour profile to the Greek mint I tasted, adds a perfect hint of freshness. I also add allspice and locally grown jalapeño peppers for mild heat which is not present in the Greek version, which is cinnamon laced.

1 1/2 lbs Jamaican plum tomatoes, grated
3 stalks St Elizabeth scallions, thinly sliced
2 tbsps Italian (flat leaf) parsley, finely chopped
4 tbsps Jamaican black mint, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
Olive oil for frying (vegetable is also fine)

• In a large bowl add the grated tomatoes, thinly sliced scallions, parsley, mint, jalapeño, allspice, salt and pepper into a bowl.
• Fold in the flour and baking powder and mix until a thick batter forms.
• Heat a large frying pan with the oil over a medium-high heat until hot and prepare a plate on the side with paper towels.
• Use a tablespoon and drop batter repeatedly into the pan to form fritters. Do not overcrowd. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through.
• Add fritters to a platter and serve hot.


The Main Dish
JuicyChef's Pumpkin and Callaloo Three-Cheese Lasagne (Vegetarian)

My non-tomato-based veggie lasagne is loaded with mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan. This is obviously not vegan but remains meat-free and ovo lacto vegetarian. Everyone loves a good lasagne; it makes a great family or group meal.
My combination uses two Jamaican year round staples, pumpkin and callaloo, which I boost with crimini mushrooms for a “meaty” texture and caramelised shallots for allium sweetness. Serve
with a green salad on the side. Serves 8 to 12
depending on how you cut it.
Pumpkin filling

2 cups mashed pumpkin
1 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
1/2 cup milk
1 small yellow Scotch bonnet pepper,
deseeded and finely chopped
Pinch of salt to taste
1 carton of crimini mushrooms, cleaned
and sliced
4 shallots, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Callaloo filling

1 1/2 cups steamed callaloo
1 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A generous grating of Jamaican nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Lasagne noodles, cooked al dente
2 heaped cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Dried Italian seasoning Paprika

• First, prepare lasagne noodles and set aside to cool.
• Next, fry mushrooms and shallots in butter until caramelised. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
• Prepare pumpkin filling by mixing the pumpkin mash, ricotta, milk and Scotch bonnet together, then season to taste with salt and pepper in a small bowl.
• In a separate bowl add cooked callaloo, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic and nutmeg. Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste for callaloo filling.
• To assemble, grease bakeware with butter and spread the base with 2 heaped tablespoons of pumpkin filling and lay lasagne noodles over it.
• Spoon over the callaloo filling and top with lasagne noodles.
• Mix mushrooms and shallots with remaining pumpkin mixture and add
to create the next layer. Cover with lasagne noodles.
• Next top with mozzarella, parmesan and sprinkle over dried Italian seasoning and paprika.
• Cover with foil and bak e for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until top is golden brown.


Black and White Salad (Vegetarian)

Some of my favourite things to add to salads are hearts of palm. Some sort of cheese is always in the fridge. I must confess, my love of cheese prevents me from becoming vegan. I like the contrast of these black and white ingredients, thus the name of my creation. Prepare overnight to soak up the flavours of the herb oil. Serve with slices of multigrain baguette.

1 can hearts of palm, drained and sliced
1 200g block of feta in brine, cut into cubes
1 can black olives, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Handful of curly parsley, finely chopped
2 sprigs of dill, finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced
Cracked black pepper to taste

• Add hearts of palm, feta and olives in a bowl.
• In a separate bowl add oil, herbs and lemon juice and whisk to incorporate. Pour over vegetable and cheese
• Add cracked black pepper to taste (salt is unnecessary due to briny ingredients). Mix well and marinate overnight until ready to serve.





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