I will say right up front that I have no objection to the ethical, religious, moral or emotional arguments the no-meat people advance, and I admire them for sticking to their principles (although PETA’s PR approach seriously pees me off!).
No, I’m looking at small amounts of meat in the diet purely from a nutritional point of view, with some caveats as to how that meat is obtained and how frequently it should be eaten.
Meat: a source of quality protein
As an omnivore who still enjoys the taste of certain meats – especially roast lamb – I’ve found trying to become an ovo-lacto-vego almost impossible. Out of concern for impact of meat-eating on the environment, and out of repugnance at the way factory farmed animals are treated, together with the poor flavour of cheap meat, I resolved a year ago to become vegetarian.
Now, I know, intellectually, that it is entirely possible to meet all the human body’s protein needs from a vegan diet, but even for a healthy person with a functioning brain, the balancing act required is relatively hard work. In recent months, when my immune system has become fragile, I’ve realised I need to return to a more omnivorous diet which includes some fish (to be covered in another post) and small amounts of high quality meat.
Lamb: one of the top 20 healthiest foods
Recently researching immune-supporting foods, I was delighted to find that lamb – my favourite meat – is one of the top 20 healthiest foods, high in zinc and B vitamins s well as the full complement of amino acids.
This means that when we lamb-eaters indulge in a little expensive organic, free-range lamb (most lamb in Australia is free range – ie – grazing on pasture, but very little is organic or near-organic), we are getting real nutritional value from our carnivorous urges.
Meat: the organic fair trade 80% cocoa chocolate of protein
At Christmas with friends who have a variety of dietary challenges of their own relating to bowel problems and food allergies, I enjoyed the MOST delicious roast lamb I have tasted in many a year. Marinated overnight in a mixture of mustard, honey, garlic and rosemary, and roasted slowly, it was melt in the mouth tender, with an indescribably voluptuous flavour.
That was when I made the connection between lamb and organic fair trade dark chocolate (OFTDC - another surprisingly healthy food item). Buying OFTDC from the local Oxfam shop costs me double what I could spend on dark chocolate at the supermarket. So I only enjoy it about once a month, picking it up as I get my supply of OFT coffee beans. It’s a special treat - & I also get the good feeling or smug feeling that I’m helping the producers with my tiny dollars.
It’s the same with meat. Where people thinking about lessening their impact on the environment are encouraged to consider one meatless meal a week (‘meatless Mondays’), I aim for one meat-based meal a week. Similarly to the fair trade concept, I spin out my precious dollars on high quality meat from the wonderful farmer’s market. It certainly is not cheap, unlike the factory farmed cuts discounted at the big supermarkets! But I know that most of what I pay for a tiny loin of lamb, or a free-range chicken goes straight to the producer, and they can guarantee not only the quality and flavour of the meat, but also the quality of the life of the animal that died for my need for complete amino acids.
Here I must acknowledge my debt to Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall, who has helped me clarify my musings on meat over the past 12 months.
So, to the recipe. I don’t have my friend’s recipe for our fabulous Christmas lunch, but here’s something similar (recipe adapted from one on www.taste.com.au in 2004, & I'm using the image that went with it).
Honey, Mint, Garlic and Rosemary Lamb Roast
- Mini leg Lamb Roast: about 800 grams
- ½ cup honey
- 1 bunch mint, leaves stripped & chopped fine,
- 1 bunch fresh rosemary
- garlic – at least 3 cloves, chopped fine
- red wine or balsamic vinegar, as needed
Chop the herbs and garlic together, using about half the rosemary.
Put in a large bowl or casserole dish, big enough to take the meat, and mix together with the honey, and enough wine or vinegar to make a thick marinade.
Rub the marinade all over the meat, working it in wherever possible, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
To go with the meat:
- 500 gram baking potatoes
- 500 gram pumpkin
Preheat oven to 200 C.
Wash baking potatoes (Desirees are good) and cut in half. Pour a good slurp of olive oil in a baking dish, and roll the potatoes round in this. Cut pumpkin into similar chunks, leaving skin on, and toss in with potatoes. If you have room, you could add halved onions to the vegetables.
Take meat from marinade bowl. Cut slits in surface & poke in stems of rosemary. Place meat on a rack over the veggie baking dish, & pour over any remaining marinade.
Put in oven just above centre and cook for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 180C, and cook for about 30 minutes.
Let lamb rest, covered with foil for 5-10 minutes to allow the meat to relax before carving.
Serves 4 (or 1 for several wonderful meals)