I'm not a vegetarian. I wish I were. I feel about vegetarianism the same way St. Augustine felt about celibacy when he made his famous prayer: "Oh Lord, give me chastity, but not yet." I really want to someday really want to be a vegetarian.
In the meantime, I try to limit my meat consumption to a meal or two a week. This is in sharp contract to my upbringing, where we had meat at least once every day--often at every meal. That much meat isn't good for you, and it's really expensive, and it's hard on the environment.
One easy way to limit how much meat I eat is to avoid cooking it for myself. I'll order it at restaurants, but except for a very few things I sometimes just have to have, my cooking is meat-free.
One such exception involves a recipe my friend Matthew gave me five or six years ago, for Beef in Guinness, which he, being British, found in some British cookbook. He passed it on to me because he knows I love both beef and Guinness. I also really like hearty peasant fare, and that's exactly what this dish is. I make a big batch once a year, in the fall, and either invite someone over to share it with me, or else freeze the leftovers so I can enjoy it in future weeks, or both.
Here's the recipe, in case anyone is interested.
Beef in Guinness
2 lbs lean stewing beef
two tablespoons flour
salt, freshly ground pepper, pinch of cayenne
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small can tomato puree, dissolved in 1/3 cup water
1 12-ounce bottle of Guinness
3-4 carrots, cut into chunks
a little fresh or dried thyme
Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, and cut into one- to two-inch cubes. Season the flour with salt, pepper and cayenne, and toss the meat in this mixture.
Heat two to three tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the onions, crushed garlic and tomato puree to the pan, and cook gently for about five minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a large casserole dish or crock pot, and pour some of the Guinness into the frying pan. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the pan. Pour onto the meat with the remainder of the Guinness; add the carrots and thyme. Stir, taste, and add a little more salt or pepper or cayenne desires. Cover and simmer very gently until the meat is tender, about three hours. If cooked in a casserole, cook at 300 degrees. Before serving, taste and correct seasoning; if desired, scatter with fresh parsley or dill. (Also if desired, you can substitute several large eggplants, cubed, for the beef; I like to saute some eggplant and add to the mixture, just for variety, and because vegetables are good for you.) Serve with colcannon.
four or five large potatoes
half a head of cabbage
one large onion
one clove garlic
Boil vegetables together until tender; mash with salt and pepper. If prepared ahead of time, or if you have used leftover potatoes or cabbage (which work perfectly well), put into casserole dish and cook at 350 degrees until heated through, 30-45 minutes, before serving.