Balancing vegetarian and non-vegetarian in the kitchen

Making your hamburgers more interesting

Here in Sweden most people are meat eaters. One look at summer’s food magazines, and one recognizes that barbecued meat has become the favorite menu of the season. The strong sensitivities about how we treat the rest of the natural world in this culture means that the debate about our handling of animals, including those that we consume, rages strong. Since the famed creator of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, pleaded in her engaging newspaper articles for the rights of farm animals during the 1970s and 80s, there has been a lot of discussion about the alleged gruesome treatment of pigs in Denmark, the conditions that chickens live in, etc.

Though the number of vegetarian restaurants in Stockholm has increased, reflecting an increase in vegetarians in the population, one can safely say that most people look for their meat (the priority), veg and potatoes on the plate. Although my own children go to Waldorf schools in which there are probably more vegetarians than in other schools, they miss the salami when it is not in the refrigerator and enjoy a finely roasted leg of lamb with rosemary in the autumn.

Having been a vegetarian before coming to Sweden, living without meat isn’t a sacrifice, in fact I find it challenging and exciting from a culinary point of view. For my family it is a little more challenging, which is the reason that I try to keep a balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian in my kitchen. Yet, schedules and lack of time to think through the shopping list can sometimes result in that balance going out of wack. We all know that it’s important to reign in our meat-eating habits for both environmental and health reasons, so this autumn I’ve come up with three principles to keep my kitchen in balance:

1. Plan a vegetarian meal every other day and don’t mention to the family that you are doing so (no one will notice).

2. For the non-vegetarian days, find new ways to combine vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients (as in the recipe suggestions, below) thus allowing you to use less meat . Provide “veg and potatoes” (could be a salad or interesting grain) that are so interesting and tasty that they become the main attraction. Check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for many options.

3. Don’t do any major food shopping without a shopping list which you’ve thought through. This can seem daunting when you have a heavy work schedule, but it makes life so much easier  and satisfying if you’ve taken a few minutes on Sunday to plan ahead and scout the recipe books for vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Planning also tends to benefit your bank account, as you don’t end up purchasing unnecessary foods.

Delicious Hamburgers with Fruit of the Autumn

500 g or 17 oz minced meat
2 slices white toast bread crumbled, crusts removed
1 onion (white or red), finely chopped
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 large cooked beet, chopped into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the grill in your oven. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add all ingredients. The mixture is best blended using your hands so that you end up with a smooth “dough.” Line a baking tray with baking paper and form the mixture into hamburger patties. Grill for about 5 minutes on either side. Serve with any number of wonderful salads you can find in the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

You can try the same recipe mixing in other types of interesting vegetarian ingredients which increase flavor, improve consistency, create bulk and reduce the quantity of meat you need to buy. For instance, try raw carrots instead of beetroot.

Written by Admin in: Beef,Beets,Meats,Root Vegetables,Vegetables | Tags: , ,

Best Braised Lamb

It was a good life...

It was a good life...

When Rita turned up at my door with the pieced lamb that I had ordered this autumn from the local Sheep Association, I suddenly had 10 kilos or 22 pounds of high quality grass-fed lamb to prepare this holiday season’s dishes with.  I remembered that I had once tasted a lamb stew that was one of those meals that you remember for all of your life. It was so good, that I contacted my neighbor down the road to find out how he had produced that memorable dish. He mentioned that he had got the recipe off of a woman whom he meets when he is walking the dog. They exchange food notes while standing around watching their dogs frolicking in the park. He no longer had the recipe but he would get a hold of it.

The next day, my neighbor was at my doorstep with the recipe in one hand and a lead holding back his highly active dog in the other. “I got it from her,” he said victoriously. So, with Rita’s lamb in my kitchen, I got to work. This recipe takes less effort than it does cooking time, determination to find the right cut of lamb (lammlägg in Swedish or leg of mutton in English meaning the lower leg parts of the lamb), and a big, sturdy casserole dish with top suitable for the oven.

Best Braised Lamb
(original recipe by Petter at
Serves 4

4 pcs leg of mutton
white flour for coating
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tbsps tomato puree
0.5 dl or 1/4 cup balsamic vinager
5 dl or 2 cups red wine
1 sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 150 C or 302F. Coat the lamb with flour. Warm a click of butter and a few tablespoons of olive oil in a deep oven-proof casserole dish with top and saute onions and crushed garlic over medium heat. Do not brown. Set aside the onion mixture. Increase the heat, add olive oil, if needed and saute the lamb so that it is browned on all sides. Add the onion mixture back to the pot and add in vinager, wine, tomato paste and herbs.  Cover and allow to cook for 2.5 hours until the lamb falls off the bone. Serve with a green salad, boiled potatoes or some bread for lapping up the delicious sauce with.

Oh, just a note about the Christmas ham, if you are having it. Remember, PLEASE to order it from an ecological farm that takes good care of its pigs. We’ve just had the most horrible experience here in Sweden learning about how our pigs are treated before they become Christmas ham. I’m ordering from Årstiderna. Try to find an equivalent where you live.

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