I am Professor of Statistics and School Education Director. I have been at the university since 2007 and in the school since 2014. I am married with 2 daughters and live in the lovely country village of Wrington.
My challenge
My plan is to do Meat free March where I aim to not eat meat for the 30 days.

So today marks the end of the challenge though doing meat-free March means I’ll be carrying on tomorrow (at least). My daughter cooked tonight as I seem to have had a non-covid bug most of the week – that will teach me for saying I was feeling healthy!

This was a recipe my wife has stored up from a Sunday magazine back in the Autumn of Indian dishes for students starting university which scarily my eldest will do this coming Autumn! It was really good and I was suitably impressed. 

Alf asked in response to my last post what happens post March and that is still a bit of a puzzle. My overall plan is to go for a number of meat free days each week (still debating how many but probably 4 or 5) and generally try to reduce my meat consumption. I suspect that my first meal involving meat will be this Saturday as we have run out of the store of frozen portions of my chicken and bacon chilli that my younger daughter has been having each week so I will need to cook some more and that is one meal I have missed. More generally I am lucky that my wife is very keen to go more vegetarian and so that will keep me motivated.

See you all on Friday and well done all for finishing 30 days!

So tomorrow is the last day of the challenge and it is amazing how quickly time has gone by! On the weekend we had one further new roast dinner as we investigated a ‘Quorn roast’. 

It looked a bit like a very large sausage which you simply pierce and place in the oven for about an hour. The result doesn’t look as appetising as one might hope but the taste is not dissimilar to roast turkey!

Last night we had mozzarella 1/4 pound burgers from Linda McCartney which I have to admit, if not that healthy (though healthier than the beef equivalent) were really excellent. Much better than the ‘veggie’ burger I got from the chip shop on Friday night that turned out to be more like a potato cake with the odd pea or sweetcorn kernel!

The one remaining highlight is likely to be tomorrow night when my daughter is going to cook us a sweet potato and pea sabzi curry in preparation for university.

So I have been posting less this week as we have rather got into the routine of the new diet and so although we had a nice quorn bolognese which included finely chopped celery and carrot to give it a bit of crunch I failed to take a photo! 

This week was the personal sphere and time for a bit of self-reflection I guess. I have been wondering why I have found the challenge a lot easier than I thought I would and in part it might be that I am very much a rule follower in terms of my personality. So in fact all I have had to do is change the rules (no meat) and that is that. The only wavering has been when clearing plates and having to stop myself eating any leftovers!

In terms of health after an initial period where I think my body was adjusting I do think I am feeling healthier, although the various covid and non-covid lurgees about and general fatigue make it hard to measure. I also find myself eating more healthily and drinking less and losing a bit of weight which are all bonuses.

I am not sure whether I have been inspired by other people’s challenges to do this as it is a behaviour of mine already but I am trying to spend time outdoors and today went for a lovely late afternoon 2 hour walk from the house through Goblin Coombe which is a lovely valley just North of Wrington. It is an interesting contrast as you get real beautiful scenery in the steep sided valley but every few minutes a very low plane as it is literally at the end of Bristol Airport runway! Airport expansion is definitely a local climate challenge issue. Fortunately the planes don’t fly over Wrington but you do hear them in the summer if the windows are open.

So on to the funny story of the week (and hence the photo). I am scheduled for a big birthday next month – perhaps another reason to think about healthy eating and the world that we will leave to the next generation. I was chatting about my birthday with the Head of School as we are both taking time off in the Easter holidays. She then announced that my birthday was coming up to the Senior Leadership Team meeting on Wednesday in her «what’s new» briefing and I think some people got their wires crossed as I arrived in the office on Thursday to be greeted by the photo attached. I am afraid even School Education Directors don’t get a birthday month 🙂 So I have however managed to sweep all the little bits of glitter into a cup for hopefully reuse at the next birthday in the school. Have a lovely weekend!

So no help this week with the Sunday roast and so I went with a shop bought nut roast and some veggie sausages. With the sun shining it was a case of use up the root vegetables before we get to the summer so roast sweet potatoes and parsnips. I think all the veggies were at least from the UK so that is a good start.

Sadly my wife has been ill for a few days so the quality of the new meals has gone down hill a bit. My elder daughter was part of the motivation of taking the challenge as she has been a vegetarian for several years. 

Like most teenagers however although she is a very good cook she works on the principle of why would I cook when I have 2 perfectly adequate parents who will do that for me! 

Anyway with her mum confined to quarters she turned out her old favourite of feta and cherry tomato pasta for a ‘light’ lunch. As always it was very nice!

One of the joys of living out in the country is that spending time out with nature which other have chosen as their challenge is much easier. This morning was a nice walk up Wrington Hill – a few birds and lots of sheep and a few alpacas. The sun was lovely and so thought I’d include a picture – the phone camera doesn’t really do the day justice or the height above the village the walk took me.

So day 20 and the last few days we haven’t eaten anything really new as we have been using up the spare portions of previous meals. Saturday night however was another quorn (pieces this time) chilli which went down very well!

Aside from the miserable day yesterday we have been fortunate that the weather has improved particularly for those of you doing an exercise / time outdoors type challenge. I have certainly been trying to get out for a walk most days. It is interesting the impact the pandemic has had and still has on people’s life styles. 

In happy news I heard this week that an article I did the statistics for entitled «A comparison of respiratory particle emission rates at rest and while speaking or exercising»  has been accepted. I was very fortunate to be approached last year by colleagues in chemistry to collaborate with them on their research. They study the movement of aerosols in the environment and therefore during covid have been doing many comparison studies of different activities that can feed into government rules on what should be allowed. In fact Jonathan Reid, the lead in the project, appeared on this year’s Royal Institute Christmas Lectures with Jonathan Van Tam. Another paper from their projects came out recently looking at impacts of singing vs talking for both kids and adults – see https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/pdf/10.1098/rsfs.2021.0078 if of interest.

Anyway sadly covid numbers are on the rise again particularly in the South West so I’ll be covid testing later in order to come in for the Masters mingle which I hope some of you will be attending tomorrow!

Last night was another new meal and a novelty to me. A lasagne which didn’t actually contain pasta is an odd idea but essentially the layers of pasta are replaced by layers of sweet potato. Another creation from my wife (I cannot take the credit as was reading PhD student drafts until late) from a book called ‘the vegetarian cookbook’ of which I am sure there are many 🙂

Am interested in the health benefits of eating vegetarian and am finding aside from making sure we eat no meat that actually we are tending to eat more healthily more generally. Aside from the initial impact of the change diet I am now feeling more healthy which is great!

Amazing how quick 15 days has gone by! This week we are beginning to repeat on vegetarian dishes –  a shop bought pizza yesterday – not great for reducing waste as plenty of cardboard into the recycling box that goes out tonight. Tonight was a variant of the rich Ragu that incorporates leeks – the Welsh national vegetable! 

Let’s hope that not too many of you come down with the latest wave of covid that seems to be sweeping through the SoE staff. Stay well!

So another weekend and 13 days of no meat! Saturday was a test as I went out with my group of friends in the village to one of their houses. Traditionally on these occasions the host produces ‘snacks’ and this time it was home made mini toad-in-the-holes. Fortunately my friend also made a few mini Yorkshire puddings – i.e. holes with no frogs just for me!

Today was the traditional Sunday roast day and so this time my wife prepared a Apricot and Rosemary nut roast. It was really nice and just a case of bunging in the oven while I cooked the usual veggies. Plenty spare to have cold for lunch tomorrow!

So no food pictures tonight as this weekend is a bit of a repeat of last weekend – Friday night quorn steaks and chips! Pleased however that a paper with my former animal welfare colleagues came out today! Funny that they still keep on coming out even though I left the vet school nearly 8 years ago but that is how academia is.

It is another chicken welfare paper looking at how different novel ways of measuring their welfare relate together.

Details here https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347222000331?dgcid=author though you’ll need university login for access and more motivation to keep up the meat free for the month. Have a lovely weekend!

So day 10 and I had been hoping to join work colleagues for a drink and food at the aptly named ‘Left handed Giant’ brewpub. Sadly at the 11th hour I had to work from home today so this left handed giant wasn’t able to establish what veggie pizzas were on offer.

Instead it was my wife who once again came up trumps with a new meal Ethiopian Lentil Stew! With a side of aromatic Quinoa & Lentils and Naan. It was really tasty, quite quick and definitely one to repeat and some spare portions for the freezer. 

So last night I was back cooking myself with a Quorn chilli as my wife had to take our eldest for a flute lesson. Another meal with plenty of spare portions for later in the month – the freezer is getting kind of full of them! Funny how brown rice looks similar to white rice in photo.

Interestingly I haven’t had any meat cravings although my body is still struggling a bit with the new diet. I suspect in hindsight it might have been more sensible to work up to going cold turkey or even making the challenge eating meat only on weekends.

One of the good things about living in the country is that nature is literally on the doorstep and we get a wide variety of birds in the back garden and sometimes deer in the fields behind when they are not full of cows. 

We also have 2 additional members of the household, Olive and Peaches who are sisters and who we acquired from the RSPCA near the start of lockdown – they were abandoned by their mum at the huge supermarket depot on the M5 near Taunton and then hand-reared by a volunteer.

They however are not able to join me in my challenge and indeed unfortunately make us more familiar with the occasional smaller furrier members of the local wildlife when they bring them in! As you can see they also would rather I was feeding them than working and writing blog -posts!

After a day working at home and a nice walk late afternoon tonight’s offering is again adapted from So Vegan in 5 by my wife. Rich Ragu which involves veggie sausages and which we adapted to use up the chestnut mushrooms from the filo on Sunday. 

I confess I had assumed the 5 was the time it took to cook but no it is the number of ingredients minus adaptation. Anyway it tasted good and was pretty quick too!

my wife is definitely winning in the getting into vegetarian cooking. Tonight’s Spinach & Tofu Filo Pie from ‘So Vegan in 5’  tasted as good as it looks. It wasn’t quite vegan as the nutritional yeast was substituted by Feta cheese but you cannot win them all. 

Not much else to report after another day in the office and a visit to the falafel cafe for lunch. Spent some of the day starting to move office and have resisted the temptation to throw stuff away for now though think I’ll have a new challenge in April sorting and recycling lots of old paper!

P.S. The picture is the whole pie with a slice taken out and not just my portion!

So a lovely 2 hour 6 mile walk in the country this morning although I can now see the need for plogging given the amount of litter in hedgerows. I cannot really fathom why people think it is OK to simply chuck rubbish at the side of the road. Maybe if I get organised I can get the kit and do some plogging myself.

Back home to Sunday lunch and the kitchen elves (my wife and eldest) were busy cutting nuts and veg into very very small pieces. I usually cook Sunday lunch so just had to substitute the usual joint for nut roast filo parcels and do the usual boiling and ovening. It was very nice although we’ll be having filo again tomorrow on msomething to use it up so my pastry consumption is going up!

So in the evening yesterday back to familiar territory and a Quorn Dhansak style curry with red lentils, mixed peppers and potatoes. Cooked enough for 7 portions so that will make life easier later in the month. Also on the side some chicken & bacon chilli which fortunately I have a freezer full of to keep the youngest happy. In terms of environmental friendly am still cooking on the hob which we thought we would change when we moved in 15 years ago! 

So Saturday morning was the top up shop at the Coop in Yatton. Felt weird to have an almost meat free trolley (just a steak for my youngest). Home for another easy meal of some (shop bought) Moroccan tagine soup and fresh crusty bread. 

So still feeling a bit more fatigued which may be the vegetarian diet or possibly more likely just the after effects of a long working week particularly after a day in the office and the 6.20am alarm to beat the rush-hour!

Tonight was the first time to dip into eating the secret weapon that will hopefully get me through the month, Quorn.

I have often cooked with Quorn for my vegetarian daughter – I’ll save one of the specialities for tomorrow. I was often worried about whether Quorn was in fact good for the environment but https://www.sciencefocus.com/planet-earth/the-dirty-truth-about-eating-green/ seems to come down on the positive which is helpful. Not sure how reliable the site is but there seem to be lots of similar sites.

Tonight however is «experiment with other Quorn products» night so a surprisingly tasty peppered steak and a very nice Cheese and Broccoli slice accompanied by oven chips and peas – bung it all in the oven (apart from the peas 🙂 ) and just wait.

Don’t think it will win any prizes but keeping a 2m tall Welshman from falling over.

Roll on the weekend and more time for cooking.

So here is tonight’s offering. The addition of plenty of cheese, cashew and pine nuts and a side of the remaining kale from last night and it looks pretty good!

So day 3 and so far each evening have had a bit of a pre-dinner head ache. I suspect my rather large frame is complaining to me about the new food regime and we may need to shift our evening meals earlier. Looking to post challenge I suspect a longer term commitment to several meat-free days a week is on the cards rather than total vegetarianism.

Today is rather less creative – lunch was (shop bought) spinach & red pepper quiche with salad and tonight we will have some pesto pasta with parmesan. 

More of a test also as my youngest isn’t taking part (for health reasons) and so is having her favourite carbonara with her share of the tagliatelle. This means the house is permeating with the smell of grilled bacon! 

Anyway back in the office tomorrow complete with the leftovers of last nights lasagne to look forward to. 

Almost tempted to read some of my old joint work on animal welfare (from my vet school days) to motivate me more (and maybe to focus on the applied content and not the stats). The following on choice experiments for chickens to see what environment they choose to live in might be a start https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003347209002309 – as the statistician I was once allowed to watch the T maze choice experiments in action!

So my wife has set the bar pretty high here. 

«Saturday afternoon charred leek lasagne» from the book Midnight Chicken (& other recipes worth living for)

Pretty filling (and no chicken involved :)) 

So a slight danger that this blog will end up being a bit like a fast show sketch (probably showing my age) of ‘Today I have mostly been eating …..’

Have been searching the web and seen that most places do associate not eating meat with being better for the environment which is a relief though I worry I am probably going to rely on dairy a lot but one step at a time. 

So lunch was some cheese and onion quiche and salad. My wife who is doing the challenge with me is cooking a veggie lasagne for us tonight so that might even warrant a photo. Hope the rest of you are going well on your respective challenges!

So good omens that today is both St David’s Day (for fellow Welsh people) and Shrove Tuesday so hopefully some pancakes later. The weekly grocery shop arrived yesterday morning and was noticeable different in content. Today is a work in the office day and so I was dragged to a falafel takeaway near the triangle by a colleague. 

Very nice falafel box meal and surprisingly filling. Also remembered to wash the container and pop into recycling. 

Rather lazy night of veggie plzza and pancakes tonight as home late. Will hopefully be more adventurous on the weekend.