By now there can scarcely be a person on the planet who is unaware of climate change and the imminent threat to natural ecosystems and life as we know it. It’s difficult not to feel helpless in the face of the terrifying statistics but there are over 7.5 billion of us on planet Earth and think of the collective difference everyone of us doing our bit could make… I’m convinced that we all want to but where to start? You’ll have lots of ideas and suggestions yourself and let’s share…Send me yours and I’ll put them in ‘My little hot tip to save the planet’ every week for 2022. So to get us started….
Everyone’s situation is different but here are a few suggestions for lots of little actions we can make at home in our own lives. based on the time-honoured soundbite – reduce, reuse, recycle….
1. Let’s start with our grocery shopping – make a list, scrutinise each item and ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this? Do I need this much? Is it produced sustainably? Can I do without it?’
2. Breakfast cereals…Most have virtually no nutritional value but lots of sugar, salt and air miles…Yes, they are convenient, an easy option when you and everyone around you is bleary-eyed in the morning but how about organic porridge oats – can be cooked in minutes or better still, the night before and reheated in the morning. Serve with a drizzle of honey, whole milk or Jersey cream, peanut butter, maple syrup….feel good and bounce with energy.
Flahavan’s or Kilbeggan sustainable organic rolled oats are cooked in minutes but try making a fine pot of Macroom oatmeal once or twice a week – Wow! You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier.
3. Make twice or three times soup or stew recipes. Takes a little more prep time but saves on cooking time. Freeze surplus in recycled plastic containers.
4. Buy an organic chicken – 100% sustainable or at least a free-range bird (a pretty elastic term) and get 6 meals from one chicken including a pot of stock from the carcass and giblets and a delish chicken liver parfait from the livers…Very cheap chicken very often has antibiotics, hormones, growth protomers, bone strengtheners and antidepressants in every feed – NOT GOOD, unsustainable comes from the other side of the world, not to mention the welfare issues…
5. Save all your bones, cooked or raw plus trimmings of vegetables and herb stalks. Store in a large ‘Stock Box’ in your freezer. When the box is full to the brim, make a celebration pot of stock, same cooking time for a large pot as a tiny saucepan. Strain, cool and freeze in recycled litre milk bottles. Use for soups, stews, tagines or reduce to make a nourishing broth.
6. Save all your citrus peels, one could make candied peel to use in cakes, plum puddings, garnishes etc. Otherwise, dry and use for firelighters. I use the bottom oven of my ancient Aga to dry the peels but could be near a radiator or close to a heater. They keep for ages, spark deliciously and smell of caramelised oranges and provide tonnes of virtuous feelings…
7. Mindful tea and coffee, let’s think before we fill the kettle every time. Do we just want a small pot of coffee or just one mug of tea? Let’s just boil enough water for our needs and save energy – again this is something we can become mindful about…
8. Eliminate ‘tin-foil’ totally from the kitchen, you can do without it altogether – YES you can…I banned it from the Ballymaloe Cookery School years ago for a variety of reasons (not least the possibility of particles of aluminium in our food – not good). Clingfilm is more of a challenge but I’m on a mission to eliminate that also, particularly as I remember life before clingfilm. It’s best to remember to cover bowls with plates and plates with upturned bowls where possible. However, this can create a space challenge in the fridge and coldroom….
Beeswax wrappers are a good solution in domestic settings but a challenge in restaurants and commercial situations. Store leftover food in recyclable plastic boxes (get them free from your local sweet shops).
9. Kitchen paper towels have become another ‘must have’ in our homes. Now let’s look at this – actually, it’s totally unnecessary, spills can be mopped up with a damp dish cloth in the time-honoured way. Reusable dish cloths can be made from old towels or distressed tea towels, Certified FSC cellulose cloths are worth exploring. They absorb lots of liquid, apparently replace 17 rolls of kitchen paper and last for over nine months and endure over 200 constant washes.
No prizes for knowing that kitchen paper and paper napkins have huge environmental impacts from deforestation and water consumption to the pollution associated with pulping and bleaching, not to speak of the waste created by these throw-away products.
According to the Environment Protection Agency, Ireland has increased its waste right across the board. An 11% increase in packaging waste alone. Each and everyone of us creates 628kgs of waste each year. How shocking is that but not surprising considering all the extra packaging generated by everything having to be wrapped during Covid and all those paper cups…So what can we do? An easy one is to keep a glass or mug in your bag or car at all times for those take-away coffees and teas…
10. Save all your leftover bread and crusts to make breadcrumbs – just whizz up in a blender or food processor or grate on a box grater in the time-honoured way (careful of your fingers…)
Freeze for stuffings, crumbles, gratins, crumbing, pangrattato, migos…
11.Wash-up liquid – we really need to think about this. At the very least, buy a well-established eco brand (plant rather than petroleum based). Many contain phosphate which contributes to eutrophication of water in rivers and lakes. If possible, buy in bulk and refill your plastic bottles.
12. If it is an option, trade up and buy a dishwasher with a 10-12 minute cycle, uses less water and in my experience cleans non-greasy dishes perfectly without any dishwasher tablet. Think before you add the tablet, perhaps you can save 4 or 5 a week….
13. Use natural cleaning products, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice are some of the most effective. Totally illuminate all ‘fresh airs’, detox products from your home…they are expensive and may damage your health. Open the windows and how about lots of scrubbing brushes and elbow grease…
14. Save apple peels and cores to make apple jelly. Keep in a freezer box.
15. Best thing ever, get a few hens, four in a chicken coop on the lawn are plenty for an average household. Feed them the food scraps and get delicious fresh eggs in return a few days later – best recyclers ever – plus the chicken poo will fertilise your lawn or activate your compost heap. Your kids will love them, give a present of a few eggs occasionally to your neighbours in exchange for scraps and looking after hens when you are on your hols!
A million times more delicious, nutritious and satisfying cereal than virtually anything you can buy. Remove breakfast cereals except porridge entirely from your shopping list – sounds horribly bossy but yes you can!
350g (12oz) local runny honey
225g (8fl oz) light olive or grapeseed oil
470g (1lb 1oz approx.) oat flakes
200g (7oz) barley flakes
200g (7oz) wheat flakes
100g (3 1/2oz) rye flakes
150g (5oz) seedless raisins or sultanas
150g (5oz) peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds or cashew nuts split and roasted
70g (2 3/4oz) wheatgerm and /or millet flakes
50g (2oz) chopped apricots, 1/2 cup chopped dates etc. are nice too
toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds are also delicious
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Mix oil and honey together in a saucepan, heat just enough to melt the honey. Mix well into the mixed flakes. Spread thinly on two baking sheets.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, turning frequently, making sure the edges don’t burn. It should be just golden and toasted, not roasted!
Allow to get cold. Mix in the raisins or sultanas, roasted nuts, toasted seeds, chopped dates, apricots and wheatgerm. Store in a screw top jar or a plastic box, keeps for 1-2 weeks.
Serve with sliced banana, berries in season, milk and/or
Macroom Oatmeal Porridge
Virtually every morning in Winter I start my day with a bowl of porridge. Search out Macroom stone-ground oatmeal which has the most delicious toasted nutty flavour. It comes in a lovely old-fashioned red and yellow pack which I hope they never change.
155g (5 1/4oz) Macroom oatmeal
1.4 litres (scant 2 1/2 pints) water
1 level teaspoon salt
soft brown sugar
Bring the water to the boil, sprinkle in the oatmeal, gradually stirring all the time. Put on a low heat and stir until the water comes to the boil.
Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and stir again. Serve with Jersey cream or whole (preferably raw) milk and soft brown sugar melting over the top or any other favourite toppings of your choice.
Leftover porridge can be stored in a covered container in the fridge – it will reheat perfectly the next day but will need some extra water added.
If the porridge is waiting, keep covered otherwise it will form a skin
which is difficult to dissolve.
Ballymaloe Chicken Liver Pâté with Croutini
Chicken livers are loaded with Vitamin A – a vitally important nutrient at this time. This recipe has been a timeless favourite in Ballymaloe since the opening of the restaurant in 1965. Its success depends upon being generous with good Irish butter. Thin crisp croutini are made from stale bread, yet another way to use up every scrap…
Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.
225g (8oz) fresh organic chicken livers
2 tablespoons brandy
225-350g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the chicken livers are)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large clove garlic, crushed
freshly ground pepper
Clarified Butter (melted and skimmed butter), to seal the top.
Wash the livers in cold water and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Dry on kitchen paper.
Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat. Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all traces of pink should be gone. Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves to the pan, stir and then de-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame or reduce for 2-3 minutes. Scrape everything with a spatula into a food processor. Purée for a few seconds. Allow to cool.
Add 225g (8oz) butter. Purée until smooth. Season carefully, taste and add more butter, cut into cubes if necessary.
This pâté should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Put into pots or into one large terrine. Tap on the worktop to knock out any air bubbles.
Clarify some butter and spoon a LITTLE over the top of the pâté to seal. Serve with croutini. This pâté will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.
Another brilliant way to use up every leftover scraps bread deliciously.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300˚F/Gas Mark 2.
Slice staleish baguette diagonally into the thinnest slices possible and arrange in a single layer on a baking tray. Dry in a low oven until crisp and dry, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with pâtés, cheese or just as a snack slathered with something delicious, or with soup.
Leek, Sprout and Macaroni Bake
Recipe taken from ‘How To Cook’ by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books.
This gratin can be cooked ahead, refrigerated for several days or frozen, so it’s a good standby option. Try adding some little morsels of bacon, chorizo, merguez or Toulouse sausage…Use breadcrumbs (can be frozen) for the crumble topping with grated cheese from the last little scraps in your fridge.
110g (4oz) macaroni
450g (1lb) Brussels sprouts, weighed after trimming, cut into quarters
25g (1oz) butter
450g (1lb) leeks (white and green parts sliced in 7mm (1/3 inch) slices at an angle)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
green salad, to serve
For the Cheddar Cheese Sauce
50g (2oz) butter
50g (2oz) plain flour
900ml (1 1/2 pints) boiling whole milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
150g (5oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese
25g (1oz) grated Parmesan cheese
For the Buttered Crumbs
15g (1/2oz) butter
25g (1oz) white breadcrumbs
25g (1oz) grated Cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook for 10–15 minutes until just soft. Drain well.
Bring 600ml (1 pint) water to the boil and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Add the sprouts and cook for 2–3 minutes. Strain and refresh under cold water. Drain well.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sliced leeks, season with salt and pepper, toss, cover and cook over a gentle heat for 3–4 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the leeks to continue to cook in the residual heat while you make the sauce.
To make the Cheddar cheese sauce, melt the butter, add the flour and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 1–2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley (if using) and cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil and season to taste.
To assemble, spread one-third of the macaroni in the base of a 30 x 20.5 x 6cm (12 x 8 x 2 1/2 inch) gratin dish. Top with the well-drained sprouts, another third of macaroni, then the leeks (add the juices to the remaining sauce) and spread the remaining macaroni evenly over the top.
To make the buttered crumbs, melt the butter, turn
off the heat, add the breadcrumbs and leave to cool. Stir through the grated
cheese and sprinkle evenly over the gratin. Cook for 15–20 minutes until golden
on top and bubbling. Flash under a grill for a few minutes if necessary. Serve
with a green salad.
Bramley Apple Peel Jelly
Save your apple peels and cores in a box in the freezer, then top up with cooking apples to make an apple jelly of your choice.
Makes 2.7-3kg (6-7lb)
apple peels, cores and Bramley apples to make 2.7kg (6lb in weight)
2.7 litres (4 3/4 pints) water
2 unwaxed lemons
Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 3/4 hour.
Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 425g (15oZ) sugar to each 600ml (1 pint) of juice*. Warm the sugar in a low oven.
*We use 350g (12oz) of sugar, but if you wish to keep the jelly for 9 months or more, it may be preferable to use 425g (15oz) to each 600ml (1 pint).
Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly uncovered without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Test, skim and pot immediately.
Flavour with sweet geranium or rosemary as desired (see below).
Apple and Sweet Geranium Jelly
Add 6-8 large leaves of sweet geranium while the apples are stewing and put a fresh leaf into each jar as you pot the jelly. Delicious on scones or with roast lamb or pork.
Apple and Rosemary Jelly
Add 2 sprigs of rosemary to the apples as they stew and put a tiny sprig into each pot. Serve with lamb or pork.