Sadly Ireland, the ‘green clean island’ has consistently ranked among the poorest performing countries on the environmental sustainable development goals (SDG’s) presenting ‘a very disturbing picture of pollution and biodiversity loss’. According to the latest Sustainable Progress Index (SPI) commissioned by Social Justice Ireland, we rank 11th out of 15th comparable countries in the EU. It’s also pretty shocking to learn that although some areas are performing well, the biggest transgressor of environmental law in Ireland is the State.
In 2015, countries worldwide came together for the first time under the United Nations and adopted the 17 sustainable development goals. They covered a wide range of areas from climate change to health, education and food waste. An ambitious agenda for a better world by 2030.
Since then, there has been many missed deadlines and many summits including a recent 2-day virtual summit hosted by President Biden to celebrate World Earth Day. The US, China, Russia and EU participated. Greta Thunberg has rocked the world with her clear science based message and direct challenges to world leaders and more recently Pope Francis appealed for the world to ‘take care of biodiversity, take care of nature’ and reminded us that Covid-19 and climate change demonstrated what scientists have been screaming from the roof top for decades we no longer have time to waste.
Not for the first time, the general public are well ahead of the politicians, we’re all properly fed up of empty, flamboyant promises. We crave action and direction. We long for courageous leaders who will walk the walk not just talk the talk and we are ready to walk with them. Time is most definitely running out.
Coupled with the trauma of living with Covid, the enormity of the challenge can seem overwhelming.
What can we do? Let’s rack our brains to think of little things we can change in our everyday lives to live more sustainably and benefit the planet.
First, let’s pick up our pens and write to our politicians to emphasise that as citizens, we want Ireland to step up to the plate and honour our commitments. I’ve always dreamed of Ireland, the Organic Food Ireland – think of how it would enhance the prosperity of our farmers and food producers at a time when people are craving food they can trust and are well aware of the damage pesticides and herbicides are doing to our health, the health of the soil and the environment in general…
In no particular order:
1. Avoid single use plastic and switch to reusable water bottles.
2. Let’s grow some of our own food – check out Grow Food not Lawns
3. Grow our own herbs, immediately we are eliminating all those plastic trays. Grow perennial vegetables, herbs and flowers.
4. Shop at a Farmers Market which also supports local farmers and food producers and small food businesses.
5. Keep a stash of reusable shopping bags in your car.
6. Carry a coffee mug or glass in your bag.
7. Work towards Zero Waste, almost 50% of plastic waste globally is generated by shopping. Leave the packaging behind and politely urge your supermarket to reduce unnecessary excessive packaging.
8. Buy loose vegetables and fruit…
9. No need to line your trash bin with plastic – these bags takes 10-20 years at least to decompose.
10. Keep a few hens – 3 or 4 hens in a little coop in your garden will eat all your food scraps and reward you with eggs instead. They are the ultimate recyclers and the manure will make your soil more fertile to grow more nutritious food – or link up with a neighbour who has hens, swap eggs for food scraps.
11. Keep bees, even one hive on your roof or in your garden, if you don’t want to be a beekeeper, why not contact a local beekeeper, they may be happy to look after your bees, buy the honey from them in exchange…see www.irishbeekeepersassociation.com
12. Think natural cleaners. Make your own all-purpose cleaner. Combine half a cup of white malt vinegar with a quarter cup of bread soda and 4 pints of water.
13. Use cloth rather than paper napkins and washable wipe down cloths.
14. Let’s try not to buy more than we need, get creative and have fun with leftovers. You’ll be surprised how much money you save and how little food you waste.
15. Buy local flowers, about 90% of flowers sold in florists are imported and heavily sprayed. Ask for Irish foliage and flowers.
16. Learn ‘how to recognise’ food in the wild, forage…
17. During Covid, many of us have realised we need a lot less ‘stuff’. Shop in thrift or charity shops, donate, reuse, recycle, repair.
18. Use a bar of soap rather than liquid soap in dispenses that have a far heavier carbon footprint.
19. Use timber chopping boards and wooden spoons rather than plastic – they are more hygienic and in many cases are easier to clean.
20. Collect kindling when you go for a walk in the country. There are a million other ways we can make our homes more energy efficient.
21. Support small local shops, your local butcher and fish monger. Seek out lesser known fish and cuts of meat, less expensive and absolutely super delicious.
22. Use all parts of vegetables, the green part of leeks for stocks and soups, stalks and leaves of beets, leaves of radishes…
23. Make the most of seasonal gluts, have fun preserving in oil, vinegar, jams, chutneys, ketchups, make kimchi….
24. Leftover bread can be whizzed up for breadcrumbs, frozen and used for stuffing’s or gratins, alternatively dice and use for instant croutons.
We can all make a difference in a myriad
of ways and enjoy the feel good factor.
Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup
In late April, the air in the wood is heavy with the smell of wild garlic interspersed with nettles. The pretty white flowers of the wild garlic mix with the bluebells and primroses.
Use the wide leaves of the allium ursinum (ramsons) and the flowers of the allium triquetrum, the pretty flowers are divine sprinkled over the top of each soup bowl.
45g (1 1/2oz) butter
150g (5oz) peeled and chopped potatoes
110g (4oz) peeled and chopped onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
900ml (1 1/2 pints) water or homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
300ml (10fl oz) creamy milk
75g (3oz) chopped nettles
75g (3oz) chopped wild garlic leaves
wild garlic flowers (preferably allium ursinum)
Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.
prepare the nettles (use plastic gloves) and wild garlic leaves. When the
vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk bring to the
boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the chopped nettles
and wild garlic and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes approx. until the leaves
are cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée
the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve sprinkled with a few wild garlic
Roast Megrim with Dill Butter
This is a very simple ‘master recipe’ which can be used for all very fresh flat fish, e.g. plaice, dover sole, lemon sole, brill, turbot, dabs, and flounder. Megrim is less expensive but also delicious when super fresh. Depending on the size of the fish, it can a starter or a main course. It’s also delicious with Hollandaise Sauce, Mousseline or Beurre Blanc.
4 very fresh megrim on the bone
50-110g (2-4oz) butter
1 generous tablespoon of finely chopped fresh dill
salt and freshly ground pepper
dill flowers (optional)
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
Turn the fish on its side and remove the head. Wash the fish and clean the slit very thoroughly. With a sharp knife, cut through the skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.
Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay them in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin. Roast in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish. The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked. Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.
melt the butter and stir in the freshly chopped dill. Just before serving catch the skin down near
the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut). Lift the fish onto hot plates and spoon the
herb butter over them. Serve immediately
with a few dill flowers sprinkled over the top if available.
Breast of Lamb with Sea Salt and Coriander
Breast of lamb – also called flank, flap or lap – is the sweet and delicious equivalent of pork belly and is a very inexpensive cut of meat. Lean layers are interspersed with layers of fat, which renders out and gives the meat a sweet, succulent flavour. Freshly roasted and ground cumin is also delicious in this recipe, as is a mixture of coriander and cumin.
1-2 breasts of lamb, about 1kg (21⁄4 lb)
1 1⁄2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 1⁄2 tablespoons sea salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Score the fat side of the breast of lamb with a sharp knife.
Roast the coriander seeds over a medium heat for 3–4 minutes or until they begin to smell aromatic. Turn the seeds into a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder and grind into a coarse powder.
Mix the coriander powder with the sea salt. Sprinkle and then rub it evenly over both sides of the lamb. Roast for about 45 minutes.
with roast potatoes.
Rhubarb, Fresh Ginger and Sweet Geranium Jam
This delicious jam should be made when rhubarb is in full season and not yet thick and tough. Even if you don’t have access to sweet geranium leaves, it will still be delicious.
Makes 8 x 450g (1lb) jars
1.8kg (4lb) trimmed rhubarb,
1.3kg (3lb) granulated sugar
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
8 sweet geranium leaves, finely chopped
25g (1oz) bruised ginger plus 1 teaspoon grated ginger
50g (2oz) chopped crystallized ginger or stem ginger preserved in syrup (optional)
Wipe the rhubarb and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put it in a large bowl layered with the sugar, add the lemon rind and juice. Leave to stand overnight. Next day put into a preserving pan with the chopped sweet geranium leaves and the grated ginger. Bash the ginger with a rolling pin, add the bruised ginger tied in a muslin bag to the pan. Steadily bring to the boil until it is a thick pulp – 40-50 minutes approximately. Remove the bag of ginger and then pour the jam into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.
If you like 50g (2oz) chopped crystallized ginger or preserved stem ginger can be added at the end.
Rhubarb and Ginger Bakewell Tart
We sometimes omit the pastry lattice and sprinkle flaked almonds over the top instead.
50g (2oz) butter
110g (4oz) flour
pinch of salt
25g (1oz) castor sugar
1 beaten egg (use about half)
50g (2oz) butter
40g (1 1/2oz) castor sugar
25g (1oz) ground almonds
40g (1 1/2oz) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3-4 tablespoons Rhubarb, Fresh Ginger and Sweet Geranium Jam (see recipe)
Sweet Geranium leaves
1 x 18cm (7 inch) tin with a ‘pop-up’ base
Make the shortcrust pastry.
Sieve the flour and the sugar into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour, rub in with the fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with 2 teaspoons of cold water and add enough to bind the mixture. But do not make the pastry too wet – it should come away cleanly from the bowl. Flatten into a round and wrap in parchment paper and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Line the flan ring. Spread a thin layer of rhubarb, ginger and sweet geranium jam in the base of the flan. Cream the butter, add the castor sugar and beat until white and creamy, add the beaten egg, and then stir in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Spread this mixture carefully over the jam and smooth the top. Cut the remaining pastry into thin strips and arrange in a lattice pattern over the top of the flan. Egg wash carefully and bake in a moderate oven 180-190°C/350-375°F/Gas Mark 4-5 for approx. 40 minutes. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream. Garnish with Sweet Geranium leaves.
* If you would like to decorate the tart with a pastry lattice, use 62g (2 1/2oz) butter and 125g (4 1/2oz) flour.
Wild Food of the Week
Pickled Wild Garlic Buds
By the end of April, wild garlic or ramps will be about to flower. Pickle the unopened flower buds – they are delicious. Serve with pâtés, starter salads and cheese.
3 parts white wine or cider vinegar
1 part granulated sugar
Fill a jar with unopened wild garlic flower buds. Warm the vinegar, add the sugar, stir to dissolve and bring to the boil for 1-2 minutes. Cool. Pour over the buds, cover the jar and leave for 2-3 days before use. Add to starter sala
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