5 easy ways to have a low-carbon diet

P.S. A ‘low-carbon diet’ is low in all greenhouse gases produced in the life cycle of food. So for beef, that includes methane produced by the cow. It’s easier than saying ‘a diet low in greenhouse gases’!

1. http://www.pnas.org/content/111/33/11996.abstract

2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421513009701

3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/oct/25/ethicalliving.foodanddrink

Ann’s veggie wontons

Say hello to these delicious tubby little dumplings. They are simple to assemble and would be great to make with friends.

The wontons are filled with shallots, crunchy water chestnut, coriander, green beans and… Quorn chicken.

Yes, Quorn! It has half the carbon footprint of actual chicken, making it a great substitution if you want to cut down your meat intake to help out the planet. It is a processed food but there are no ingredients in Quorn chicken that are suspicious and unlike tofu, it’s not linked to deforestation.

Be sure to use the frozen variety rather than the refrigerated – it has a significantly lower carbon footprint.

Thanks to Ann’s Chinese Kitchen in Newport, South Wales, for the recipe. Ann runs a cookery school out of her home kitchen where she shows you tips and tricks for making mouthwatering Malaysian street food, including these wontons. She caters for vegetarians too. Find out more about the school on her Facebook page.

Veggie wontons about to be poached in stock

Why is this eco?

Quorn aims to be low-carbon from farm to freezer. About 3.8kg of CO2/equivalent is produced per kg of Quorn chicken pieces while actual chicken produces 6.9kg. Interestingly, frozen Quorn has a lower footprint than the refrigerated stuff, which comes in at 5.5kg. (CO2/eq is used to measure all greenhouse gases under one common unit.)

Quorn is the first global meat substitute to get Carbon Trust certification of its footprint, which basically means it cares a lot about sustainability. Thumbs up.

RECIPE

Makes 15 wontons

Ingredients

1 tbsp sunflower oil

2 shallots, very finely diced

50g stringless or green beans, also very finely diced

50g frozen Quorn chicken pieces, defrosted and very finely diced (even better if you marinate it in a little ginger, garlic and soy sauce for a few hours beforehand)

1/2 tin of water chestnut, very finely diced

15 frozen wonton wrappers, defrosted

2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped

1/2 tsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp white pepper

1 egg white

Pot of veggie stock (about a litre)

Method

With the oil in a frying pan on a high heat, gently fry the shallots until soft and brown. Add the stringless beans and stir fry until soft for a few minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, mix the Quorn with the water chestnut, shallots, coriander, soy sauce and white pepper.

IMG_1360

With a wonton wrapper flat on your palm, add a teaspoon of the mixture in the centre. Dip your finger in the egg white and dab it along all four edges of the wrapper, so that you’ve drawn a square around the filling.

Press two opposite corners together, folding the square to make a triangle. Then bunch up the wrapper to enclose the filling and pinch lightly to seal.

Use a damp tea towel to keep the remaining wrappers moist while you’re folding.

Drop the wontons in a pot of boiling veg stock and poach for 3-4 minutes.

Serve with blanched pak choi, noodles and chilli sauce.

 

Organic or not?

new-piktochart_23382820_fa24eb92dedadaacd45b48f00f753b9df2b043d5.png

1. https://www.ciwf.org.uk/your-food/dairy/

2. https://www.ciwf.org.uk/news/2009/08/organic-is-better

3. http://www.organicresearchcentre.com/manage/authincludes/article_uploads/ORC%20Biodiversity%20benefits%20of%2 0organic%20farming%20v4.pdf

4. http://www.globalissues.org/article/170/why-is-biodiversity-important-who-cares

5. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2016/581922/EPRS_STU(2016)581922_EN.pdf

6. https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf

7. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56311#.WWTSBtPyt3I

8. https://www.elementascience.org/articles/10.12952/journal.elementa.000116/

9. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19465692

10. http://www.water.org.uk/news-water-uk/latest-news/research-shows-more-action-needed-protect-against-growing-drought-risk

11. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/12/think-organic-food-is-better-for-you-animals-and-the-planet-thin/

Double pea barley risotto

Pearl barley seems to have got stuck in the winter stew category. No more! The chewy fat grains make a great summery (and very affordable) risotto.

I’m loading it up with peas but add any veg you have kicking around in the fridge. Top with radish slices, herbs and/or leaves from the top of veg.

You can find pearl barley in lots of small supermarket stores – Tesco express has a 500g packet for 55p. Carnaroli risotto rice is £1.69.

How is this eco?

Growing rice, including risotto rice, produces a lot of greenhouse gas. Rice is grown in paddies, which are flooded fields. When plant matter degrades in water, it releases methane, the second most potent greenhouse gas. Growing rice accounts for 20% of the the world’s manmade methane emissions.

And worryingly rice paddies produce more methane as the climate gets hotter, this 2012 study showed.

Pearl barley isn’t grown in paddies, so it has a much lower footprint. And we are very good at growing it in Britain. Together with France, we have the greatest yield ratio for the amount of nitrogen fertiliser used to grow it (see page 87 of this 2o12 Defra report).

Nitrogen fertiliser results in the release of nitrogen oxide, another greenhouse gas. We need nitrogen to fertilise crops but it is a huge contributor to the greenhouse gas footprint of food – much more so than transport. So the less used to grow barley, the better!

RECIPE

Ingredients

Serves 4

For the pea puree

150g frozen or fresh peas

1 tbsp oil

150ml veg stock

For the risotto

1 onion, finely diced

2 tbsps oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

300g pearl barley

100ml white wine

500ml veg stock

40g hard cheese, grated

Juice of half a lemon

2o0g frozen or fresh peas

Garnish – pea shoots, leafy veg tops, sliced radishes or extra cheese sliced with a vegetable peeler

 

Method

To make the puree, cook the peas for 3 minutes with the oil then add the stock and simmer for 3 more minutes. Blend with a handblender or in a mixer and leave to cool.

In a big saucepan, add the oil then sweat the onion over a low heat for two minutes. Add the garlic and pearl barley and cook for 3 minutes to toast the barley lightly. Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes. Then add all the remaining stock, give it a big stir and put a lid on the saucepan. Keep the heat low.

After 25 minutes, check the barley is a texture you want to eat. If it’s too hard, cook for another 5 minutes or until al dente. Add the peas – if frozen, cook for 2 minutes, if fresh, cook for 4. Stir in the pea puree, cheese and lemon juice and top with any garnishes.

Asparagus and golden mayo

Not much beats a plate of asparagus slathered in hollandaise. But if you fancy a more eco-friendly swap, mayo is the answer. That’s because the carbon footprint of butter is four times higher than olive oil and twice that of rapeseed oil.

This homemade mustardy mayo is easy to make, as long as you’re willing to give your whisking arm a workout! Have it with boiled eggs and toast for a simple but excellent dinner.

Why is this eco?

If you are going to make hollandaise or cook anything with butter, you’ll be doing much better by the environment by using olive or rapeseed oil instead.

About 7.3kg of CO2/equivalent is produced per kg of butter while olive oil produces 2.3kg (more if it comes in a smaller bottle). The study is calculated with butter from American dairies but this journalist uses Carbon Trust numbers to estimate that UK butter is actually higher at 9.4kg CO2/eq.

CO2/eq is a way of measuring all greenhouse gases under one common unit. For example, methane produced by cows can be measured in CO2/eq. These carbon footprints were calculated by adding up the greenhouse gases produced in all stages, from farm to packaging and transporting.

Speared
Double dipping is encouraged

RECIPE

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 egg yolk

1 tsp white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)

1 big tsp Dijon mustard

Big pinch of salt

75ml British rapeseed oil, or olive oil

1 bunch asparagus (about 12 spears)

Chilli powder, paprika or black pepper to taste

 

Method

Whisk the egg yolk for a whole minute with the vinegar, mustard and salt.

Drizzle in just a teaspoon of oil and whisk for another whole minute. Add another teaspoon and whisk for one more minute.

Now pour in a thin steady stream of the remaining oil, whisking constantly with your other (aching) arm.

Steam the asparagus for 5 minutes or up to 8 if it’s thick. I use a steamer or a sieve with a lid on, placed over a pan of boiling water.

To serve, spoon some mayo over the asparagus and sprinkle over chilli powder, or dip spears in a ramekin of the stuff.

Use up any leftover mayo in sandwiches or in a potato salad. Store it in the fridge for up to a week with clingfilm pressed against the top of the mayo to stop a skin forming.