Darina Allen: Use up every last scrap of food in these tasty recipes

From Irish strawberries and rhubarb to mussels and potato gratin, it's possible to have a feast while keeping the air miles down at the same time
Darina Allen: Use up every last scrap of food in these tasty recipes

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

This week’s column will focus on sustainable food and how each of us can do our bit to make a difference. The question of what we should eat to combat climate change and environmental degradation has never been more urgent. However, the term sustainable has become quite a buzzword, bandied around and abused in many different contexts — all very confusing.

Having a better understanding of what makes food sustainable could help us all to make more informed food choices. Sustainable food is not just about the food itself, it’s a combination of factors. How it’s produced, distributed, packaged and consumed (or wasted). Sustainable farming practices, environmental impact, animal welfare, biodiversity, working conditions and a living wage are all factors.

Intensive agricultural food production systems are responsible for 11-20% of all greenhouse gases depending on which research one references. Sustainable agriculture on the other hand supports organic, regenerative farming and low carbon food production methods including crop rotation and avoids the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides as well as GM organisms.

A lot to think about in our busy lives.

As we navigate the aisles of the supermarket, our decisions are usually based on price, convenience, maybe taste. But in the words of Margaret Visser, ‘much depends on dinner’. Our food choices and every bite we put in our mouths has consequences on our health and the health of our planet, awareness is growing but time is fast running out.

I’m convinced that each of us genuinely wants to make a difference so we can pass on a liveable planet to the generations who follow us. Here are a few tips to help us source more mindfully and live more sustainably.

1. Choose foods that are in season — less air miles, no need for artificial ripening.

2. Seek out meat, dairy and eggs from less intensive production systems.

3. Spend a little more and pay a fair price to support local farmers and food producers who farm sustainably and trade fairly.

4. Support your local Farmers Market, a NeighbourFood branch neighbourfood.ie and/or join a vegetable box scheme then the money goes directly to the producer to enable them to continue. The greatest threat to food security is the low and often below-cost price of food at the farm gate.

5. Grow some of your own food: herbs, vegetables, fruit. If you have the space, plant a few currant and berry bushes, a couple of apple trees which go on giving year after year and create habitats for birds and pollinating insects. Plant a bee-friendly garden.

6. Reduce the amount of plastic packaging and continue to lobby for less. Packaging is so energy-intensive to make and recycle.

7. Learn to use up leftovers so you can work towards Zero Waste. Think nose-to-tail eating and use every scrap of each vegetable.

8. Get a few hens. Three or four in a movable chicken coup in your garden will eat up your food scraps, provide you with enough eggs for all your needs and chicken manure for your compost heap to make your soil more fertile.

9. Make stock from meat, fish bones and vegetables as a basis for soups, stews and tagines.

10. Use every scrap of each vegetable, cauliflower — roast the leaves as well as the curds. Use the fresh radish leaves in salads and soups, really delicious. The stalks and leaves of beets as well as the roots themselves.

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

recipe by:Darina Allen

This is a great quick and easy breakfast to pull together in a rush.

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Servings

6

Preparation Time

10 mins

Total Time

10 mins

Course

Side

Cuisine

Irish

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

  • 8 tablespoons water

  • 250g (8oz) fresh strawberries

  • 2-4 teaspoons honey

Method

  1. Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal.

  3. Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.

  4. Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

Rory’s Delicious Mussels with Spices and Coconut

recipe by:Darina Allen

This is a great recipe in that most of the work can be done early in the day or even the day before.

Rory’s Delicious Mussels with Spices and Coconut

Servings

6

Preparation Time

10 mins

Cooking Time

30 mins

Total Time

40 mins

Course

Starter

Cuisine

Irish

Ingredients

  • 72 mussels or 700g (1 1/2lbs) monkfish in neat collops

  • A 2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

  • 8 cloves of peeled garlic

  • 110ml (4fl oz) of water

  • 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil

  • 200g (7oz) onion, peeled and chopped

  • 1-2 fresh chilies, sliced into fine rounds

  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric

  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin

  • 1 1/2 tins (600ml/1 pint) of coconut milk

  • Salt

  • Fresh coriander leaves

Method

  1. Wash the mussels, removing any loose beards. Put the ginger, garlic and water into a blender and blend to a smooth purée.

  2. Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions. Cook until translucent.

  3. Add the ginger and garlic purée, chillies, turmeric and cumin. Stir and cook for a minute.

  4. Add the coconut milk and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. This broth can now be put aside for later.

  5. When you want to serve the dish, put the mussels into the pan with the broth. Cover and place on a moderate heat and allow to come to the boil. Shake the pan occasionally and cook for approx. 6 minutes.

  6. Check to see that all the mussels have popped open. Serve immediately with lots of fresh coriander leaves.

  7. If using monkfish, bring the broth to the boil and add the collops of monkfish. If using any of the other suggested fish, cut into 5cm (2 inch) pieces.

  8. Cover and simmer gently for approximately 5 minutes or until the fish is just cooked. It will no longer look opaque but will have a white and creamy appearance.

  9. Serve in deep bowls garnished with coriander leaves.

HOT TIPS

A Feast Straight from the Glasshouses at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday, August 8

We have amazingly productive glasshouses here at the cookery school. In summer they are bursting with produce: tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, sweet peppers, aubergines, courgettes, green beans, fresh herbs... We’ll start the afternoon with a guided tour of our organic farm and gardens to see all of the ingredients we will cook with. Back to the demonstration kitchen where we will add some beef and lamb from our local butcher to create some wonderful menus with some summer bounty.

Blasta Books ‘Hot Fat’

The second of the series of Blasta Books Hot Fat, the debut cookbook written by Irish Guild of Food Writers, Russell Alford and Patrick Hanlon, has just been released. Fried food aficionados, Russell and Patrick, have taken familiar favourites and have created the ultimate version of every recipe from onion rings to oysters, doughnuts to corn dogs, prawn toast to the perfect potato crisps.

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