Meatless meals

“If you eat a little less meat and a little less dairy you’ll drastically reduce the impact of your diet on the environment. Just think, 500g of ground beef uses over 28, 000 cups (or 6, 810 litres) of water to produce – that’s enough to fill 20 bathtubs to the brim, and then some!” – Oxfam’s GROW! Campaign encourages people to eat less meat and less dairy to eat more sustainably for the planet and its people.

My fave meal this week comes from this month’s Delicious magazine – a mushroom vegetarian linguine bolognaise. (We used the mushrooms we grew ourselves in our flat!).

The method is basically use a food processor to finely chop 2 carrots, 1 onion, 2 celery stalks, 1 red capsicum, 150g mushrooms, 2 garlic cloves. Cook in a saucepan with 1/4 cup olive oil for 4 minutes, add 2 tbs chopped herbs (oregano and thyme), 2 tbs sundried tomato pesto (I made my own by whizzing up some sundried tomatoes with a little oil and a few pinenuts), soaked 15g dried porcini mushrooms (we didn’t have any to hand so I just chucked in some extra mushies and some worcestershire sauce). Add 1/2 cup red wine, 1 cup vegie stock and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir through 1/2 cup mascarpone (some cream cheese in my case because I had it in the fridge). Season, serve with cooked linguine, and scatter with grated parmesan.

I particularly liked this because we had the herbs to hand, some sundried tomatoes in the fridge, the mushrooms we had grown, a carrot and some celery in the fridge, and were able to make substitutes with the things I had in the fridge and cupboards. So I bought a capsicum, a carrot and a bottle of red wine by walking down to the local shops – a sustainable meal and yummy too – the full flavour of our mushrooms came to the fore, and it really was like a bolognaise in texture and taste.

We are trying very hard to pre-plan meals, to cook more vegetarian, to use ingredients we can source from shops within walking distance, and to make sure we’re considering the food we have to hand rather than buying every exotic ingredient in a recipe to avoid wastage. Not always easy in practice, but it is much easier on our wallets!


Fish for thought

Most of our every day decisions around sustainability come down to the decisions we make in our grocery shopping.

Buying sustainable fish is certainly something I want to do all the time.  I avoid tuna and flake (shark), and prioritise quick-growing species such as octopus, squid and mussels.

Then I purchased the Australian Marine Conservation Society Sustainable Seafood Guide app on my phone.

There are a number of problems we face with current fishing practices. Obviously over-fishing or eating threatened species are huge concerns, but other issues include bycatch – what else is caught and killed in the fishing nets; fishing methods that destroy the ocean habitat; aquaculture methods that pollute the water; eating species which are crucial to the balance of the ecosystem; or fishing slow-growing fish quicker than the rate they can reproduce.

All this means that there are now many more considerations I need to weigh up when I’m at the fishmongers. If you go to the supermarket or market and see a woman hanging around the back of the queue reading signs and then frantically typing into her mobile phone – that’s me. The one growing increasingly disgruntled and muttering under her voice, “they’re all bad, they’re all bad”.

I decided to ask the fishmonger which was the most sustainable fish. He pointed me to the (farmed, Atlantic) salmon (CODE RED AMCS, CODE RED Greenpeace) and the (farmed Ocean) trout (CODE RED AMCS, CODE RED Greenpeace). I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t point out that he may as well have told me to eat the bluefin tuna with a side of shark fin, just took some ling (CODE ORANGE AMCS) and slunk off.

But I’m determined about this. Eating sustainable fish should be an easy lifestyle choice, like choosing free-range eggs. Supermarkets should use a ‘sustainable choice’ colour coding for their fish. (Although each rating system seems to have different priorities, and they don’t necessarily agree with each other.) With enough pressure shops will stop stocking the usual fish varieties and will start to consider stocking other more sustainable varieties.

If you are interested in this, the website Good Fish Bad Fish not only helps you weigh up the various rating systems and suggest alternatives for non-sustainable fish – it also tells you how best to cook the fish.

And they offer the simplest of advice for when your head is spinning – buy fresh, buy local and buy different types of fish.