food

Should we all be eating insects?

It’s no secret that we are not using the earth’s resources sustainably, meaning that if we do not change our current habits drastically, the world will be a very different place in the not too distant future. And not in a good way as our supply won’t be able to meet the demand.

The positive news is that a large number of both industries and individuals are becoming more aware of the seriousness of our negative progress, and therefore changing the way that they use natural resources.

Our meat consumption is a huge player in this topic, and as a result, some businesses have even begun implementing a ‘meat-free Monday’ or other meat reduction plans. But is this enough, or is it simply the epitome of ‘too little too late’? However, despite some shocking revelations about the rate that we are using the earth’s resources, I always like to remain optimistic, looking for alternatives to save the world, no matter how damaged it may seem.

A relatively new idea that I recently came across is ‘entomophagy’, which is defined as the human use of insects as a food source.

Whilst this might seem like a bit of a crazy idea for us, two billion people across the world currently already include insects as a food group in their diet. And in fact, you are probably eating insects already and you don’t even know it.

Next time you eat a bag of marshmallows, pink gummy sweets, or in fact anything with pink dye in it, take a look at the ingredients list. If you see the word ‘cochineal’, ‘E120’ or ‘carmines’, you are eating insects. These processed and powdered cochineal bugs are known for producing a beautifully rich dye which means that manufacturers can legally write ‘no artificial colours’ on the packaging.

And if the idea of eating insects still sounds alien to you, let me take you back to the late 16th century, when the potato was first introduced to the Old World by the Spanish. People thought that eating potatoes was a crazy idea as they were seen as very creepy novelty items, whereas today eating potatoes is as normal as eating bread, rice, and other common everyday staple foods. So will insects be the new potato of the 21st century?

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Could insects really be a substitute for meat?

There are currently over 1,900 species of insect that have been recorded for food use around the world, including beetles, caterpillars, wasps and ants. And just like you would with your current food items, insects can be cooked in a variety of different ways with a variety of different spices to flavour them further. In Stefan Gates’s book on eating insects, he says, “we need to continue evolving and adapting our food and our diets to sustain the planet’s population in a way that doesn’t create an untenable burden on existing resources, and exploring new food sources is integral to that.”

I think that this statement is incredibly true, and we certainly do need to explore other ways of utilising the earth’s resources in the most efficient and waste-free way if we want to create a healthier planet. According to the UN, by 2050 there are likely to be 9 billion mouths to feed on earth, so unless we explore new ideas we will never move forwards, or know what works and what doesn’t before it’s too late.

Sure, the idea of eating insects is pretty weird, and not at all what your brain and palate are used to, but surely that’s the same when you try any new food? In the Western world we are used to eating, chicken, for example. And eating chicken seems like a perfectly normal thing to do because we have simply grown up with it, in supermarkets, in restaurants, and on our dinner plates. But imagine if it hadn’t been, if we had only ever seen chickens walking around in the wild…surely we would think it extremely strange to eat that feathered bird that walks around and eats corn?

Are insects better than cattle?

Studies of entomophagy have found that there are huge benefits to the practice, and even some that could outweigh those of eating ‘traditional meat’. As previously mentioned, our current meat consumption across the world is way too high to make it sustainable. Something huge needs to be done about this to make enough of an impact, and substituting some of our beef consumption for insect protein could alleviate a lot of current pressure on the environment.

One of the major reasons why meat is not currently sustainable is due to the amount of feed that the livestock need to grow and be a good protein source for us. In comparison, insects are a lot less wasteful, as well as requiring a lot less land space, and in order to produce protein insects only use 50% of the amount of feed in comparison to chickens and pigs, four times less than sheep and 12 times less than cattle.

The livestock industry also currently produces 44% of all anthropogenic methane greenhouse emissions. In huge contrast, some insects produce less than 100 times less methane compared to beef and pork production, whilst many other insects do not produce any methane at all.

Another highly crucial factor in the meat consumption problem is the element of water. As climate change becomes more prominent in farming methods, focusing on water use is crucial. It currently takes 22,000 litres of water to create just 1kg of beef, not to mention the huge amount of land use that is needed for livestock, both of which are dramatically reduced factors when examining insect production.

As well as these land use facts, insects themselves as a food source have huge nutritional benefits. Insects are generally a very high source of protein, as well as being an excellent source of fat including fatty acids such as omega, which are also found in fish and are essential for organs, the brain and bones. Cricket powder contains over double the amount of protein compared to the same amount of chicken breasts, and insects are also packed with numerous micro-nutrients which include minerals and vitamins, and a rich source of iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium and sodium.

Whilst the idea of including insects in our diets is still a relatively new idea, lots of studies are finding that it really could be one of the ways forward to save our planet.

What do you think, would you give it a try?

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Are you concerned about Food Waste?

Are you concerned about Food Waste? Do you want to know what you can do to help reduce it?

Earlier this year I watched an article on Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast about the setting up of a Community Fridge in Southend.  The idea is to divert food that would otherwise be binned by supermarkets, local businesses and allotments and to make it available to the public, for free, in a refrigerator, in a public place.  It turns out that I am not the only one with a passion for avoiding food wastage and so a team of us has liaised with local businesses to set up our own Community Fridge in Dorking.  To raise awareness and to launch the opening of the Fridge, we have put together the following event in conjunction with Transition Dorking:

On 16th September we will be hosting The Community Table, a pop-up community eating house (for one night only) in collaboration with Waitrose, and hosted in the Christian Centre, adjacent to St. Martin’s Church in Dorking.  The temporary installation will showcase a three course, vegetarian £15 set menu designed to combat food waste and to launch a new initiative called The Community Fridge.

The dishes on the menu at The Community Table will be crafted using food that would otherwise have been thrown away, along with ingredient donations from a select group of independent food suppliers who share our ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy.  September is the most fruitful season and our volunteer chefs vow to create a menu without compromise to taste and flavour whilst also ensuring that nothing will be wasted – from root to stalk.

Tickets are available here:

www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/community-table-dorking-tickets-37095715283

The evening will start at 7pm and is BYO (bring your own alcohol!)  There will be music, great company and a chance to see the Fridge in action.

The Fridge will be open for ‘business’ on the 5th and 7th September and then on weekdays from the 11th.  We would be delighted if you are able to share in our event and also welcome you to use the fridge!

The Fridge is a non-profit venture and we need volunteers.  Do you have time to volunteer running the fridge?   Contact us on Facebook: Dorking Community Fridge @dorkingcf

Together, we can reduce food waste!

Red Lentil and Roasted Vegetable Bolognese

Forget the sugar-filled jars of sauces. Try this delicious home-made bolognese that’s packed with goodness.

Loaded with lentily protein, this tasty and comforting dish is a new take on a traditional favourite, and is a winner all year round. Combined with our home-made pesto, it’s a dish that can’t be missed.


Ingredients:

(Serves 2-3)

  • 1½ tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 2½ cups stock (you may not need it all)
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables for roasting (we used pepper, courgette and squash)

Method
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan with a lid. Fry the onion and garlic until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until tender.
  2. Add the lentils, stir it briefly and then add the wine. Let it reduce for a few minutes, taking care not to let the lentils stick.
  3. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon, basil and 1½ cups of stock. Bring to the boil and simmer the mixture with a lid on for about 25-30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Be sure to check every 5-10 minutes while it is simmering, to ensure the lentils haven’t stuck to the pan. If needed, add the extra stock during this step.
  4. Whilst the bolognese is cooking, prepare the vegetables for roasting. Chop them into bite-size chunks and place on a baking tray with the ½ tbsp of oil. Mix the vegetables around on the tray to coat evenly with oil. Season with salt and pepper and put in a pre-heated oven at 210 degrees (190 degrees fan oven, gas mark 6-7) for around 20 minutes, or until tender.
  5. Once the bolognese and roasted vegetables are cooked, serve with your choice of spaghetti or other pasta.

Why not try our homemade pesto to accompany the dish?

Blend the following ingredients together to get approximately ½ cup of pesto.

  • ½ cup tightly packed basil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 small clove garlic, cut in half
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to season.

Enjoyed this recipe? Click here to see more.

Bean and Vegetable Arabic Stew

Try something a bit different with this fragrant and delicious Arabic stew.

Rich in fragrant spices, this hearty stew is full of flavour and loaded with veggie goodness. Based on the traditional flavours of the Middle East, it’s a tasty spin on a classic vegetable stew.


Ingredients:

(Serves 2-3)

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup red or yellow pepper, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup courgette, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup squash, cut into chunks
  • 1½ cups dwarf green beans, topped and tailed
  • 1½ cups waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • ½ cup aubergines, sliced into half-moons
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • 125g chopped tomatoes
  • 1½ cups vegetable stock
  • 1½ tbsp ground cumin
  • 1½ tbsp ground coriander
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh coriander, chopped roughly
  • salt and pepper to season

Method
  1. Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish on top of the stove. Add the aubergine and onion slices and fry for around 5 minutes on a medium heat, stirring continuously, until starting to brown (the aubergine will soak up some of the oil, don’t be alarmed).
  2. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the pepper, courgette, squash and potatoes to the casserole dish. Add the cumin and ground coriander and mix it until the spices are evenly spread throughout. Cook it for approximately 2 minutes, stirring the whole time.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of the stock (you can add more later if you feel the need to). Bring it up to the boil and simmer for five minutes.
  5. Add the green beans, stir and then place the dish in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees (180 degrees fan oven; gas mark 6) for 30 minutes, with the lid on.
  6. After 30 minutes remove the dish from the oven, check the vegetables are becoming tender, and add the butter beans. If the sauce has become too thick, add extra stock. If there is too much sauce and it is too runny, add 1tsp of corn flour to a small separate dish, mix in 1-2 tbsp of the stew sauce and then stir the mixture back into the main pot. This should help to thicken the stew.
  7. Bake again uncovered for around 15 minutes, to heat the beans through and finish cooking the vegetables.
  8. Once the stew is cooked, add the fresh coriander and stir through, reserving a little for the top.
  9. Serve with bulgar wheat, rice or bread, garnish with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime.

Enjoyed this recipe? Click here to see more.

Vegetable Jungle Curry

Turn the heat up with this simple, meat-free Thai jungle curry.

A traditional and very spicy Thai dish, this curry is packed with flavour. The original recipe comes from the jungles of Thailand, and unlike some of their other famous dishes, does not usually contain coconut milk. Although traditionally made with chicken or pork, this version is 100% vegan, meaning everybody can enjoy this unique taste of Thailand.


Ingredients:

Serves 2

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 50g red curry paste (we used the Blue Dragon pots for convenience)
  • 400ml warm vegetable stock
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (middle part only)
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup butternut squash, chopped into inch size cubes
  • ½ cup waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into inch size cubes
  • ½ cup green beans, cut into approximately two inch pieces
  • ¼ cup red pepper, chopped into chunks
  • ¼ cup broccoli, broken into florets
  • ½ cup baby corn, cut in half
  • 1 cup courgette, cut into slices
  • ¼ cup mange tout
  • ½ red chilli, finely chopped (leave the seeds in if you like it really hot)
  • small handful of fresh basil (regular basil will work if you can’t get Thai basil)
  • ½ lime

Method

  1. Add the ginger, garlic and lemongrass to the hot vegetable stock and let it infuse for approximately 15 minutes while you chop your veg, or have a cup of tea (maybe a glass of wine…)
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the paste and red chilli and fry until it becomes fragrant (around one or two minutes).
  3. Add 300ml of the stock to the saucepan and stir well (save the other 100ml for the end in case you find the sauce too thick). Don’t worry if any of the bits go in, you’ll be able to retrieve the lemongrass from the dish at the end. Continue to stir well until the vegetable stock and curry paste are well mixed, and bring it up to simmering point.
  4. Add the potatoes and squash and leave to simmer for around 5 minutes. Add the corn, courgette and green beans and leave to cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, add the broccoli, pepper and mange tout, leave to cook for another 5 minutes, by which time everything should be tender.
  5. Remove saucepan from the heat, tear up the basil and chuck it in. Check the seasoning; if you do find it under seasoned then add a splash of soy sauce.
  6. Serve with your choice of rice, grain or bread and squeeze some lime juice over the top for a bit of zing. For some extra heat you can also add some finely chopped fresh chilli on top.

Enjoyed this recipe? Click here to see more.

Surrey Vegan 2017

Vegan festivals have been growing in popularity for a number of years now, and some events such as "Vegfest" have become big players on the scene; but you don't have to venture to a capital city to get your vegan fill.  Local vegan festivals are popping up all over the country, and last weekend saw the Surrey Vegan Fair land at the HG Wells Centre in Woking.

We hit the festival early and wasted no time in tracking down some breakfast; this came in the form of a "hot tasty dog bite" (courtesy of @NoBaloneyUK); a vegan sausage, marinated in a tomato sauce and griddled in a breaded wrap. It looked good, it smelled amazing and yet still it managed to surprise us both by tasting even better than either of us had anticipated.  Coupled with a spicy bbq dipping sauce, it couldn't have been better.

Hunger satiated we headed into the hub of the fair to browse the stalls. The organisers of Surrey Vegan had made really excellent use of the space within the venue and there was such a variety of products to look at from all over the country.  Like a kid in a sweet shop I couldn't help but gradually empty my wallet as I spotted one amazing product after another (namely an all natural deodorant from Indigenous Beauty; a shea butter hair and body moisturiser from Plantes d'Eden; an activated charcoal toothpaste from Fit 4a Kiing; and a delicious "camembear" spread from Lettices).

It didn't take long for (an early) lunch to roll around (who could blame us?) and we decided to hit the food stalls again.  I opted for a jerk soya wrap from Brownins Bakery, whilst Amy tried the creamy mushroom stroganoff from Little Ginger.  Both dishes were delicious, and neither of us minded swapping a few forkfuls here and there; especially since we couldn't decide between us which was tastier.

Of course you can't visit a vegan festival and not take the time to listen to some of the talks.  We dipped in and out of the talks room throughout the day and were especially impressed with two speakers in particular; Vegan Geezer and Nick Bean.

Vegan Geezer (Martin Menehan) brought something to everyone's attention that has been on my mind a lot in recent months; and that's how we engage with one another within the vegan community.  He talked about different types of activism and how each method, whether direct or otherwise, can be equally effective.  Martin finished his speech by delivering a beautiful spoken word poem that undoubtedly left a few members of the audience with a lump in their throats.

Nick's speech took things in a different direction and explored the history of meat eating, his own vegan journey and the rise of vegan activism.  This was Nick's first time speaking publicly although nothing about his natural presence on the stage and hard hitting delivery would have given that away.  Nick's speech created a sense of urgency that reminded us in the audience that we don't have time to procrastinate; that we need to act now and we need to act quickly if we want to have any chance of making the change we all want to see in the world.

For us the day came to an end after Nick's speech and we were unfortunately unable to stay for the last few talks or Q&A session; but the day really had delivered more than either of us had anticipated.  Vegan Surrey may be in its infancy, but it already feels like an established festival and is a shining example of how a local vegan event should be operated.  The organisers successfully created something that felt bigger even than the venue itself, hosted a stunning lineup of speakers and showcased a range of vegan products that could sway even the most sceptical critic.  If this is the template for future Surrey Vegan events then I eagerly await them.


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