We’ve brought the shopping home in our politically-correct reusable bags. Enjoyed a chilled glass of filtered water from our pitcher (duly brightened with a dash of lemon from our handy citrus squeezer). Using our exquisitely sharp ceramic knives, the vegetables for the week have been chopped and separated into little and large glass bowls. Perhaps even categorized and stored alphabetically in our sustainable green fridge.
Now it’s time to start cooking.
Stainless Steel – Pots, Pans & Utensils
These days, question those things that make life just a little too easy. Take processed foods or wrinkle-free fabrics. Both treated with an alarming number of chemical additives, whose only purpose is to save us the trouble of cooking or ironing. At what cost? With degenerative diseases rapidly on the rise, it’s worth thinking about the cumulative, potentially harmful effects of ingesting these obnoxious cocktails through our mouths and skin – every single day.
I use and abuse my saucepans a lot. Non-stick pots and pans are tempting because, of course, they don’t stick, ultimately making life much easier for the harried home cook.
However, as non-stick pots are coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE, otherwise known as Teflon), they have no place in any green kitchen. Even when gently over-heated (or, in my case, emphatically burned) this non-stick coating releases toxic, chemical vapors which not only leach into the food, but have been known to cause flu-like symptoms in the chef – and kill small pet birds. This can’t be a good thing.
Two greener alternatives are stainless steel or cast iron, 100% recyclable products which are typically designed to enjoy long, busy lives. I use stainless steel, just because it’s lighter and shinier.
However, boiling or steaming aside, stainless steel can be challenging for anyone other than the professional culinary wizard. One innocent-looking sauté pan + one clumsy cook = two delicate fillets of sustainable wild cod reduced to a broken hot mess in seconds.
The trick to avoid obliterating food is in assessing the temperature of this temperamental surface. Slowly heat the pan. After a few minutes, throw a teaspoon of water on there. If it dances in delicate, happy beads then disappears, add the oil and start cooking. If it sizzles and spits violently, you need to start over. If it sits unresponsive in a calm puddle, best to check and make sure the gas is actually switched on.
For clean up after a culinary calamity with a stainless steel pot, steel wool is your best friend. Plain and untreated, we don’t need neon detergent. Use with your own green soap products for a kinder, less toxic kitchen. Not only is steel wool highly effective, but being biodegradable it’s also environmentally friendly and will eventually disappear back into the earth as iron oxide, a soil component.
It’s a learning process. Practice makes perfect – so the best way to get perfect is to get cooking!
Following a clean, green diet means avoiding the majority of mass-produced sauces lining the shelves of most supermarkets today.
This includes three of America’s (if not the world’s) favorite food-groups: ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard. But don’t despair! These tasty condiments aren’t banned – so long as you whip them up, yourself, from scratch.
Many people, myself included, have the mistaken idea that making mayonnaise at home is next to impossible to do right. Not any more.
Thanks to this miraculous little immersion stick blender, you can easily create a home-made jar of fluffy deliciousness in about five minutes. Less time than it would take you to fly to the store for a tub of Heinz or Hellman’s.
Here’s one very British step-by-step guide to making mayo at home from BBC Good Food.
There is something reassuring about the ritual of twisting sauce-drenched pasta around a fork. Unfortunately, the joy of a bowl of spaghetti smothered in a rich Ragù Bolognese or Carbonara is often lost to people who can’t tolerate, or just wish to avoid, starchy foods.
The Spiralizer can transform many vegetables into perfect coiling bundles upon which to douse your favorite sauce. Keep the veggie noodles raw for that al dente effect. Alternatively, they can be lightly steamed. The texture and flavors will be different to traditional pasta but the concept remains the same, so you can engage in animated, fork-circling to your heart’s content. This is also a ridiculously easy way to incorporate a nutritious helping of calorie-free vegetables into traditionally heavy meat-centric meals. Buon appetito!
iPod & Speakers
Time spent in the kitchen doesn’t have to be a chore. Those many hours spent slicing, dicing, paring, peeling and prepping will slip by a lot more quickly when accompanied by some of your favorite tunes.
Whet the appetite even more with a food-inspired playlist. Think Soup of the Day (Chris Rea); T-Bone (Neil Young); Mashed Potatoes (James Brown); String Bean (Ray Charles) Green Onions (Booker T. & the MGs); Strawberry Fields Forever (The Beatles); Chocolate Cake (Crowded House) and Red Red Wine (UB40).
Just like that, you have an entire menu covered.
Now that the shopping has been done, and a clean, green dinner thoughtfully prepared, the only thing left to do is open a bottle of sustainable wine, such as the delicious La Grand Ribe Centenaire Cotes du Rhone Villages (2009).
According to Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker, this organic “blockbuster” of a red wine is “more like a Chateauneuf du Pape than a Cotes du Rhone” with “great intensity, a terrific texture, full-bodied power, and wonderful purity.” It even tastes pretty good too.
A sturdy and reliable corkscrew is a very important element of this green kitchen.