When it comes to low carbon cooking, the key is choosing the right ingredients. Generally fruit and vegetables (not air freighted though!) are low carbon, as are beans, pulses, pasta and lentils.
Food like eggs, milk and fish have a medium carbon footprint and chicken, cheese and pork have a high footprint. Red meats like beef and lamb have a very high footprint due to their digestive systems and the methane they produce. In addition to their carbon footprint, meat, fish, dairy and eggs require land to grow the food to feed the animals and this increases land required for agriculture, compared to plant based foods. In addition, much of the animal feed used is soy and this is often grown in areas where trees have been cleared, including virgin rainforest such as the Amazon.
Food miles are also a component of the carbon footprint, but the majority of emissions and environmental impact of food is linked to food production, rather than transportation, so it is definitely an advantage to buy local and seasonal produce, but it is also important to look at the impact of the food during its production.
We’ve put together a couple of tasty, easy low carbon recipes to get started.
Sweet potato, peanut and tomato stew
This one is great for winter evenings. It only takes 10 minutes to prep and then an hour of so cooking time. It is a low carbon, super easy to make dinner.
So here’s what you need:
1kg of sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
1 onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic
1 chilli (whole and pierced)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of seasalt
50 g of peanut butter (make sure it is palm free or uses sustainable palm oil)
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
400 ml of vegetable stock (use a stock cube in boiling water)
A handful of coriander and peanuts
Put the potatoes in a tray with the onion, chilli, garlic and cook for 45 mins at around 180 degrees. (Or you can speed up cooking time, and reduce gas usage, by softening the sweet potato in the microwave first). Then mix in the peanut butter, salt and sprinkle the chopped coriander and peanuts and cook for another 15 minutes, while you prep the couscous (which is low carbon footprint, compared to rice, which is a medium footprint). All the ingredients here are low carbon footprint, except for the small amount of peanut butter used. If you want to go for a full list of low carbon ingredients, just swap the peanut butter for more peanuts.
Cost per portion: 94p
300 g of organic Lentils
4 x Naan bread
1 tablespoon of cooking Oil
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 large teaspoon of ground coriander
2 large teaspoons garam masala
½ teaspoon of turmeric
150ml coconut milk
200g spinach (or a few blocks of frozen spinach)
1 pint (568ml) of boiling water
Warm the oil in a frying pan and add the diced onion. Soften it, then add all the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. You can also add a clove or two of crushed garlic here too, if you like to. Then add coconut milk, boiling water and lentils and cook for around 1 hour. In the last few minutes, stir in the spinach and then serve with warm naan bread and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and lime.
Total cost per portion: £1.02
These recipes were inspired by the great recipes in The Green Roasting Tin, by Rukmini Iyer.