Give your diet an eco makeover

Make a smart green choice with these wholesome recipes

Roast Red Snapper in a Vegetable Crust
Image Credit: Kishore Kumar/ANM
Roast Red Snapper in a Vegetable Crust.
Aquarius

Although there isn't any one scientific definition for sustainable eating, it is widely agreed that sustainable food is food that is good for the planet, community, and in a broader perspective, your health. In essence, this means food that is local, seasonal, organic (as far as possible), has minimal processing and packaging, and is based mostly on grains and vegetables (this is not to say that meat and dairy needs to be cut out of your diet, just reduced). In even simpler terms, it champions a back-to-basics way of eating, before technology and commercial politics started dictating that food is made available all year round, at the other end of the world - at cheaper prices.

According to Yael Mejia, brand consultant at Baker & Spice, "It is important to understand where you are geographically, find out what is in season in your region and make positive choices. Ask questions and insist on getting an answer." Granted, sometimes these choices are harder to make in this part of the world, given the geographical and climatic limitations, which lead to inadequate local food production. Which is why the sustainability movement is also relatively new here, compared to the Western world. But that doesn't mean it is not possible. We all need to be aware of where our food is coming from, and the ethics involved in its production.

John Cordeaux, executive chef at Fairmont Bab al Bahr says, "Always verify where the products in the store have come from, shop local and whenever possible eat seasonally. Eating more vegetarian meals is very easy in the Middle East."

Yael adds, "The choice for all of us should be to find food that has arrived from as close to the point of consumption as possible. In advocating local, we need to look to our immediate region which includes the rest of the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Egypt - all countries with a diverse agriculture to fulfil most of our needs. It is never an absolute, this is about degrees."

Roast Aubergine with Feta and Fresh Apricot Chilli Compote

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 500g aubergines, sliced across 1 to 2cm thick
  • Olive oil, as required
  • 200g fresh apricots (not too ripe), halved, stoned and quartered.
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1/2 a fresh red chilli, chopped finely
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 100g sheep-milk feta

How to

  • Grill or sauté the aubergine slices with olive oil until golden and cooked. Spread them on a plate.
  • Put the cut apricots into a saucepan with the sugar and cook on a low heat until the juices start running.
  • Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir. Then add the soy sauce and some olive oil. Bring to a simmer and take off the heat (taste for seasoning, you may only need to add pepper).
  • Spoon the apricot salsa onto the aubergine and crumble the feta on top.
  • Serve with hunks of good bread.

Chef's tip: Do not overcook the apricots, as they will disintegrate to a mush and you will not get the texture needed for this dish.

Lamb Kofta with Roast Carrot

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 green chilli
  • 1kg carrots, cut into long wedges
  • 1 spring each of fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme
  • 3 tbsp raw tahini
  • For koftas:
  • 800g minced lamb leg or shoulder
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 4 slices old bread soaked in water
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, as required

How to

  • Mix all the kofta ingredients together with a fork, trying to keep the mix light, chill for an hour and then form into small 100g koftas.
  • Rub olive oil on the bottom of a roasting pan and place the koftas so that they don't touch each other.
  • Roast in an oven preheated at 180ºC for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Chop the garlic and green chilli and toss in a bowl together with the carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the fresh herbs.
  • Place in a roasting tin and roast at very high heat, 220ºC or higher, for 20 minutes.
  • To serve, place koftas and carrots on a plate, and drizzle over with good-quality raw tahini and olive oil.
  • make sure your next meal is just that little bit kinder to the environment
  • Summer Gratin of root and other vegetables

Summer gratin of root and other vegetables

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 200g each of potatoes, beetroot, pumpkin, shallots or onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes
  • Garlic to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • A knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1 sprig each of fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary (or 1 tsp each of dried herbs)

How to

  • Slice all the vegetables very thinly (best done with a mandolin).
  • Brown the shallots or onions together with the garlic gently in some olive oil.
  • Mix all the vegetables together, then add the cooked onions and garlic and mix through.
  • Heat up the stock and add the butter and a touch of cream (make sure the stock is slightly over salted as this is the only source of salt).
  • Layer the vegetables in an oven-proof casserole dish, pressing well into corners.
  • Ladle the hot stock in until it reaches nearly the top of the vegetables (quantity of stock used will vary depending on your baking dish).
  • Cover with foil and place in an oven preheated to 200ºC.
  • Check with a stick or a knife after 30 minutes. If the vegetables are cooked, remove the foil and return to the oven so a crust can form. This will take more or less 15 minutes.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Chef's tip: This can be served as a vegetarian main course, or a side to meat or fish with smaller quantities of vegetables.

Roast Red Snapper in a Vegetable Crust

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 150g each of seasonal vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, onions, peppers and courgettes
  • Olive oil, as required
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Garlic, to taste
  • 1 sprig each of fresh herbs like oregano and parsley
  • 800g whole fillet of red snapper

How to

  • Cut the vegetables into bite-size pieces, and pre-cook hard vegetables (such as carrots) to soften.
  • Toss the vegetables in olive oil, seasoning, garlic and the fresh herbs.
  • Season the fillet on both sides with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Place the fillet skin-side up in a roasting pan and pile your mix of vegetables on top of the fish. Season well and roast in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Serve hot with a lemon wedge for garnish.

Chef's tip: You can also use spices like chilli or cumin, to taste, for the vegetables.

Recipes courtesy of Chef Tariq Abu Khatr from Baker & Spice: 04-4279856. (Recipes can be easily adapted according to seasonal availability and quantities required.) Props from: Crate & Barrel 04-3990125; The One 04-3456687.
 

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