Before you click on a food delivery app this weekend or head to your local grocer’s to stock up on supplies for a laidback brunch, pause and ask yourself this question: ‘Where’s my food coming from?’
It’s important, especially today - World Food Day. This year when Covid-19 has upended the way we live, work and eat – it has brought us level with the worst food crisis of the last 50 years.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is that a doughnut could be our way out of the hole we’ve dug ourselves into with unsustainable food systems that depend on imports and extensive global food chains.
Well, a doughnut-shaped economic model to be precise, so deglaze those eyes dreaming of sweet treats saving the world.
A wholesome economic system
Baked up by British economist Kate Raworth from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, the new-fangled circular economic model (first published in 2012) offers a sustainable solution to living, and a preference for locally, and ethically sourced food is a huge element to what makes it tick.
In Amsterdam, where the economic model has been adopted to help tide it over from the economic havoc of Covid-19, food imports are going to be slashed in a bid to reduce carbon footprint. That means going back to grassroots and working with local farms and home-grown suppliers, which is great for the planet and a shot in the arm for the local businesses.
It’s a trend that resonates with the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s theme for World Food Day this year – ‘Grow, Nourish, Sustain together.’ Fun fact: World Food Day is celebrated to commemorate the UN-based organisation’s establishment in 1945.
This year’s theme, their website says, is to champion and celebrate farmers and workers throughout the food system who are working doubly hard to bring food from the farms to our forks despite Covid-induced disruptions.
What’s that got to do with us here in the UAE?
As the pandemic raged on around us, we found a safe harbour amidst the chaos in the one thing a lot of us take for granted: food.
Some of us struck up new friendships with cooking, others found solace in the predictable flavours and textures of well-loved comfort foods, but most importantly we learnt about fragility of our food systems.
Remember at the start of the pandemic when suddenly the price of your favourite avocadoes skyrocketed or that Brie you love serving on your cheese platter took longer to be restocked on supermarket shelves?
So, here in the UAE, we can extend our appreciation by supporting home-grown restaurants that have sustainable menus with a farm-to-table approach and sourcing our vegetables and groceries from farmers markets and local artisans as and when we can, to cook our meals.
In the words of 17th century French writer François de La Rochefoucauld, ‘To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.’ More so if it can help salvage the earth and the economy.
And if you’re being tripped up by a dearth of creative recipes that can transform fresh ingredients into nourishing meals, fret not. We’ve got you covered on that front with these three healthy but lip-smacking dishes.
PROVENÇAL-STYLE VEGETABLE BAKE
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour 40 minutes
80ml extra virgin olive oil
4 medium (680g) red onions, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 sprigs fresh thyme or zaatar
½ cup (80g) pitted olives, chopped finely
2 medium (600g) eggplants
5 medium (375g) ripe tomatoes
3 large (500g) zucchini
100g goat’s cheese
Crusty bread, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 180° C/160° C fan.
2. Heat half the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and thyme, stirring, for about 10-15 minutes or until onion is soft. Remove from heat; stir in the olives.
3. Meanwhile, cut eggplants and tomatoes into 2mm slices. Slice zucchini on the diagonal to match the tomato and eggplant.
4. Spread the softened onions over the base of a round 1.5-litre (6-cup) ceramic ovenproof dish. Arrange vegetables over the top in a circular pattern, alternating colours. Drizzle with the remaining oil; season to taste.
5. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for a further 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. 6 Serve with goat’s cheese and crusty bread.
6. Serve with goat’s cheese and crusty bread.
Note: Depending on the olive oil variety and blend, the taste and depth of flavour varies in intensity from mild and grassy through to robust with a peppery kick.
WATERMELON AND HALLOUMI SALAD
2 x 180gm pieces halloumi, torn
250g quartered baby cucumbers
600g chopped seedless watermelon
Olive oil, for frying
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp thyme or zaatar leaves
Cooked wild rice or quinoa
1. Slice halloumi, place on pan. Heat cooking olive oil on it, place the slices and fry lightly, flip – should take 3 to 4 minutes. Cool and cut.
2. Shake olive oil, honey, crushed garlic and thyme leaves in a screw-top jar as dressing.
3. Cook some wild rice or quinoa. Toss in a bowl with baby cucumbers, watermelon and dressing made.
4. Top with haloumi.
CHICKEN AND OLIVES
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
2 medium (600gm) fennel bulbs, trimmed and chopped coarsely
500gm potatoes peeled, cut into chunks
16 (100gm) green olives
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (80ml) lemon juice
8 chicken legs
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
Steamed green beans or baby leaf salad, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 180 ⁰ C.
2. Place fennels, potatoes, oil and juice in a bowl; toss to coat the vegetables. Season with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Transfer the vegetables to a roasting pan.
3. Add the chicken to the bowl and rub the seasoned oil into the skin. Put the chicken pieces on top of the vegetables and then cover with foil.
4. Roast chicken for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for a further 20 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through.
5. Sprinkle with parsley leaves and serve with steamed green beans or baby leaf salad.
Recipes Courtesy: Camera Press