Category Archives: Recipes

DAIRY PRODUCTS SIMPLIFIED

For years a lot of plastic packaging in our household came from a range of dairy products. In addition to the staples of milk, cheese and butter there were pots of yoghurts, crème fraiche, soured cream, double cream, cream cheese, dips, goats milk products, individually wrapped cheeses for school lunches, spreadable Lurpak and margarine. There was a vague sense of a lot of packaging and things going past their best-by-date, unnoticed, but I’m not sure it ever fully surfaced into my consciousness as ‘wasteful’. My focus was on catering for everyone’s tastes and preferences and having everything available, all of the time. It all sounds a bit mad to me now.

I now put the emphasis on non-plastic packaging and local availability and that’s it. Milk is delivered by the milk man and cheese bought straight from a local cheesemaker – less variety but, boy, is it delicious! The only butter I buy is Waitrose essential butter wrapped in paper. It is kept in the fridge and portioned into a lovely Cornish butter dish on the counter which keeps the butter just the right side of soft for easy spreading on toast and sandwiches.

I have discovered clotted cream in glass jars which now covers all bases as far as cream is concerned. If needed, I can thin it down and it lasts for absolute ages in the fridge. Look out for it in farm shops (and Stroud farmer’s market).

One of the most useful finds has been Payon Breton’s Luxury Creamy Cheese from Waitrose which comes in a little cardboard pot sealed with foil and is delicious as a spread, making into dips and for cooking. For a perfect light pasta carbonara fry some bacon and mushrooms, combine a mixture of Breton creamy cheese with a beaten egg, a handful of grated cheddar and a ladleful of the water from the pasta. Drain the pasta, stir in the cheese & bacon mixture. The quickest dinner ever (unless you’re making pasta from scratch, that is).

HOMEMADE HUMMUS (and a little spiel on food cans)

I am somewhat addicted to hummus. It’s great as a starter or party finger food with carrot, cucumber and celery sticks. I love it on toast with sliced tomatoes, a dribble of olive oil, salt and pepper. A perfect light lunch!

Homemade hummus tastes slightly different from shop-bought hummus in little plastic pots. To avoid single-use plastic packaging for the recipe below, your best option would be to source unpackaged dried chickpeas. Since this is difficult for the majority of us in the UK, the recipe is made with off-the-shelf chickpeas in cans. Nearly all food and drink cans are lined with a plastic coating but I cannot be certain that all chickpea cans are. Food cans in the UK are made from steel or aluminium from over 50% recycled material and are fully recyclable. The majority are lined with epoxy resins to prevent acidic food like tomatoes from reacting with the metal. A building block of epoxy resin is Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a controversial ingredient in plastic products. If we bear in mind the environmental impact of industrial packaging of any kind, unpackaged dried chickpeas would be the best option for the environment and well worth sourcing if you use them as regularly as I do. I am fortunate that I am able to buy unpackaged chickpeas, spices and olive oil.

I make hummus in a food processor and keep it in the fridge for a few days. You could choose all organic ingredients. Tahini (sesame seed paste in glass jars) is optional but really helps with that authentic hummus taste. I recommend using Tahini ‘light’ which is less intense.

  • 400g canned chickpeas, reserve a few for decoration
  • 6-8 tbsp of the water or brine from the can
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp tahini (optional)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend to a creamy purée. Add more lemon juice, garlic, cumin or salt to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, scatter with the reserved chickpeas and sprinkle with paprika. Enjoy!

An here is another very delicious hummus recipe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/hummus_80249

Further reading:

How cans are made in the UK today:
http://www.cannedfood.co.uk/how-cans-are-made-today/

About Bisphenol A:
http://www.bisphenol-a.org/human/epoxycan.html

Why does my tin can have a plastic liner and is it bad for me?
http://plasticisrubbish.com/2010/10/08/why-does-my-tin-can-have-a-plastic-liner-and-it-it-bad-for-me/

Unpackaged food:
Whole Food Market UK
Harvest Natual Food, Bath and Bristol
Totnes Zero Waste shop
Farmers markets, Asian food markets, healthfood shops

Packed lunch with homemade hummus and homegrown sprouts

TOOTHPASTE THE NATURAL WAY

I don’t know why I ever thought that the production of toothpaste was something complicated and best left to the professionals. Maybe it’s the fact that I had never used any toothpaste before that was not bought in a shop. Or maybe because there is something vaguely ‘medical’ about using toothpaste. Perhaps I am just scared that I’ll lose my teeth prematurely if I use the wrong stuff. Yet, when it comes to natural cures I am all for home remedies and have total faith in nature.

In any case, since the vast majority of toothpaste on the market is sold in plastic tubes with plastic lids, I started researching the obvious alternative: making my own. There are literally hundreds of recipes and advice on the internet for making tooth powders and tooth paste. After trying a couple of different recipes I now make this wonderfully refreshing toothpaste with bicarbonate of soda, china clay and essential oils such as peppermint, clove and fennel. Both, bicarbonate of soda and clay are ingredients that are used in common toothpastes found in shops. Essential oils add freshness and flavour and have all sorts of benefits for teeth and gums. I make smallish batches at a time which last our family for a few weeks and only take 2 minutes to prepare. This is currently my absolute favourite toothpaste recipe. I have given some to friends and we’ve taken it on holiday in small cosmetic or Kilner spice jars.

Try this super-simple Peppermint Toothpaste recipe from “Make your own Cosmetics” by Neil’s Yard. Fennel or lemon essential oils can be used instead of the peppermint if you prefer:

  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerine (cheap from Boots the chemist, in small glass bottles)
  • 3 drops of peppermint essential oil (again from Boots or health food shops)

Brushing my teeth with my own healthy and natural toothpaste and bamboo toothbrush makes me very happy in the mornings and reminds me to keep flying the flag for plastic free living throughout the day. Joy!

MAKING ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL

Elderflower cordial is one of the loveliest and tastiest things to make in June. The flowering season is almost over now but you only need a few handfuls of flower heads to make three or four bottles. We make some every year using glass bottles with clip tops and rubber seals. It is so tasty added to ice cold, still or sparkling water or as a hot cordial in the evening. There are lots of recipes online, many of which add citric acid or use honey instead of sugar. I use this super simple recipe which makes about 2 litres of cordial which can be stored in the fridge or in a dark, cool place for a good few weeks. You can also freeze it if you leave enough room in the bottles for expansion.

To begin with I sterilise 3-4 glass bottles with clip tops and rubber seals in a preheated oven at 130C for 20 minutes. You’ll also need some muslin or a fine sieve and a funnel. Make the cordial as soon as you’ve collected the flower heads as they go brown very quickly.

  • 25 to 30 elderflower heads
  • 3 lemons and 1 orange
  • 1kg sugar
  • 2l water
  1. Remove larger stalks and any little insects from the flower heads
  2. In a large pan, boil the water and sugar and gently simmer until the sugar is dissolved
  3. Roughly peel the fruit with a vegetable peeler and add the peel to the pan
  4. Cut the fruit into slices and add to pan together with the flower heads
  5. Remove pan from heat, cover and leave for a few hours to infuse – I usually leave it for half a day but you can leave it overnight for a stronger taste
  6. Strain the liquid through a piece of muslin or very fine sieve
  7. Use a funnel to pour the syrup into sterilised bottles and seal them.