Eating Seasonally in Ireland

Broccoli tomato

Eating local is key for lessening carbon footprint and opimtising scrumptiousness. But for meal-planning, that requires knowing what comes out of the earth, when! Cáit Curran, an organic and biodynamic farmer in Co. Galway kindly took the time to list all the veggies that come into season simultaneously for me. Here’s the low-down and dirty on the, well, low-down and dirty! 🙂

JANUARY: beetroot, cabbage – winter, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, mixed leaves, parsnips, potatoes, sprouts, swedes

FEBRUARY: beetroot, cabbage – winter, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, mixed leaves, parsnips, potatoes, sprouts, swedes

MARCH: beetroot, broccoli – sprouting, cabbage – winter, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, leeks, lettuce, mixed leaves, parsnips, potatoes, rhubarb, spinach, swedes

APRIL: asparagus, broccoli – sprouting, cabbage – winter, kale, leeks, lettuce, mixed leaves, potatoes, rhubarb, scallions, spinach

MAY: asparagus, broccoli – sprouting, cabbage – spring, carrots, lettuce, mixed leaves, rhubarb, scallions, spinach

JUNE: beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage – spring, carrots, cauliflower, courgette , cucumber, garlic, lettuce, mixed leaves, peas, potatoes – early, scallions, spinach

JULY: beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, courgette, cucumber, garlic, lettuce, mixed leaves, peas, pepper, potato, scallions, spinach, sweetcorn, tomato

AUGUST: beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, courgette, cucumber, lettuce, mixed leaves, peas, pepper, potato, scallions, spinach, sweetcorn, tomato

SEPTEMBER: beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, courgette, cucumber, lettuce, mixed leaves, parsnip, peas, pepper, potato, scallions, spinach, sweetcorn, tomato

OCTOBER: beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, kale, lettuce, mixed leaves, parsnip, pepper, potato, scallions, spinach, swede, tomato

NOVEMBER: beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuce, mixed leaves, parsnip, potato, scallions, spinach, sprouts, swede

DECEMBER: beetroot, cabbage, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, lettuce, mixed leaves, parnsip, potato, scallions, spinach, sprouts, swede

My next step is going to be some recipes incorporating seasonally-available yumminess … watch this space!

xxÚ

How to eat healthily for €32 a week

In my ideal world, I’d buy local and organic, and have tons of time to prepare delicious fresh meals for myself every day… or a personal chef. I (or my friendly chef) would consult with a dietician, and a personal trainer, in order to make the best choices for my health and the planet’s well-being. But at the moment… 

I love cooking, but my priorities are elsewhere (ALBUMMMM) so I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking and washing dishes right now. I’m also a musician, so, ahem, on a budget, plus have a really irregular schedule where I’ll be in my house for weeks at a time, but then gone for a few days. (So if I buy fresh food it usually goes off 🙁 ) Last May I did start listening to my conscience about climate change and animal welfare, so decided to go veggie as much as possible. But that has even further complexified the daily challenge of feeding myself. 

So what’s a self-employed muso to do? 

Well… 

So now, every 10 days or so, I go to my local supermarket (Aldi) and buy the ingredients for all the recipes… 

I spend a day batch-cooking, and cook 32-56 meals…  

… and then I divide the food into individual portions and put these in the freezer. Every night I take out 2 or 3 portions to defrost, and BOOM. Next day I wake up, and restaurant Úna is open for business!

My motivation for this wacky idea was my long-term health, plus efficiency, but I’m now ADDICTED to batch-cooking. I love preparing lots of food at one time – it feels nourishing as well as hyper-efficient. I love having food available without even thinking about it. I love, but LOVE, not having to wash dishes twice a day. (I actually quite enjoy washing dishes, but not absolutely everyday!). I love the fact that I get the right amount of veggies and protein into me at every meal without having to do the mental work of macronutrient calculations. I love the lack of stress around food waste – I don’t have to worry about food going off in my fridge. The fact that I batch-cook has inspired me to start buying frozen vegetables (FYI: just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts) so I’m using a wider range of ingredients, ergo my palate is getting more variety these days than before. And guess what? An unexpected side-effect of my batch-cook-and-freezing is that it’s *shockingly* cheaper. 

My latest food-shopping bill (completed while supposed to be writing a grant – oops), which provided 32 meals, came to €48.10.

Now, this bill changes a little each month (I buy fresh/frozen veg according to availability) but it’s generally around this number. €48.10 divided by the 32 meals it made, gives an average cost per meal of… bodhrán-roll, please…

€1.50 per meal. That means my total cost for eating 3 nutritionally-balanced meals a day for a week is €31.50. Pretty cool, huh??!


So if you’re interested in organizing your food in a cheaper, and/or faster way,

here’s my shopping list,

here are my recipes, and

here are my tips!!

Go n-éirí leat – may they bring you towards health, music, and yumminess!

Úna

Úna’s Batch-Cooking Tips

  • I buy all the ingredients on my batch-cooking shopping list, except for tamari and occasionally tofu, in Aldi . It just happens to be the closest budget supermarket. Based on a quick gawk, Lidl is probably just as good.
  • Ask at the supermarket what days and times they get their deliveries of veg, plus what time they usually get the veg on display, and schedule your food-shopping accordingly. I find frozen spinach sells out really quick in Aldi… us Galwegians are more health-conscious than we give ourselves credit for 🙂
  • I found out the hard way that bags of frozen vegetables leak water. My kitchen is quite small, and I couldn’t figure out a place to put the voluminous bags of frozen vegetables until it was time to cook them. My (kinda wacky) solution is … I put them in my shower!! It’s a bit mad, but it means I don’t have puddles of water in my apartment – always nice. ! 😉
  • Cooking devices with timers are crucial. Confession: I choose to steam, grill and microwave food, not for reasons of health or taste, but … because my steamer, grill and microwave have timers. I fill them up, then go off and do nerdy musical things!
  • How many big mixing bowls do you have? That, plus the size of your cooking devices, will dictate how many recipes you make at once. I have 2 big mixing bowls, so I make 2 recipes at once.
  • You’ll have to experiment to find out to how big a batch you can comfortably cook with the space, devices and cookware available to you. Based on the size of my frying pan, steamer, and 2 mixing bowls, I find it’s best if I stick to cooking batches of 8 portions at a time. (I’ve tried 16 – it got a bit messy. !)
  • What’s your cooking plan? Well, the fact that all the ingredients of a meal don’t have to arrive on a table at the same time means you don’t really need one! For time-efficiency, I try to have all devices in the kitchen working simultaneously – e.g. have tofu marinading, vegetables steaming, potatoes microwaving, rice simmering, fresh veg grilling, and something frying all at once. Once an ingredient is ready, I put it in a big mixing bowl dedicated to that recipe. When all ingredients are ready and in the bowl, I mix it all together.
  • I originally tried dividing portions by weight – I found that very time-consuming. Now I mix / put the whole mixture into a rectangular-shaped receptacle, flatten it a bit, then divide the rectangle roughly into the appropriate amount of portions with a sharp knife. I then ladle each portion into a …
  • resealable freezer bag, which is more space-efficient than a freezer container. After use, I wash each bag and re-use.
  • In case I want to feed a few people at the same time, I put 8 portions in one big freezer container.
  • Sounds obvious, but: I let all the food cool to room temperature before I put it in the freezer. That way I minimise my valiant little freezer’s energy use.
  • When taking out a meal portion to defrost, leave it in the sink / on your draining board so it doesn’t leak all over the kitchen.

… So that’s it! Let me know via Facebook or Insta how you get on!!

go n-éirí leat,

Úna

Veggie meals with 20g protein!!

Last year, my guilt about climate change and niggles about animal welfare finally got too loud to ignore. So I resolved to turn veggie as much as I could.

At first, I did the obvious thing: I extracted the meat from my meals, and increased my starch and vegetables to the same volume of the missing meat. However, starches and veggies are not as protein-dense as meat. Consequently, I was not meeting my  RDA of protein, and I was not a happy camper: I was consistently grumpy and hungry. 

Then I hit gold… a little bird (who happens to be a professional dietician) told me of a magical index which listed the macronutrient composition of all foods available in the UK. And – this fact makes me so happy to live in the 21st century – this incredible resource is publicly available!!

The amazing index is the “McCance and Widdowson’s composition of foods integrated dataset” . It’s available in both .pdf and Excel format here.

Me being me (i.e. a total nerd) I downloaded the magical Excel file, and calculated veggie food combinations that would give me 20g protein per meal.

At the moment I don’t have a lot of time for cooking. So I’d describe my creations as ‘how to quickly throw quantities of food together’, rather than ‘haute cuisine recipes’. But, in case you, too, are a busy bee who wants to lessen their ecological footprint, I share my fave food combos below.

Or … why not download the McCance and Widdowson dataset yourself, and design your own protein-rich veggie food combos? And then … share them with me? 😉

Scrambled Egg, Mature Cheddar, Courgette, Kale

Feta Cheese, Cauliflower, Green Beans

Smoked Salmon, Squash, Peppers, Potato

Marinated Tofu, Spinach, Broccoli

Update 26/01/2019: to make your life easier, I’ve now added a shopping list for those recipes, plus some batch-cooking tips.

Also, in future I’d love to try making a second draft of these food combos which uses the amount of food in a single packet (e.g. broccoli comes in packets of 907g. So it would be really handy if my tofu recipe used exactly 907g of broccoli, rather than its current 880g.!) Less measuring = fasterrrr!

And I’d also love to try pairing foods which are in season at the same time. So watch this space…. !

Complete and utter disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user’s own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.