Rooting for Other Causes

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It is so easy to become wrapped up in our own immediate problems. Personal worries are naturally the utmost priority and it seems the brain can only process a certain amount of stress and concern before its defenses come up and it barricades itself against any other incoming issues. Having had strong opinions on almost everything (to the annoyance of most of my friends and family), I am finding that political debate no longer awakens my argumentative appetite and my hunger for knowledge of contemporary issues is waning.

This reaction has been entirely subconscious. I have watched the evening news, willing myself to absorb the information, sat on the train on the way into work attempting to form opinions on the text in front of me, yet the processes are entirely superficial. Rather than penetrating my mind and stirring up strong feelings, they linger on the surface, simply making me aware of their presence, yet never really burrowing down deep enough to dig up beliefs and judgements.

It is not that I have become (entirely) apathetic, but, quite simply, I am fed up of worrying – it is both mentally and physically exhausting.What little energy I have left I want to use positively; Mum and Meal has allowed me to proactively contribute to Marge’s recovery, it has lifted her spirits (and her appetite) and has given her, me and the family the encouragement we need to remain strong. It has also prompted me to root for those causes I am truly passionate about and to focus my energies on making a difference on those areas of interest, no matter how small.

The blog has taught me a lot, not only at an emotional level but on a more practical level as well, specifically about the amazing properties of everyday ingredients and how we can best utilise them in order to maximise their benefits. Through my research and reading, it has become clear that we are often not cooking our ingredients in the most beneficial way, often wasting or draining away nutritional value through conventional cooking methods. My efforts to ensure Marge is getting the most amount of vitamins possible from the food she has eating has highlighted to me the creative ways you can cook with many ingredients. Yet it has also underlined a huge problem that we have not just in the UK, but all over the globe – food waste.

Food waste is an issue that has always been a concern of mine, yet experimenting with amazingly versatile and interesting foods for this blog has reignited my passion to make a positive change in this area. Though blame is often focused on supermarkets and their troops of regimented veg, almost 50% of the total amount of food thrown away in the UK comes from our homes. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year in the UK, and more than half of this is food and drink we could have eaten. Wasting food is not just throwing away money – it is throwing away taste, texture and nutritional value. So whilst many may hastily chop the tops of carrots, cast aside fennel tops, and turn their backs on the broccoli stalks, I have been embracing the whole of the vegetable, with all its lumps and bumps – from root to stem.

Every component of vegetables have their own unique tastes, textures and benefits so you are essentially getting multiple veggies in one clever package. Cauliflower, a favourite ingredient of mine, is the perfect example and when cooking my Black Bean, Quinoa and Cauliflower Bowl, not a scrap was wasted. When I cook cauliflower, I like cut off the florets and then I chop up the stem and cook it (in this case roasted) with the florets (they require the same amount of cooking time to become tender). With the leaves, I like to slice them fairly finely and stir fry – the middle of the leaves retains a delightful, refreshing crunch whilst the outside of the leaves gently wilt and take on a deeper, earthier, herbaceous flavour, adding a whole new dimension to an already brilliant Brassica. If we all used vegetables to their full potential, we would not only help with the huge food waste problem, but we would unlock a treasure trove of tastes, textures and nutritional benefits. Basically, we’ve struck gold!

Recipe: Black Bean, Quinoa and Cauliflower Bowl.

Serves 4.

For the quinoa:

  • 185g uncooked quinoa 
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Handful fresh herbs (parsley or coriander work well), finely chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, julienned

For the dressing:

  • Juice of 3 limes, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons pure maple syrup, or to taste
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

For the bowl:

  • 1 large cauliflower, florets separated, core chopped into chunks and leaves sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, cut into rounds
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Hummus
  • Hemp seeds

Method.

  1. Preheat the oven to 200˚C/gas 6/180˚C fan.
  2. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve. Add into saucepan and cover with 2 times its volume with water or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low-medium, and then cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy.
  3. Remove from heat and steam with the lid on for 5 additional minutes. Fluff with fork and chill in the fridge for another 15 minutes.
  4. Whilst the quinoa is cooking, place the cauliflower florets and stalk and the sweet rounds on roasting trays. Toss in the olive oil and ground cumin and season to taste. Roast for approx. 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and golden.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the quinoa, drained and rinsed black beans, herbs, and carrots.
  6. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl or jar, adjusting to taste. Pour onto the quinoa and toss to combine. Season to taste.
  7. Heat 1tbsp oilive oil in a frying pan and add the cauliflower leaves. Gently stir fry until the outer parts of the leaves have wilted but the inside remain crunchy. Season to taste.
  8. Now simply build your bowl out of the quinoa, roasted cauliflower and sweet potato and fried cauliflower leaves. Finish with a dollop of hummus and a sprinkling of hemp seeds for extra protein.
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