How to make a vegetarian, ethical and nutritious meal from scratch in just 30 minutes for the two most important persons in my life? The answer is a three-letter word and bouncing in a pan.
I have always loved to cook. Indulging myself by reading cook books, lose myself in books about food history, plan menus, write long shopping lists. Spend hours in the kitchen while making romantic three-course dinners or party dinners for friends or family. I do not live by cooking, but I truly live for cooking. The world may tremble around me, while I ponder on my next dish.
All this time I have spent on food, was suddenly taken away when we had a baby
Now I have to hurry home from work and try to put dinner on the table in 30 minutes. Wok is easily made in 30 minutes if you follow a certain chronology. Put the jasmine rice on first. While the rice is cooking, prepare the greens and the sauce. Everything must be ready when you start to wok. The minute you start woking you need your hands free in order to make your ingredients bounce like the wok was a trampoline.
Then there is the sauce. You come a long way with some stock, soy sauce, chili and garlic. From Gordon Ramsey’s Great Escape Southeast Asia, I have adapted a recipe from Thailand, which has become a staple in our home. I have altered the recipe to make sure I can buy all ingredients from my local store. For instance, the original recipe calls for holy basil, but I do not hesitate using regular basil.
Wok is a dish that makes it possible to eat well without (much) meat
Norwegian chef Bent Stiansen describes how his teacher during av cooking course in Vietnam gave him 50 gram (2 oz) meat. The teacher thought this was enough to feed a family of four! This amounts to nothing more than an appetizer in the West. Even though most of us has learned about the connection between meat production, particularly cattle, and carbon emissions, surveys show that even people with a higher education refuse to see the consumption of meat as an act to improve the environment. A light in the tunnel though comes from a somewhat unexpected corner: In Norway the army has decided to opt for meat-free Mondays. Their argument: The solider’s health and the environment.
For seven years I was a vegetarian, primarily because of animal welfare. Today I eat organic or free-range meat from small farmers. I try to reduce my meat consumption by eating smaller portions and by having meat-free days. I do not think the majority of us will turn vegetarian or vegan overnight, but I do believe all change has a feeble start.
Low-carb: An ethical conundrum?
Professor in Nutritional Sciences Kaare Norum characterizes the low-carb diet as indecent. It is indecent, he claims, because:
- An area big enough to sustain 20–25 people if corn and root vegetables are cultivated can only sustain one human if meat and milk is produced on the same area.
- It takes 200 times as much water to produce a kilo meat than a kilo potatoes.
- About 80 % of all grain produced worldwide is used as animal fodder.
In Norway the popularity of the low-carb diet has increased the consumption of chickens at the expense of eating bread. In Norway we now throw so much bread that we could fill an 8-lane highway from Oslo to Trondheim, a distance of about 500 kilometers (310 miles). However, there is a decent low-carb diet. The solution is a more balanced diet with plenty of greens where a substantial part of the protein comes from beans.
“The bean diet” has been the natural diet for many throughout the world. Dishes ranging from falafel and hummus in the Middle East to dhal in India and rice and beans in Latin America. They are cheap and nutritious. We have a lot to learn from these food cultures. Beans play a meager part in the Norwegian food culture, with one exception: Yellow pea soup.
30-minute vegetarian wok (for 2 adults and a little one):
a big handful of cashew nuts
1 garlic clove
1 red chili
1 big carrot
a handful of baby corn
6 florets of broccoli
3 tbsp cooking oil
fresh basil or coriander
200 ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
1 tbsp (palm)sugar
1,5 tsp maizena diluted with 2 tbsp water
1. Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan (or a wok) on medium heat, then put aside.
2. Peel the garlic and chili and mash in a mortar into a paste. Leave out the seeds from the chili if you want it less spicy.
3. Peel the carrot and cut thinly. Divide the baby corn lengthwise. Wash the broccoli and divide into small florets. Place all vegetables on a plate, separating them. This is because they need different cooking time.
4. Mix together the ingredients for the sauce, except the maizena.
5. Place the oil in the wok or a frying pan. When hot, add the garlic- and chili paste and fry for about 30 seconds.
6. Add the broccoli and carrots and wok for 1 minute continuously shaking the pan, Add the baby corn and wok for another minute.
7. Add the stock and boil for about 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are al dente and the sauce reduced a bit.
8. Add the maizena while stirring until the sauce has thickens a bit.
9. Take the wok off the heat, add the basil/coriander and the reserved cashew nuts.