How to make a quick, 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.
I have always loved to cook. Indulging myself by reading cook books, lose myself in books about food history, plan menus, write long and thorough 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. Half an hour only! The short time makes for a challenge. I have had several food challenges the last years. One of my most peculiar was when we arranged a party to celebrate the birth of our son. We planned the party half a year in advance. As usual everything was to be made from scratch, including 10 cakes, and we wanted to make everything by ourselves. We thought there would be 25 guest, but 45 came. And the day before the party, half the day was spent at the hospital. We made it, but I would not recommend others doing it.
Another food challenge I often encounter is how to make food for guests allergic to milk, gluten, nuts or citrus
Not to mention if all these allergies gather in one person. Say no more, I am on the mission. A third food challenge has been – and still is – how to make desserts low in sugar. And then there is my first and foremost challenge: How to make a quick, 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. Wok!
Wok is easily made in 30 minutes if you follow a certain chronology
Put the jasmin 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 and oyster sauce. From Gordon Ramsey’s Great Escape Southeast Asia, I have learned 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. Remember I have to hurry home to cook. Thus the ingredients for this wok are pretty common. For instance, the original recipe calls for holy basil, but I do not hesitate using regular basil. However there is one thing I never omit; and that is the greens. It has to be sweetflavoured greens like baby corn and carrots. Other times I use bitter greens like broccoli to boost the nutrition.
Wok is a dish that makes it possible to eat well without much meat
Make the wok with pork filet or go for a vegetarian wok. When I leave out the meat, I add cashew nuts. 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 am aware this is not enough, but a short story is also literature. I could have done much more, but I am contributing.
Norwegian chef Bent Stiansen tells in one of his cook books how his teacher gave him 50 gram (2 oz) meat during a cooking course in Vietnam. The teacher thought this was enough to feed a family of four. Even though most of us has learned about the connection between meat production, particularly cattle, and carbon emissions, recent statistics show that even Norwegians 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.
Low-carb: An ethical conundrum?
In an article in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten 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.
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 and the fat derives from oily fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil.
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).
“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: Our yellow pea soup.
I strive to eat less meat, but when I eat meat it comes from small farmers. Farmers who know their animals. Who calls them by their name, not a number. Their meat cost more to buy, but is something I can serve to my little son as a parent.
30-minute wok (for 2 adults and a little one):
a handful of cashew nuts or 1 free-range pork filet (about 150 g or 5 ounces)
1 garlic clove
1 red chili
1 big carrot
a handful of baby corn
3 florets of broccoli
3 tbsp cooking oil
fresh basil or coriander
200 ml stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp (palm)sugar
1 tbsp maizena diluted with 3 tbsp water
How to make the wok:
1. Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan (or a wok) on medium heat, then put aside.
2. Wipe the pork filet with a kitchen towel and cut thinly with a pair of scissors.
3. 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 pork filet and wok for 1 minute. Add the broccoli and carrots and wok for 1 minute. Add the baby corn and wok for 1 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.
9. Take the wok off the heat, add the basil/coriander and the reserved cashew nuts.