Every little helps

in Food and Drink · 07-02-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments

Wherever you stand on the plastic straw debate, food writer Melissa Hemsley is right: "You don't get two in your mojito on a Friday night now!"

Things are undoubtedly changing. Call it the Blue Planet II effect, or simply an inevitable waking up to the demands we put on the planet, but more than ever before, the choices we make daily - and especially at dinnertime - come with a side of: is this environmentally justifiable?

It's an idea that threads its way through Hemsley's lively new cookbook, Eat Green. Veg-heavy (but not fully vegetarian), it focuses on all the little ways we can cut waste and get dinner on the table without feeling like quite such dreadful, energy-sapping humans.

Self-taught chef Hemsley encourages batch-cooking, cooking from scratch, avoiding plastic (wherever possible), not overusing the same ingredients (poor beloved avocados and chickpeas), eating seasonally, making a judgement on eating certain items past their sell-by-date, and being flexible ("My mum basically taught me: be flexible, use what you've got").

She also hopes to help override that feeling we all get upon opening the fridge, that there's nothing to eat. That dinner can't be rustled up. "There is always something," says Hemsley. "So why waste your energy trekking out in the rain and the cold to the shops, to just go and spend more money?"

It's simpler if you have well-stocked cupboards and a chest-freezer of buried, edible treasure, of course. But Hemsley is clear - she just wants her recipes to be helpful and useful: "I don't want to tell anyone how to live their lives."

"What I do know is that every single one of us can play a part," she says, adamant. "With no judgement or guilt tripping, what can you, I, do, that feels sustainable in terms of, can we repeat it every day? And if so, let's do it, and let's keep on doing it."

Parsnip Dahl

"This is ideal to make at the end of the weekend with any leftover root veg that didn't make it into the Sunday roast," says food writer Melissa Hemsley.

"It will set you up nicely for Monday's dinner - just reheat and top with the onions and yoghurt, and either freeze the rest or enjoy later in the week with dosa-style pancakes, buckwheat sesame wraps or with fresh leaves and a crispy fried egg on top."


(Serves 6)

4tbsp ghee or oil

5 large parsnips (about 900g)

1tbsp maple syrup

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 thumb of ginger, finely grated

400g split red lentils, rinsed

2 large handfuls of fresh coriander, leaves and stems finely chopped separately

3tbsp tomato puree

1 x 400ml tin of full-fat coconut milk

200g leafy greens, like chard, leaves and stems finely chopped

Yoghurt, to serve (optional)

For the spice mix:

1.5tsp ground turmeric

2tbsp ground cumin or 1.5tbsp cumin seeds, roughly ground

2tbsp ground coriander or 1.5tbsp coriander seeds

2tbsp black mustard seeds, roughly ground

A pinch of chilli flakes or chilli powder

A big pinch of sea salt and black pepper

For the pink pickled onions:

2 large red onions, thinly sliced

Juice of 2 limes or 4tbsp vinegar

A big pinch of sea salt

2tsp maple syrup (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to fan 220°C/Gas mark 9 and melt two tablespoons of the ghee or oil on a large baking tray in the oven.

2. Meanwhile, mix the spice mix in a small bowl and slice up three of the parsnips into about 18 wedges, say 5cm x 1.5cm, then toss the parsnip wedges in the oil on the tray with half of the spice mix. Pop in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, tossing halfway through with the maple syrup, until golden and going crispy at the edges.

3. In a large pan, fry the onion in the remaining two tablespoons of ghee over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, while you get on with everything else.

4. Add the remaining half of the spice mix, plus the garlic and ginger and fry for three minutes.

5. Add the diced parsnips and lentils, the chopped coriander stems and the tomato puree and let fry. After a minute, add the coconut milk, then fill up the tin four times with hot water (1.6 litres) and pour in, stirring well. Pop the lid on, bring to the boil and immediately turn down to a medium heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. Stir a few times throughout to make sure the lentils don't stick. Add more liquid if you think it needs it or if you like your dahl soupier, like I do.

6. Meanwhile, scrunch and massage the red onion in a bowl with the lime juice, salt and maple syrup, if using, for 30 seconds, then leave to bathe in the salty lime juice.

7. Once the lentils and parsnips in the pan are cooked, add the chopped greens, pop the lid on so they steam for three to five minutes until just tender, then taste for seasoning. Serve up each bowl, topped with the roasted parsnips, coriander leaves, pink pickled onions and their juices and a dollop of yoghurt, if you like.

Noodle soup

"There's nothing quite like a warming bowl of homemade soup to make you feel a thousand times better," says food writer Melissa Hemsley. "If I've had a Sunday roast chicken, I make this on a Monday to get a great boost of vegetables in.

"It's based on store cupboard and freezer ingredients like frozen peas, onion, garlic and carrots, though you could swap in anything that needs using up. You can up the amount of vegetables or noodles here, so adjust to your liking. Post-Christmas and other celebrations, this is a fantastic way to use up leftover turkey or any other leftover meats."


(Serves 4)

1tbsp ghee or butter

1 large leek or onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1.2 litres vegetable stock or bone broth

1 big handful of a mix of fresh herbs, like parsley and dill, leaves and stems chopped

1tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1tsp dried

1 bay leaf, dried or fresh

2 celery sticks, diced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

2 handfuls of 2cm chunks of root veg like sweet potato, squash, pumpkin, potato or (in the summer) courgette

400g noodles or spaghetti, any type

1tsp olive oil

300g mix of cabbage, rainbow chard and/or chard, stems finely chopped and leaves shredded

300g leftover shredded chicken

Juice of 1/4 lemon or 1tsp apple cider vinegar

2 big handfuls of frozen peas or sweetcorn

Sea salt and black pepper


1. In a large wide saucepan, heat the ghee or butter and fry the leek or onion over a medium heat for eight minutes while you prep everything else. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.

2. Add the stock or broth, chopped parsley or dill stems, thyme, bay leaf, celery, carrot, root veg and some salt and pepper, pop the lid on and cook for 15 minutes until the carrot is almost tender.

3. Meanwhile, cook the noodles in a separate pan until almost tender (check the label for suggested timings), then drain and rinse under cold water to stop them cooking further. Toss with the olive oil to stop them clumping and set aside.

4. Back to your soup pan: add the chopped cabbage and chard stems, shredded chicken, lemon juice or vinegar and cook for a few more minutes.

5. Add the chard leaves, frozen peas or sweetcorn and cooked noodles for a final two minutes so that the chard wilts, the peas cook and the noodles heat through. Season to taste and serve up straight away, topped with the fresh herb leaves.

Tahini cookies

"The vegan version of these are just as delicious, none of us can decide which we love the most," says food writer Melissa Hemsley. "Store these cakey cookies in an airtight container for five days. You could warm them briefly in the oven to give them a little crispening boost.

"The dough freezes well, so double up and save half for a rainy day. Just defrost, then slice into portions before putting in the oven."


(Makes 16)

2 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla extract

150g light tahini

110g smooth nut butter

100g good-quality dark chocolate, broken up into squares, or chips

30g black and/or white sesame seeds

A pinch of sea salt


1. Preheat the oven to fan 170°C/gas mark 5. Line a large baking tray with reusable baking paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs then mix in the baking powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Add the tahini and nut butter and mix together until very well combined.

3. Roughly chop the chocolate (if not using chips) and fold through the batter along with the sesame seeds.

4. Measure out 16 balls of the cookie batter, roughly one tablespoon each, and bake for 10-15 minutes on the lined baking tray (making sure to leave a little room between each one) until the cookies are just set. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a little sea salt and allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

- For vegans, replace the two eggs with one large mashed ripe banana. You can also swap the nut butter for the same amount of a seed butter or tahini for a nut-free alternative.

Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley is published by Ebury Press


Be the first to comment on this article
Interactive Topics, send us your comments/opinion on this article.

Please note that The Portugal News may use selected comments in the printed edition of the newspaper.