When I began this modest little blog four years ago I had two aims in mind.
Firstly, I wanted to show that vegetarian food can be delicious, exciting and nutritious. Secondly, the blog would give me a platform for sounding off about those aspects of the food industry that I don’t like – which is pretty much all of it.
I had previously decided to become a vegetarian not because I don’t like meat but because I had reasoned with myself that I did not need to eat meat in order to survive. What right did I have to deprive another living creature of its life, simply “for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh”, as Plutarch once put it?
But there is another ethical dimension to meat eating, and that is the terrible environmental damage that the meat industry is wreaking on our planet. Not only is it a hugely inefficient way of creating protein, the meat industry is also the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
It so happens that today marks Earth Overshoot Day, the day in the calendar when humankind has already used up the equivalent of a year’s worth of natural resources. It marks our continuing failure to adapt towards a more sustainable pattern of existence.
When Overshoot Day was first calculated, back in the mid-1980s, it fell on 19 December. In recent years the rate of acceleration has slowed (last year Overshoot Day fell on August 8th, the previous year August 13th), but we are still depleting resources faster than they can be replaced. We currently consume 1.7 planets worth of resources from this finite planet of ours each year. In short, we are continuing to career blindly towards our own demise.
While President Trump was fatuously repudiating the Paris Climate Change Agreement at the recent G20 summit in Hamburg, the other 19 signatories all reaffirmed their commitment to it.
One of those nineteen – China – has been slowly embracing its commitments under the Agreement in a way that gives me genuine hope.
One of the measures the Chinese government is looking to implement is a 50% reduction in the country’s meat consumption by 2030. If China succeeds in this aim, it would move the date of Overshoot Day back by one and a half days. If the rest of the world followed suit it would move Overshoot Day back by considerably more.
Food consumption patterns are, of course, only one element of the problem of resource depletion, but if we are to have any chance of turning this around, food production and the food industry will have to undergo a transformation.
Organic farming, which helps trap greenhouse gases in the soil, is part of the solution, but of even more impact would be a worldwide reduction in meat consumption.
On to the recipe. This is really delicious as a side dish or served as a quick, healthy lunch accompanied by some steamed jasmine rice.
You can increase the suggested quantity of shallots if you wish. I prefer to make a big batch of crispy shallots. After draining on kitchen paper, the crispy shallots can be stored for a couple of weeks in an airtight container, to be sprinkled over the top of other stir-fry dishes.
stir fried green beans with crispy shallots
400 g green beans
5 cm piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
50 ml soy sauce
1 tsp maple syrup
Juice of half a lime
for the crispy shallots
120 g shallots, very thinly sliced
groundnut oil for frying
1. Pour the groundnut oil into a wok or pan to a depth of 3cm. Place over a high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the sliced shallots and cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes or until they turn golden and crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and set to one side.
2. Leave the shallot oil to cool before straining through a fine sieve or muslin cloth. Pour two tablespoons of this oil into a wok. Place over a high heat and once the oil begins to shimmer add the beans. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the beans begin to blister and colour. Add the chopped chilli, garlic and ginger and stir vigorously for a further two minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
3. Add the soy sauce and maple syrup, continuing to stir vigorously. As soon as the sauce begins to bubble up, remove the wok from the heat. Pour the lime juice over the beans and stir in.
4. Tip the beans and sauce into a dish and scatter with the crispy shallots.