The Glasgow Climate Change Conference – COP26 – has us thinking

We will be watching world leaders meeting in Glasgow in November and hoping that the decisions they make, on our behalf, on the environment will be good ones.

If everyone starts doing a few simple things in their kitchens, not necessarily in one go, we could make an impact on our collective carbon footprint.

What we are speaking of is a culture change where we need to try to think more sustainably. With all that we see in the world with droughts, wild fires and floods, we all need to try and think of how we can collectively contribute to reducing our environmental impact.

Cookery School, as a school, has a remit based on sharing knowledge. On our sustainability journey over the past 20 years we have accrued knowledge that we can all use to participate in lowering our collective carbon footprint. Our shopping, cooking and eating habits have a far greater impact that most of us realise.

At Cookery School we are continually reviewing our practices because the sustainability landscape is ever changing.  Our journey was not an overnight one but a continual process. We started over 20 years ago and one of the first principles was to use organic products whenever we could find them. Use of endangered fish species soon followed although the list was not as it now is. Seabass, skate, turbot and halibut featured on many of our menus.

Use of plastics dropped out of our repertoire many years ago and we have developed alternative means such as using Pyrex glass dishes with lids for chilling and freezing. More recently we have discovered silicone freezer containers, although these need to be further perfected.

Many of the suppliers we use now (Sole of Discretion, Shipton Mill, Rhug, Rookery Farm, Vintage Roots, Yeo Valley, Original Beans, Duffys, Langridge, Delphis Eco, Good Energy, Thames Water and First Mile) are those with whom we started – and others have been added along the way, as we know that they are as passionate about their products as we are.

How we can all help the environment

It is important that we all make a start, no matter how small it is. Small steps are required by many to start bringing about change and there is no time like the present to start it before it is too late.

Here are a few suggestions, starting with food and kitchen recycling, that we hope may help you extend or even begin your sustainable kitchen journey:

Food waste

* Food waste plays a part in being responsible for production of both CO2 and methane when in food mountains so we try not to allow it to reach those.

* Slightly older veg that looks past its best  can be used in soups and stews when it cannot be eaten raw.  Any veg can be thrown into a soup but it must be flavoursome. Our advice is always to start by frying onions, shallots or leeks as the base of the soup and adding a good vegetable stock.  A tin of baked beans thrown in adds tomato and protein so from veg that would be wasted a wonderful soup emerges. Even better is if you serve it with a well flavoured garlic, olive oil and basil or parsley mixture (just put them together and whizz up in a blender).

* Some of the most wasted products are milk, bread, potatoes and bananas.  Millions of gallons and tonnes of these are thrown away each year.  We suggest using bread and milk in sweet and savoury bread and butter puddings, cooking potatoes and freezing them for use at a later stage and freezing bananas to make a fantastic and easiest ever banana ice cream (recipe attached).  Bananas are great in cakes, bread and muffins .

* Freezing is a great way of saving food too.  Whatever leftovers you have from a meal, rather than tossing them into the bin, pop them into a freezable container and keep as a small snack meal or even a meal for one. Lovely to go the fridge and find a surprise meal that simply needs microwaving and eating.

* When cooking, make double quantities and freeze half. This will cut down on waste with definite portion sizes.

* If you have leftover herbs, immediately freeze them. They freeze brilliantly and enhance soups, stews and sauces and also help ensure that you always have a source of fresh herbs, rather than dried herbs to hand.

* Try to use as little meat as possible and make vegetables the star of as many meals as you can. Meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases. It is a less expensive but also very delicious way of eating.  Make portion sizes smaller and try and use cuts of meat that are less popular.  Often these are cheaper cuts that stew well and are more flavoursome than chops or steaks or the like.  Some restaurants now serve vegetables as the main and meat or poultry as the side dish.  It is a changed way of thinking.

Kitchen recycling

The more you can recycle the better from packaging through to foods that are very well past being used.

* If you do end up with food that is not being eaten (as little as possible hopefully), see if your local authority has a food recycling scheme.

* If you have over bought food, think about contacting food banks or organisations like Olio who will re-distribute it.

* If you are able to have a compost heap, please add any vegetable peelings, etc to it.  This is one of the most sustainable ways of dealing with vegetable food waste.  In a food mountain a lettuce would take 25 years (yes, that is true!) to degrade as the methane generated by all of the decomposing food inhibits the breakdown and contributes vastly to green house gases.

* Recycling is more important than ever, even oil and coffee grinds can be collected and recycled. Again contact your local authority to try and have them start collecting these if they do not yet.

* Try to think about limiting water use.  We have always taken water for granted but are told that it is becoming a commodity that in future could be in short supply.  Try not to wash dishes under running water.

* Fatbergs are a problem so do not pour oil or liquid fats down the drain.  Ask your local authority if they have a fat recycling scheme or save up your fats and oils in a large tin and find a recycling company that will collect from you on a regular basis.

* If possible, try and convert your energy use to renewable energy. Using fossil fuel based energy takes a heavy toll on the environment and pushes up greenhouse gas emissions.

* Whenever you are using the oven, try and ensure that you cook as much as possible in one go.  Of energy taken in to heat an electric oven, only 12% of it is used to heat it with the rest being lost to the environment. With gas ovens it is 6%.  Best of all is if you are able to use a hob for the majority of your cooking as the heat from the cooking ring goes directly into the saucepan above it. Using a lid on your saucepans also optimises the energy that is used.

We hope you found those few suggestions helpful.  Please do contact us if you would like to know anything more.

The Sustainable Kitchen

For the past few years we run an accredited course for our staff, suppliers and professional courses called Sustainable Kitchen where we address the role that kitchens play in being as sustainable as possible. If you are interested in this course, please do let us know.  We can then add it to our repertoire of classes and offer it to the public.

We have run an increasing number of corporate sustainable events over the last few years. Companies feel that sustainability in the kitchen is a good introduction to the wider subject. If this is of interest to you please do contact us as we love to help you plan a team building or client entertainment event.