How to eat in a more sustainable way

How to eat in a more sustainable way

by Adam Handling 02 June 2020

Chef Adam Handling shares his top tips for making small steps to a more sustainable way of shopping for and eating food, before sharing three recipes that champion some of his favourite suppliers.

With countless awards to his name and an ever-growing empire of restaurants, Adam Handling has achieved a huge amount in his illustrious career. Taking inspiration from his travels, utilising modern cooking techniques and sourcing the best of British produce results in flavourful dishes full of playful twists and theatre.

With countless awards to his name and an ever-growing empire of restaurants, Adam Handling has achieved a huge amount in his illustrious career. Taking inspiration from his travels, utilising modern cooking techniques and sourcing the best of British produce results in flavourful dishes full of playful twists and theatre.

Choosing to eat in a more sustainable way isn’t something that can happen overnight; it’s more of a gradual change that takes time. Unless you’re entirely self-sufficient, it’s pretty difficult to make radical changes about the way you buy and cook food – but there are some meaningful ways that we can make some shifts that are good for both ourselves and our environment.

At our restaurants we follow a certain ethos when it comes to sourcing ingredients; something which can translate into the home kitchen too. Below are five guidelines to follow which can help pave the way to a more sustainable way of buying and eating food.

  • Avoid ‘value’ meat or poultry products: there’s a reason why these products are cheaper, and usually it’s because of the intensive way the animals have been reared. Quite simply, they’ve not had a very good life.

  • Avoid processed foods and ready meals: they’re full of additives and ingredients that you’d never include in your own recipes, so why should we be eating them at all?

  • Look for accredited suppliers: when you see the Red Tractor mark on British produce, or the MCS logo on fish and seafood, you know that the producers are working to a decent standard of welfare and care for livestock, the land and the sea.

  • Buy locally: support your local butcher, baker, greengrocer and fishmonger. Now more than even it’s important to spend your money within your community, and helping to keep these independent businesses afloat is crucial to the survival of the high street too.

  • Buy seasonally: from every perspective, it makes sense to buy foods from as close to their point of production as possible. They’re going to be fresher, but it’s also important to eat seasonally as this is when ingredients will have the best flavour and texture.

We work with a number of top producers very closely, and have used their best quality ingredients to create some of our favourite recipes at all the Adam Handling restaurants. A lot of them are now selling direct to the public, too, which means you can enjoy their produce at home. Below are three easy recipes which put top-quality ingredients front and centre.

Broccoli Caesar

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For fresh produce we deal with Smith and Brock, which has launched a delivery service called Knock Knock whilst restaurants are closed. The company works with smaller, artisanal producers and pays a fair price across the seasons. The team gets access to the best ingredients, which are grown for flavour rather than commercial yield, and sources its produce direct from family-run businesses across the world. All the delivery boxes are made from recycled cardboard, which they can take back to recycle again, and they prefer paper bags over plastic.

This dish takes a simple vegetable – broccoli – and makes it the star of the show with a delicious Caesar-style dressing. Taking just half an hour to make, it will serve four as a side or light lunch.

For the broccoli:

2 broccoli

1 tbsp table salt

Olive oil, for frying

For the mayonnaise:

2 egg yolks (save the whites to make meringue or marshmallows)

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

400ml vegetable oil

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp water

6 garlic cloves, finely grated

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 lemon, juiced and zested

200g Parmesan, grated

Table salt

For the broccoli, peel the stalks and then cut each head into quarters. Drizzle with olive oil, then place them into a hot pan over a high heat. Cook until roasted and dark brown all over, turning occasionally, then season with salt.

While the broccoli roasts, make the mayonnaise. Beat the egg yolks with the vinegar and mustard. Gradually add the vegetable oil whilst constantly whisking until light and fluffy. Add the water, then drizzle in the olive oil, whisking all the time until everything is incorporated and emulsified. Add the shallots, garlic, lemon zest and half the Parmesan and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and lemon juice.

To serve, place the hot broccoli on a plate and dress liberally with the mayonnaise – the heat from the broccoli will melt the cheese. Garnish with the remaining Parmesan.

Salt cod croquettes

Sometimes you need to calculate whether it’s more sustainable to enjoy eating something which has come from further away, as it may work out to be more environmentally friendly. Alaskan seafood definitely fits into this category – the fishing is as sustainable as it gets, and the produce happens to taste amazing too. You’ll need to cure the cod for twenty-four hours, so there’s a little planning required, but the recipe itself is incredibly simple. This will make a nice big batch of croquettes – they’re suitable for freezing before frying too.

250g coarse salt, plus extra to season

1kg cod fillet

Olive oil, to cover

1kg mashed potato

2 eggs, beaten

Plain flour, for dusting

Breadcrumbs, for coating

Vegetable oil, for shallow-frying

Tartare sauce, to serve

Cover the cod in the coarse salt, cover and place in the fridge to cure for twenty-four hours. The next day, wash off the salt. Pour plenty of olive oil into a large pan and place in an oven heated to 120°C to warm up. Add the cod, ensuring it is fully submerged in the oil, then return to the oven and cook for around 25 minutes, or until flaky.

Lift the cod out of the oil and mix with the mashed potato. Season with a little salt and pepper, then roll the mixture into balls around 1.5cm in diameter. Set up a crumbing station with a bowl of flour, the beaten eggs in a second bowl and the breadcrumbs in a third bowl. Roll each croquette in the flour, then then egg, then the breadcrumbs, ensuring they are well coated.

Fry the croquettes in vegetable oil for around 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden all over. Serve hot with tartare sauce for dipping.

Good mood crispy chicken

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For this recipe, we use chicken thighs from Sutton Hoo Chickens, which are reared in the heart of the Suffolk countryside across forty acres of meadows. They rear their chickens slowly, to the highest welfare standards and use traditional free-range farming methods with constant access to the outdoors, sunshine and plenty of room to roam on natural grassland. The result is chicken ‘like it used to taste’. This recipe will serve around five people.

For the chicken:

500g deboned chicken thighs, diced (leave the skin on)

0.5 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

50ml soy sauce

70g potato starch, cornflour or tapioca flour

For the sauce:

30g unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

30g ginger, grated

110g sugar

50ml soy sauce

50g gochujang (a Korean chilli paste available in large supermarkets)

50ml rice vinegar

For the garnish:

1 lime, cut into wedges

Coriander leaves

Begin by combining the soy sauce, black pepper and chicken thighs in a bowl. If you have time, leave this to marinate for a few hours as it will give the meat a deeper flavour.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the onion and ginger. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, or until softened. Pour in the sugar and cook until dissolved, then add the gochujang, vinegar and soy sauce. Cook for around 10 minutes over a low heat, until the liquid has reduced and you are left with a spicy, sticky sauce.

To cook the chicken, toss the thighs in the potato starch (or cornflour or tapioca starch), which will ensure a crispy texture. Fry the meat in a hot pan with a dash of vegetable oil until browned and cooked through. Remove almost all of the chicken and add 2 large tablespoons of the sauce to the pan, then stir – the small amount of oil should loosed the texture slightly. Return the rest of the chicken to the pan and stir until all the pieces are evenly covered in sauce.

To serve, arrange the sticky chicken on a plate and serve with some coriander scattered on top and lime wedges on the side.