Otter’s Rebecca Smith has sought out tips for a sustainable and tasty Christmas lunch from some of our favourite food organisations and a stylist.
I don’t know about you, but my stomach is already rumbling for Christmas lunch. It’s that one meal a year I excessively overcook for, enjoy far too much, and then spend the rest of the day regretting; not wanting to eat another bite ever again.
So before I reach that point of food repulsion this year, I decided to have a think about how to turn my Christmas lunch into a more sustainable one, a fairer one, a friendlier one and a less wasteful one. It’s my way of doing my bit on a day that is typically, and traditionally, horribly wasteful.
Not knowing exactly where to start, I sought the advice of some of Otter’s favourite safe, green and fair experts and organisations – Sustainable Table, Green Villages, Alexx Stuart and GoodFishBadFish –as well as super sytlist Christina Sunario. This is the advice that they had for me, and for you.
The savoury bits
Sustainable Table had these two tips to share on ways to minimise the impact of your main course this christmas lunch.
We Aussies sure do love our meat and at Christmas time, we ramp things up, what with all that Christmas ham and turkey action. But experts agree that today’s high meat consumption rates are harming the environment. So instead of following the traditional formula, why not choose to make the vast array of nature’s colourful vegetables the hero of your spread this year? For a plethora of meat-free meal ideas, download our free Meat Free Week 2013 e-cookbook.
Otter tip: For more ideas on a veggie Christmas, check out Jamie Oliver’s vegetarian Christmas recipes
Not quite ready to ditch the meat? Make sure your Christmas ham is an ethical one by asking around for truly free range or certified organic/biodynamic pork. Use our online ethical meat suppliers guide to help you out (Vic and NSW only).
Are you planning an Aussie summer seafood spread for lunch this year? Here’s what GoodFishBadFish had to share about how to minimise the impact of your seafood choices this Christmas.
- Before you ‘throw a prawn on the barbie’ for christmas lunch make sure that you’re purchasing Australian prawns, preferably from a certified fishery such as the Spencer Gulf in SA or QLD’s Northern Prawn Fishery. Prawns imported into Australia will always have the head and shell removed, so when in doubt, buy whole prawns to guarantee that they’re Australian.
- Shellfish are a great option for the Christmas table – all of the oysters and mussels available in Australia are farmed using low-impact methods that can improve water-quality within their environments. A platter of these beauties to share makes an impressive and sustainable start to Christmas lunch!
- Buy fresh, local, unpackaged seafood to ensure that the impact of transportation, packaging and refrigeration of your seafood is reduced. Highly processed and packaged seafood, especially that from overseas, has a high carbon footprint, so consider the real cost of that ‘cheap’ seafood before you buy
- Finally, celebrate seafood! There are many fantastic, local, sustainable seafood options available, wherever you are in Australia. Talk to your fishmonger, try something new, and enjoy the quality and diversity of Australian seafood this Christmas season.
Otter tip: if you have a fish recipe in mind, but you’re not sure if there’s a more sustainable fish option with a similar flavour, run it past the GoodFishBadFish Seafood Converter, and see what alternatives they suggest.
The sweet bits
When thinking about dessert, Maria from Sustainable Table warns of the hidden ingredients in store-bought treats.
Stocking up on fruit mince pies and chocolate boxes? Be sure to check for palm oil in the ingredients list and opt for palm oil-free products. Use our handy pocket guide to identify palm oil in ingredients lists.
For a palm oil-free dessert recipe, Maria recommended Sustainable Table’s chocolate and stout pancakes with cherries.
Otter tip: if you are making something chocolaty for desert this christmas, or if you’re after some chocolates to have with your post-meal tea or coffee, have a look at Otter’s quick and easy guide to finding a chocolate brand that suits your values.
What to do with the leftovers
Green Villages offer these tips (from their cooking with leftovers workshop) on staying organised and reducing the amount of food wasted this holiday season.
Make sure to plan ahead. As soon as you know what you’re going to cook for Christmas, find recipes which use that dish as a main ingredient to eat over the next few days, so you don’t have to go out and buy all new ingredients. A good example of this is serving a chicken or turkey salad for boxing day – it’s using up food from Christmas Day but it’s different enough for people to want to eat it again so soon. (We) have published three great recipes for Christmas leftovers, check them out here.
Nothing from the fridge should stay out on the counter for over two hours, and leftovers (can) be frozen in portion-sized containers as they usually only keep for about three days in the fridge. Once you master these you can make sure nothing goes off – or is thrown out – when it doesn’t need to.
Be a little strategic and serve anything that will be hard to store later on, first, so that hungry guests will be sure to finish it. This should be the case for any kind of seafood or meat dishes.
Get old-school with your ham–wrap it in a cloth that’s soaked in a bit of vinegar, change it every 2-3 days, and you should be able to keep it for a number of weeks!
Want an excuse to continue the festivities on Boxing Day? Alexx Stuart (real food and low-tox living guru) suggests a Boxing Day leftovers pot-luck food swap!
We did it for years and it’s great. Other people’s leftovers aren’t as boring as yours, so everyone gets a whole new spread of choices and no one has to worry about making anything or wasting anything over the Christmas weekend!
Alexx also suggests making a soup out of whatever turkey or ham you don’t eat on the day.
Get a slow cook soup on the stove literally as it is pulled off the lunch/ dinner table. So many people let things sit there too long, and then worry if it’s ok and end up throwing leftover meats out. Get an onion and carrot rough chopped and into a pot, bit of celery, a few herbs and get simmering on low while you chat away into the night. With the turkey meat, go carcass and all in a big pot, so you get all the goodness from the bones, or with ham, add some peas and blitz after a couple of hours for a delicious pea and ham soup.
Green up your table setting
Architect, stylist, and friend of Otter, Christina Sunario, has shared her fantastic ideas for making your Christmas table a more sustainable one. (Click image to enlarge).
And if your lunch starts to stretch out after the sun goes down, and you’re looking for mood lighting, Alexx Stuart suggests avoiding paraffin candles as they are petroleum derived. Try your hand at making a beeswax candle instead. It’s better for you and the environment and it will fill your room with a comforting sweet honey smell that will lull you into a comfortable post-food coma. (Otter tip: make your own candle with this recipe or this one)
Otter tip – If you can’t avoid using disposable plates and cups, try to find sustainable alternatives to the supermarket brands.Try re-usable palm or sugarcane plates or PLA biodegradable and compostable cups and crockery.
Wondering where to pick up your christmas ingredients? Find out if there’s a special christmas Farmers Market on near you, for Christmas fare that’s seasonal, local and direct from the farm. Check The Australian Farmers Markets Association to find your nearest farmers market.
For more ideas on sustainable eating this holiday season, see Sustainable Table’s Christmas Survival Guide.
Click here for upcoming workshops with Green Villages.
By Rebecca Smith, Otter staff member.
Thank you to all our contributors for their tips and support!