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  • Catherine Myburgh

Veggie Dhal & Less Waste



A fragrant, grounding, wholesome, healing and delicious dhal, that makes leftovers something worth looking forward to. This is such a versatile and easy recipe that I make at least once a week without fail.


RECIPE | Serves: 4 | Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (400g) chopped or peeled plum tomatoes

  • 0.5 cup coconut milk/cream

  • 1.5 cups water

  • 1 cup red split lentils

  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger

  • 2 small crushed or finely chopped garlic gloves (can sub 0.5-1 tsp. garlic powder)

  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric

  • 0.5 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp. chilli flakes

  • 1 tbsp. garam masala spice blend (or curry powder of choice)

  • 1 red/white onion (finely diced)

  • 1 sweet bell pepper

  • 1-2 tsp. olive oil (optional, but recommended)

  • 1 carrot (grated)

  • 0.5 the juice of a lemon (approximately 2 tbsp.)

  • 1 large courgette/zucchini (approximately 1 cup grated)

  • Salt & pepper to taste


To serve:

  • Fresh herbs: roughly chopped coriander and/or mint.

  • Something creamy and/or some healthy fats: avocado, coconut yoghurt/cream, toasted sesame seeds and/or cashews.

  • Something sweet: unsweetened dried cranberries.

  • Something spicy: fresh chilli or dried chilli flakes.

  • Some carbs: quinoa, jasmine/short grain brown rice, naan/pitta, whole baked sweet potato (or white potato).


Method:

  1. Start off by prepping some veggies. Grate the carrot, slice or dice the bell pepper (capsicum) and set aside for later use.

  2. Thoroughly rinse and drain the lentils.

  3. Finely dice the red onion and add to a pot with some olive oil to lightly caramelise on a high heat for 2-3 minutes.

  4. While the onion begins to soften, peel and crush (or finely chop) the garlic cloves before adding them to the pot along with the ready translucent onions. You may need to add a splash of water to deglaze the pot and prevent the onion and garlic from burning.

  5. Add the spices, ginger, grated carrot, bell pepper, another splash of water and stir to combine. Cook all the spices and vegetables for approximately 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.

  6. Now add the water (1.5 cups), coconut milk (0.5 cup), chopped tomatoes and lentils to the pot.

  7. Bring to a boil before reducing to a light simmer.

  8. Place a lid on the pot and cook for approximately 20 minutes.

  9. While the dhal is cooking, grate a large zucchini and set aside. You may also want to cook some quinoa or rice and chop some fresh herbs at this stage.

  10. After 20 minutes, check your dhal (if it seems too thick you may want to add some more water, alternatively if it’s too runny take the lid off and continue to cook for a few more minutes). At this stage, you should also add the grated zucchini, lemon juice and season with salt & pepper if necessary. (I recommend adding the zucchini right at the end to prevent it from overcooking. Feel free to also add any other greens such as kale or spinach at this stage.)

  11. Cook for 2-3 more minutes, making sure that the dhal is hot & steamy and that the zucchini is lightly cooked.

  12. Serve in bowls with a grain of choice as well as fresh herbs, avocado, toasted seeds, fresh chilli etc. and enjoy! See above for more of my favourite serving suggestions.



As a student I’m all about practical, affordable and conscious cooking. So, for me that means non-negotiable meal prep as well as optimising my produce and minimising my food waste through sustainable storage and careful cooking techniques. Now, this is the usual state of affairs i.e. when I’m studying at uni, attending lectures, rushing to meet deadlines, shopping and cooking only for myself etc. However, since being home things have changed. A lot. Like seriously, my eyes are burning by the amount of waste I’m seeing, and my body is just hating the amount of meat It’s consuming.


The other day, I mentioned via social media that I’ve really decided to focus more on plant-based eating. Why? Firstly, because everyone should eat more plants! This positively impacts your health, the environment and of course reduces animal-product demand.


Secondly, as mentioned, the past couple of weeks my meat intake has been wild, and almost every lunch & dinner has been seafood, chicken, meat or dairy-based. This is completely unnecessary and doesn’t do anything for long-term sustainability or health. Now, personally I will never cut out all animal products (well, maybe in the future we’ll see) or advocate a particular diet. That’s just not me, nor what I’m about. Furthermore, dairy, fish, eggs and lean meats etc. are nutrient-dense and packed with heaps of bioavailable essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats. So, including reasonable amounts of these products within your diet is totally fine and for some, essential. Nonetheless, minimally processed fruits, vegetables and whole grains should still fill up the bulk of your plate and with some extra nutritional awareness, planning and supplementation an entirely plant-based vegan diet can still be incredibly sustainable, maintainable and healthy!


So far, you may have noticed the following words, ‘conscious’, ‘environment’, ‘waste’ and ‘sustainable’.


Can you imagine, that If the human population reaches 9.6 billion people by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets will be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.


Now, I would consider myself ‘eco-aware’, however I’m not so sure whether I can call myself eco-friendly.


I use reusable shopping bags, stainless steel/bamboo straws, a ‘keep cup’, multiuse water bottles etc. and understand the negative impact that consumerism and excess waste are having on the environment, but I am nowhere near doing enough to actively improve my own personal eco-footprint.


Greenhouse gas emissions have risen by almost 50% in the last three decades which has and continues to significantly contribute to climate change, loss of biodiversity, endangerment and extinction. Environmental sustainability should no longer just be a thought, but rather a priority.


So, without further a due let’s get into some sustainable swaps focused on reducing food waste and single-use plastics.


Disclaimer: I am 100% a recovering hypocrite who still buys kale packaged in plastic, ‘keeps wet wipes in her car’ (okay, this has stopped) and wears fast fashion branded clothing. Firstly before I get knocked, organic unpackaged kale is unavailable from my local grocery store (and even if it wasn’t, I’m pretty sure it would be too expensive to even look at, let alone buy) and throwing out perfectly good clothing is wasteful in its own right, I would much rather take a look at what I already own, look after it and make it last as long as possible. Living more sustainably looks different to everyone, and people shouldn’t be attacked if they can’t afford to shop zero waste or haven’t got access to decent bulk stores or affordable, ethical and sustainable clothing brands. Sustainable living is about being mindful of your impact and making as many possible & realistic changes when and where you can. You don’t have to put immense pressure on yourself to be some amazing ‘green goddess’ but equally don’t displace the severity of climate change. It’s real and deserves our recognition & action.


i. Food waste

The human collective produces 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste per year. This equates to approximately one-third of all foods produced & purchased and is responsible for releasing 3.3 billion tonnes of methane into our planet’s atmosphere (a greenhouse gas 20x more damaging to our environment than carbon dioxide). To make matters even worse, such surplus is capable of providing more than enough, yet everyday 870 million people still starve.


In the UK, 70% of ‘downstream’ food waste (i.e. industrial post-production) occurs in households. So really, we as the consumers need to be more mindful of what we’re buying, how we’re storing and what/how we’re tossing.


Some tips:

Upscale your leftovers: or even better, donate and feed others. Just do NOT toss them away (unless you’re at risk of food poisoning, then please do bin them).


This is hands down my top tip. I make a lot of food and have fallen in love with the convenience and versatility of leftovers.


Some recipes naturally taste better the following day, my veggie dhal for instance! However, your ‘meh’ leftovers may require some extra effort to elevate the texture, composition and taste. This is where ‘upscaling your leftovers’ comes into play. The key here is to always add at least one fresh element i.e. fresh herbs, greens, veggies or avocado and one textural element i.e. toasted sourdough or crispy chickpeas. You can even switch up the temperature of your food, serving it hot one day and chilled the next.


I can literally eat dhal for days on repeat by simply switching up the way I serve it. One day I might serve it hot with jasmine rice & fresh coriander, the next I might top it on toasted sourdough with sliced avocado and sesame seeds. Another option would be to serve it with baked sweet potato, fresh mint, dried cranberries and toasted cashews.


Smart storage:

First and foremost, moisture encourages spoilage and moulding. So, if you’re one those people who like to pre-cut and wash their veg make sure to dry them out thoroughly before placing them back in the fridge. This especially applies to foods with a high-water content i.e. leafy greens, berries and grapes. It’s also recommended to store these in glass containers lined with paper towel or cotton. Alternatively, you can invest in green savers.


Some veggies last better at room temp (preferably in a cooler, dry, dark and well-ventilated area) i.e. potatoes, (unprepared) butternut squash/pumpkin, tomatoes, garlic and onions (make sure to always store onions separately from other produce, onions produce a lot of ethylene gas which promotes the ripening and spoilage of other fresh fruits & veg.


Apples, bananas and avocados also produce a lot of ethylene and shouldn’t be stored together or with other fruits. Ideally apples (and citrus) should actually be stored in the fridge away from leafy greens.


Dried goods need to be kept dry, in sealed containers and away from direct sunlight.


Now you might be wondering, but what if I have a small fridge or limited storage space?


This is literally Me. My apples, leafy greens, ripe avocados and lemons etc. are practically balancing on one another at risk of falling out the fridge whenever it’s opened. Not exactly ideal for longevity. I also happen to like the taste of cold cucumbers and tomatoes, which again isn’t great in terms of their storage.


But this leads me on to my next few tips.

Eat seasonally: seasonable fresh produce naturally lasts longer and tastes better (it’s often way cheaper too).


More is less: in terms of buying fresh produce, only buy as much as you need. Remember, you can always buy more if you need, but you can’t save a mouldy strawb.


Freeze food: freeze certain foods that you know you won’t have the chance to eat! I always freeze bread, ripe fruit (for topping on oats or blending into smoothies), veggies (I love adding frozen chopped up onion, bell peppers, garlic and ginger into stir fry’s and frozen spinach and courgette/zucchini into smoothies).


I also recommend freezing leftover cooked grains or using an ice tray to freeze leftover coconut milk/cream, curry pastes and lemon juice/rind.



ii. Is the expanse of plastic really that necessary?

Plastic was developed with a composition & structure designed to last. It does eventually photodegrade, but this can take decades and even centuries.


Unfortunately, plastic-free products and groceries are typically harder to source and more expensive to buy. This has personally been a major drawback. However, in saying that it has also forced me to experiment, research and save on plastics in alternative and unexpected ways that wouldn’t have ordinarily come to mind.


Swaps to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics:


Bulk buy:

If you have access to affordable bulk stores, this is an easy and cost-conscious (it can seem costly at first but trust me you’ll save in the long run) way to reduce plastic waste and stock up on pantry essentials. The key here is to stock up on your favourite long-lasting dried goods i.e. the staple foods that you rarely get tired of and that literally last a lifetime. My top 10 include: oats, rice, quinoa, red split lentils, cocao nibs & cocao powder, chickpea/buckwheat flour, pink himalayan salt, nutritional yeast, nuts & seeds (I’m aware this is technically more than 10, but that’s okay).



SA Bulk stores:

Food Lover’s Market (available in most, if not all regional towns and cities)

De Nude, St Francis Bay

Nude Foods, Cape Town

The Refillery, Johannesburg


Smart swaps:

Swap single use plastic items for bamboo, cotton/linen or stainless-steel reusable alternatives.


Invest in a bamboo toothbrush, cotton or linen grocery/produce bags, reusable cotton face pads/cloths, an eco-cutlery set, a multi-use water bottle and coffee cup as well as glass or stainless-steel food storage containers and lunchboxes (I say invest, because depending on the brand or outlet these products can be expensive to purchase. However, these items are going to last and will save you from spending more in the long run. Just think of how many takeaway coffees, plastic packets and waters you’ve purchased over the years, the costs quickly add up).


Now, these are just a few suggestions to consider. Obviously, if you already own plastic multi-use cutlery or an electric toothbrush or even good-quality plastic tupperwares, don’t throw them out! Just continue to use them for as long as you possibly can.


Similarly, you don’t need to cut out all plastic. If you already own heaps of plastic Ziplock bags, continue to use and reuse them. Also, silicone products contain plastic, yet silicone ice trays, muffin/loaf moulds, baking sheets and freezer bags are super long-lasting, versatile and reusable. So, investing in silicone products doesn’t necessarily need to be ruled out, as long as you continue to maintain and reuse them.


‘Drink more for less’

If you’re coffee-obsessed like me or drink litres of water in a day. You may want to consider the following:


As mentioned, a multi-use water bottle. A single-use plastic water bottle takes 450 years to breakdown. Why buy a bottle of water when you can freely fill up your own? These days, most restaurants and cafes allow this.


The Refill App can also be used to find the nearest free water source whilst out and about.


Fancy sparkling water? Maybe it’s time to invest in a soda stream. Yes, the initial cost is more but again, you’ll be spending less in the long run.


Tea bags often contain trace plastics, try opting for compostable tea bags or loose leaf and a stainless-steel strainer.


Coffee. The plastic in coffee pods takes 500 years to breakdown! That’s a hellava long time. Don’t worry you do NOT need to give away your Nespresso machine or the like, but maybe consider ‘giving your capsules a second life’. Aluminium Nespresso capsules are actively repurposed (all you need to do is find your nearest Nespresso UPS drop-off point or boutique). Unused coffee grounds are composted into nutrient-rich topsoil and the capsule is recycled and sold as new. Alternatively, more and more compostable coffee pods are becoming available on the market i.e. Grind, Rave and Halo, to name a few.


All in all, this post was written with the intention of sharing a delicious easy dhal recipe as well as a few simple and realistic sustainable swaps that anyone can make or work towards. More or less can be done depending on YOUR lifestyle and circumstance.


If you are interested in learning more about long-term sustainability, then I would highly recommend checking out the following resources:


- WWF


Podcasts:


Much love,

Cat x


References:

United Nations (2020) Responsible Consumption and Production. New York: United Nations. Available at:


United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2020) Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Washington: EPA. Available at:


Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) (2020) Food Surplus and Waste in the UK – Key Facts. London: WRAP. Available at:


WWF (2018) The Lifecycle of Plastics. Sydney: WWF. Available at:

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