Real food: Goat shank casserole with leek & carrot sauce

In an effort to eat more sustainably, I've been exploring meat options that have less impact on the environment. Goat is one meat that is considered 'greener'. I’ve mentioned why before, here. The other week I bought a few goat shanks from a farmers’ market, headed home and made up this recipe as I went. I served it with mashed potato but it would go equally well with creamy butter beans. Sadly I didn’t take a photo before it was gobbled up. Hence a pic that doesn't match the recipe (sorry about that!). You'll just have to trust me that it looks and tastes delicious.

Photo by Manuela Cifra

Goat shank casserole with leek and carrot sauce

4 goat shanks
4 dutch carrots, diced
1 large leek, sliced
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
1/2 bottle savignon blanc (preferably organic or preservative free)
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Knob of unsalted butter


Mark Tuckey on sustainable design

Photo by Mikkel Vang
Sooo, it's been a while between design drinks but I've got a doozie for you now... a look inside the gorgeous Sydney beach home of furniture designer Mark Tuckey and his stylist wife Louella (the front yard is the beach). Tuckey shows that recycled, sustainable furniture need not scream its eco-friendly status, it doesn't have to look 'recycled'. Tuckey's pieces are all made in Melbourne using predominantly Australian wood, either recycled or from certified sustainably-managed forests. What I love is that each piece stands bold, sleek, modern and elegant, holding the green flag in silent activism - "Hello, I'm a tree-hugger, actually".

Photo via Mark Tuckey

What's your design and decorating philosophy?
Mark says - We design what we like to live with ourselves. Often it’s about the materials at hand. When using timber its only solid, recycled or sustainable forestry timber. We decorate with things that we find in our day-to-day life, things that are part of our journey through life. It’s eclectic and a lot of our art (most) is from artist friends.
Louella says - We would love to be a little more minimal at home but we have too many bits and bobs that we love. In a perfect world we would love to have more space to play with, but with a beach out the front who can complain?

Photo by Mikkel Vang

What does sustainable design/decorating mean to you? Why is it so important?
It means using “real” materials, recycled and environmentally friendly. It’s important to help spread the environmentally-friendly message through design, as we believe that people take more notice of what they see than what they hear.

Photo by Mikkel Vang

Photo by Mikkel Vang

What inspires you?
Our children. Having a life where we can create things we feel very proud of. Nature, and a good red.

What do you love about working with wood?
It’s organic, slightly unpredictable, versatile and good to look at. It develops beautiful patina with age.

Photo via Mark Tuckey

What are you passionate about?
Outdoor life, our kids, our business, our friends, our pets (8 of them), being self employed, making a small environmental statement through our work.

If you were a piece of timber, what would you hope you’d be transformed into?
Mark - A Totem pole.
Louella - A piece of driftwood, as long as somebody found me on the beach.

Photo via Mark Tuckey

Photo via Mark Tuckey

Photo via Mark Tuckey


7 real food ideas that’ll make your week

This post has been updated.
Photo by Amanda Niehaus

I’ve always loved cooking, but now that I’m on a mission to eat only real food (no processed foods) I’m cooking a WHOLE lot more. I’m paying more attention to the kinds of food I eat - trying my best to eat a sustainable, low-impact diet – and preparing more from scratch. I’ve become interested in how to properly prepare foods. Did you know you’re meant to soak nuts before eating them? Seriously. I had no idea. Here’s some real food tips I’ve picked up that are enlightening my culinary world.

1. Why you should always soak nuts (and grains and seeds)
They’re termed activated nuts. There are two reasons why you should soak nuts prior to eating them. The first is because nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that put a huge strain on your system because your body is forced to use its own supply of enzymes to digest the nuts. Using your body’s own enzymes is a big no no and speedens the ageing process. Soaking nuts before you eat them neutralises the inhibitors and activates their own digestive enzymes, making it easier for you to digest and increasing the amount of vitamins available to you.

The second is that nuts (in fact all grains and seeds) contain the poisonous phytic acid that when eaten can combine with minerals such as calcium and zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This can cause all sorts of problems like mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

You can buy activated nuts from health food stores. They're expensive (I’m talking double the price of raw nuts) but given the health benefits, worth it. I tried activating some almonds myself (soaking overnight in water and salt then dehydrating in the oven) but even the lowest setting was too hot (ideal temp is 60-65 C) so they ended up roasting, which destroys all the vitamins, not what you want. You're meant to use a dehydrator, so if you happen to have one then I'd recommend trying it out yourself. Soak overnight with a tablespoon of salt, drain and rinse, then place in dehydrator for 12-24 hours.

I soaked another bunch of almonds yesterday and tasted them just like that, not dehydrated. Actually I really liked them. Really liked them! They have a lovely smooth texture (if you've ever had an almond tree, the texture is akin to young almonds). You need to store them in the fridge if you're not going to dehydrate, so they don't go mouldy. Or freeze them.


How to get more connected, and happier

Photo via Urban Jungle

I have this theory that one of the most fundamental reasons why we’ve gotten to where we are today (record rates of species extinction, pollution of our waterways, global warming, soil degradation, chronic unhappiness) is because we’ve lost our connection to nature. In fact, I think we’ve forgotten we are part of it.

In her recent book Partnering with Nature, author Catriona MacGregor emphasises that by living and working in the artificial environments we’ve created for ourselves (thank you industrial revolution), where we spend much of our time indoors, under fluoro lighting, in front of a glowing screen, we have deprived ourselves of our vital connection with the natural world.

I bang on about this a fair bit. With two-thirds of Australians living in major cities, most of us can eat, work, play and do everything in between without ever having to connect with nature. As a result, we’ve become spiritually disassociated from the natural world. A bit woo-woo? Maybe. But no less true. A side effect of this way of living, albeit unintended, has been that we don’t think about how the way we live, on a day-to-day basis, impacts on the natural world.


3 dead easy ways to live more sustainably right now... and how to pursuade others to do the same

Tim Cotter knows how to change people. In fact, he's built a career around changing the behaviour and culture of communities and organisations, tranforming people's relationship with the planet and helping them to live more sustainably.

Tim trained as a psychologist, worked in organisational change for 12 years, then decided he'd use his talents for the good of our planet and established Awake, a sustainable behaviour change consultancy.

As to what inspired him...

"It's simple. Plan A is not working. The very definition of unsustainable means it cannot continue. How can we continue acting in a way which cannot realistically continue? Kind of insane when you think about it. As a behaviour and culture change specialist, I decided a few years ago that this is the world's biggest culture change project, so why would I put my energy anywhere else?"

Too true. We simply can't continue to live the way we are. We, the earth, the plants, the animals, just ain't gonna hold up. According to Tim, the three most important actions people can take right now to reduce their impact on the environment are:


Twinkies aren't real food... and other ways to eat more sustainably

This week I read a stat that really made me stop and think. I read that

up to a quarter of our ecological footprint comes from food consumption.

Up to a quarter. Just from eating. Now obviously I was aware that our eating habits impact the planet, and I’d already committed to eating sustainably, but this stat really brought it home for me, because it put a figure to it.

The food choices we make impact on our planet through all the energy, water, land, chemicals and other polluting resources used up and spewed out during food production, processing, packaging, and distribution (food miles). Large factory farms and food manufacturing plants use more resources and produce more pollution than smaller, biodynamic and organic farms. In the end, air, soil, water, human, animal and plant health are impacted upon.

When I tell people that I’m eating only ‘real food’ to do my bit for the environment (and my health), most look at me like I just told them I’ve decided to cut off both my legs. They deem it completely unnecessary. I’ve realised most of us don’t understand how our individual food choices impact the environment. And it’s little wonder. With most people buying meat and carrots neatly wrapped in plastic trays off a supermarket shelf, few people ever see the factory farm their scotch fillet came from, or the effect years of chemical fertilising has had on the soil those carrots grew in.

By eating real food - food that is local, seasonal, unprocessed and ethical - we can reduce the size of the footprint we make on our beautiful planet. Here’s my sustainable eating plan:


Consume less, smile more

We all buy ‘stuff’. You know, that stuff we want but don’t really need. Once, I bought a plastic egg separator because it hadn’t yet occurred to me that I could use the egg shells to do the job. Derr right? But we all do it, buy stuff simply because it seems like a good idea at the time - we think it’ll make our lives easier… we don’t have the patience to repair… we want to look stylish… we want to occupy our two year olds with another plastic talking singing accordion thingy…

This week I consume less ‘stuff’… and get happier.

Every year an estimated $5 billion is spent on ‘stuff’ we rarely or never use, stuff we want but don’t actually need. On average, each of us generates over 2,000kg of waste every year. Around half of that gets recycled, the other half ends up in landfill. Cringe.

Consuming less is better for the environment - less resources used up, less pollution. Sure, we’ve heard that before. But there’s more. Consuming less is also better for us...