Sunday, August 26, 2007

Recipes from the garden: Mibuna quiche

A few days ago I was walking through the garden, trying to find something to cook for that night. I had already prepared a crust and was contemplating either a spinach pie or a traditional quiche when I the large, impressive Mibuna leaves struck my eye. Usually, Mibuna is collected when still very young and tender, however, I decided to give the fully grown leaves a go. I only cut individual leaves as Mibuna will grow back and continue to provide beautiful green leafy vegetables throughout the winter months. My Mibuna quiche turned out to be a real winner. Here is the recipe:

for the crust
250 g plain flour
1 egg
1 pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
125 g butter

for the filling
a large bunch of Mibuna leaves (I used fully grown leaves), including stems
three to four eggs
approx 300 ml cream
approx 100 g feta cheese
100g bacon (leave out or replace by more feta cheese if vegetarian)

Prepare crust by mixing and kneading ingredients until well combined. Keep cool until use.
Cut Mibuna in small pieces. Fry stems first, then add leaves until lightly cooked. Mix eggs, add Mibuna, cream, feta, bacon and pepper to taste.

Bake at approx 200 degree C for c.a. 50 minutes or until done.

Climate change a chance to reconsider what is important in life

Not a day goes by without more dire warnings about our climate and what we need to do to stop global warming from destroying the very foundations of our environment.

The really big picture items have to come from governments and industry - improve energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption, change our energy mix from our current reliance on carbon-intensive resources such as coal and oil to greenhouse friendlier resource such as natural gas and ultimately to greenhouse neutral renewable energy, improve public transport, reduce air travel and implement policies to reward carbon neutral behaviour. However, governments will only take the necessary steps if we, the people, make them do so.

There are also things we can do in our every day lives. Every decision we make impacts on our environment. If we consume less, grow our own food, travel more lightly and spend more time with family and friends, we will not only save our planet, we can also reduce our cost of living and we are likely to be much happier as a result.

Research into the foundations of happiness shows again and again that our material possessions do not make us happy at all. We are all chasing the wrong dream. Only if we can turn around our obsession with endless growth based on more and more consumption, and instead focus on living in harmony with our environment, can we really get governments to be brave enough to make the hard decisions we have to make to give our kids a future.

Energy audit

I have decided to start an in-house energy audit today. We have already put in place a number of measures to reduce our energy consumption, however, I would like to reduce it even further. If we all have to use 60 per cent or more energy less than currently to achieve a reduction in green house gas emissions, home seems a good place to start.

We do not have the money for major upgrades or renovations, so I am trying to reduce our energy consumption and upgrade our energy efficiency on a budget. We do use the so-called “green energy” option from our electricity provider which means that the energy supplied to our household comes from renewable energy sources. However, energy generation is only part of the story. It has to be complemented by energy efficiency - in other words, we need to use less energy, and the energy we do use, should be from carbon-neutral sources.

Through a number of minor changes I have been able to reduce our energy consumption this winter by over 20 per cent compared to last year according to our energy bill. It was very easy to do and has made hardly any difference to our lifestyle (only a big difference to our budget due to the savings!).

This is what we did:
1. Replace almost all incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs. (The two I haven’t replaced have a dimmer. I had heard that you cannot use energy efficient light bulbs with dimmers - I tried nevertheless and found that not only do you hear a constant humming sound but also that the energy efficient light bulb burns out very quickly.)

2. Where possible, turn off all appliances at the powerpoint rather than leaving them on stand-by. This includes: computers, entertainment equipment (TV, video, stereo etc), rechargers for mobile phones, microwave, extension cords and power boards. I found that this measure alone reduced our energy cost by approximately 10 per cent.
The only appliances that keep going through the night, either on stand-by or actively are our fridge, our water pump (we use tank water to supply the house with water), the electric hot water system (which uses off-peak power), the telephone and answering machine and the oven which is hardwired (this is annoying as it has a timer/clock which I would like to be able to turn off).

3. Make good use of the slowcooker rather than the stove top. Apparently the slow cooker uses a lot less energy than cooking the conventional way, although I have not been able to test this properly to confirm.

4. Moved our two older children into one room together and keep the baby with us in our bedroom so we only need two rather than three or four (electric) heaters to keep us warm at night.

5. Bake a week's worth of bread in one sitting rather than several throughout the week.

6. Always turn the lights off when leaving a room.

I have now also turned off our freezer as we used up most of our produce. The remainder could fit easily into the freezer compartment of our fridge. I am curious to see what kind of difference this has made.