Food & Drink

Food & Drink

Reducing Our Reliance on Palm Oil

palm oil
palm oil

Something we’ve spoken a lot about in our house is palm oil.  Palm oil is ubiquitous in all of our homes. From the food that we eat to the cleaning products we use, even in so-called eco-saviours like bio-diesel. Yet it is almost single-handedly wiping out the Indonesian rainforest and the habitat of the orangutans. Through our shopping habits, we are all unconsciously driving this destruction.

What’s The Problem With Palm Oil?

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia.  The demand for the oil has doubled in the last ten years. This is because it delivers more vegetable oil per hectare than other oils like soya or sunflower.  Its demand has also been driven by western health concerns, particularly fat contents in foods – as palm oil is free of trans fats, unlike other oils.

The problem is that palm oil is usually grown on the site of the former rainforest.  Palm oil plantations cover 6 million hectares of former forests in Indonesia alone, destroying the home of indigenous species, like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans. This also triggers enormous releases of carbon dioxide from lost forests and drained peatlands.

Indonesia is now the world’s third-largest carbon dioxide emitter, after China and the U.S. And the demand for palm oil is rising. By 2015 Greenpeace estimates that a further 4 million hectares of forest will be cleared for the production of palm oil for use in the bio-fuel market alone. This means that other delicate ecosystems such as the forests of central and west Africa are now being cleared for the growth of oil palm trees.


Reducing Our Reliance On Palm Oil

After speaking more and more about this, and finding out more about the extent of the destruction in Indonesia and beyond we’re going to try to reduce our reliance on palm oil.

It’s going to be a challenge. Here is a list of 30 names palm oil is known by on product labels.  Palm oil is also ubiquitous in many household products. These include bread, biscuits, ice-cream, pizza, frozen chips, crisps, peanut butter, margarine, chocolate, and many more of my vices.  It’s also commonly found in detergent (including “eco-friendly” products like Ecover and Method, surprisingly). And palm oil is also found in personal care products like soap, toothpaste, and shampoos, shower gels, and bubble bath. Anything that foams up basically.

Greenwashing Is Rife

You can purchase products from manufacturers who say that they use palm oil that is sourced sustainably. Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil [RSPO] are allowed to label their products as sustainable.

However I’m not convinced that palm oil can be sourced sustainably, and indeed others are writing off “sustainably sourced palm oil” as greenwash.  Greenpeace, notably, says thatmany RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices associated with the industry, such as large-scale forest clearance and taking land from local people without their consent. On top of this, the RSPO actually risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry“.  

Greenpeace has also found evidence that RSPO members still rely on palm oil suppliers who destroy rainforests and convert peatlands for their plantations, so for us, it’s vital to try to avoid palm oil entirely.

I already check food labels for their salt, sugar, and fat content (I’m a joy to go grocery shopping with!). I guess it’s just a matter of scanning a little harder for palm oil and its associated names.

I’ll update you on how we get on (that update is here!). It’s going to be a tricky one to avoid, that’s for sure. Any tips for remembering the 31 different names for palm oil do let me know. What I do know is that this responsibility shouldn’t fall on us consumers, there should be more legislation at the governmental level.

In the meantime do check out my article on why palm oil is bad for the environment.

* image used from here

Food & Drink, Winter

Brussels Sprout Gratin – Vegetarian-Friendly Recipe

brussels sprout gratin
brussels sprout gratin

Looking for a way to liven up brussels sprouts? Try this vegetarian Brussels Sprout Gratin recipe, for a comforting winter treat.

The humble, much-maligned brussels sprout is, I think, a fantastic winter vegetable.  In season from October through to March, these miniature cabbage lookalikes sadly suffer from a bad image problem.  

To many people, they are foul-smelling, sulphuric, and soggy poor relations of the cabbage. As such, they will only tolerate sprouts once yearly as part of Christmas dinner.  The problem, more often than not, lies in how they are cooked. Boil sprouts to within an inch of their life, and they just aren’t going to taste good. Cook them in cheesy breadcrumbs, like in this Brussels Sprout Gratin recipe, and I promise it will change how you look at brussels sprouts.

Try This Instead

This cheap, quick, and easy-to-prepare Brussels Sprout Gratin, made with store cupboard essentials, is a fantastic way to turn how you view the brussels sprout on your head.  Instead of seeing them as soggy and vile, the addition of the cheese and mustard sauce to the Brussels Sprout Gratin invites you to instead enjoy them as decadent comfort food.  It’s absolutely perfect for cold nights when you need something delicious and hearty to warm your cockles.

brussel sprout gratin recipe

This brussels sprout Gratin is great as an accompaniment to meat/meat substitute, or even a baked potato.  It’s also a good way of using up any bread that has gone stale, and additionally makes wonderful leftovers for the next day.

If you also omit the salt and go easy on the parmesan style hard cheese then it’s great for babies and toddlers.  My one year old daughter adores this dish!

Serves four adults

Brussels Sprout Gratin Recipe

best brussel sprout recipe
5 from 1 vote

Brussels Sprout Gratin

This tasty Brussels Sprout Gratin, with it’s cheesy mustard sauce, makes for a deliciously comforting winter treat, that is sure to delight even the most ardent Brussels Sprout hater!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 adults


For The Gratin

  • 500 g Brussels Sprouts buy locally grown ones if you can – washed, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 25 g butter
  • 25 g plain flour
  • 100 g cheddar cheese or similar hard cheese grated
  • 30 ml whole milk
  • ground pepper and salt to season to taste
  • 2 spoons of mustard – coarse or smooth.

For The Topping

  • 30 g cheddar cheese or similar, grated
  • 10 g parmesan cheese grated (if you’re vegetarian Sainsbury’s sell an “Italian hard cheese” which is veggie friendly and similar in taste)
  • 30 g breadcrumbs roughly equates to 2 slices of bread (I use stale bread and a food processor to achieve a good crumb. It’s also less messy than grating).


  1. Heat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees C.
  2. Prepare your sprouts by washing, trimming and cutting them into quarters.
  3. In a large pan, bring a large amount of water to the boil and add your quartered sprouts. Once the water comes back up to the boil, let the sprouts boil for two minutes, then remove from the heat and drain.
  4. Melt the butter in a small pan, and then add the flour and milk, continually beating to create a smooth and lump free paste. Warning – this bit can get very very spitty so wear an apron and keep at arms length! If, once you’ve added the milk and the sauce is still very thick, keep adding a little bit of milk at a time until it’s smooth.
  5. Once you’ve got a nice consistency, lower the heat and add the grated cheese, the two spoons of mustard, and your salt and pepper (to taste). Give it a good stir to mix it all in.
  6. Add the sauce to your sprouts, stirring well so that the sprouts and sauce are well combined.
  7. Spoon into an ovenproof dish and spread it out so that it is evenly distributed.
  8. Mix your grated cheese(s) and breadcrumbs in a separate bowl.
  9. Cover the sprouts evenly with your grated cheese(s) and breadcrumb mix.
  10. Place in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  11. Serve and enjoy, and never pass on the sprouts again!

I adapted this recipe from the River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook*.  The original recipe called for infusing milk with bay leaves, peppercorns, and onion. However, I feel that life is just too short to spend it infusing milk!