Eco-Living: Some practical tips...

Ever wondered if there was a simpler way to live your life, without having to buy hundreds of hair, beauty and cleaning products? By beauty, I don’t only mean cleansers and moisturisers, but also things like shaving cream. I might be able to help… This first blog is tackling air fresheners, which can be a real problem for people with allergies. But first. . .

Have you toyed with the idea of vegetarianism for the sake of the environment and other ethical issues, or are you looking to cut down your meat consumption, but just don’t know how to cook vegetarian/vegan food well?

[Disclaimer: I never weigh things that aren’t rice or pasta unless I’m baking . . .]

Recipe: Good vegetarian curry, which can easily become vegan.

You will need:

• Some onion (I use one red onion when I make it, but that’s for two-four people)

• A tin of chickpeas (or two, depending on how many you are cooking for) or the dried variety, but do soak them overnight and follow the instructions.

• Tinned tomatoes (or roasted fresh tomatoes if they are in season)

• Garlic – as much as you like really, I normally use three cloves, because I really like garlic!

• Vegetables – I use aubergine, courgettes, mushrooms, baby corn, sweet potato, squash etc (not all, normally three different types, depending on what’s available at the right time of year)

• Yogurt (if vegan, use soya yogurt or none at all – it tastes good without it too)

• Spices – I like: turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander, fennel seeds (ground up), cardamom pods (again, do grind these up, but keep some whole ones aside . . .), cumin – basically whatever curry spices you like! Experiment with your favourite flavours, but keep the turmeric in as it is very good for you!

•Fresh coriander (if you can get it – this isn’t essential)

• Rice – about 50g per person

Step one: Grind up your spices (if using ones that require this) in a pestle and mortar or food processor.
Step two: Fry these in a pan WITHOUT oil to release the flavour. Pour back into a bowl as they start to release the smell – you don’t want them to burn.
Step three: Add oil to the pan, crush the garlic and fry it with the onion. Add the spices.
Step four: Cut up your veg and add them to the pan, stirring them in with the spicy onion and garlic.
Step five: add your tin(s) of tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes.
Step six: Drain and rinse your chickpeas and add them to the pan.
[Step seven: Add a couple of spoonfuls (or however much you want!) of the yogurt to the pan.]
Step eight: Place your rice in a saucepan (add the whole cardamom pods for extra flavour if you wish, but try to avoid eating them!), and cover with boiling water. Here is the important part . . .
Cook the rice for 10 MINUTES, checking on it frequently (don’t let the pan boil dry). After 10 minutes, or when most of the water is absorbed, turn off the heat, cover the pan and LEAVE IT ALONE for 10 minutes, only stirring once, halfway through. This should create perfect rice that you don’t have to drain.
Step nine: Stir the chopped fresh coriander into the curry. Serve once the rice is cooked!

Air fresheners. . . 
These can be really bad for people who suffer from asthma or allergies. And they also smell pretty grim. If you want to get rid of an odour, then:
1. Add a little vinegar to some water in a spray bottle and spray in the air or lightly mist on fabrics. Once the vinegar smell has gone (which doesn’t take long), it acts like febreeze without the nasty chemicals!
2. Use baking powder as a deodorizer for carpets – sprinkle it on, leave for 20 mins then vacuum it up. You could put dried lavender petals in the powder to leave a slight fragrance, but this isn’t essential to get rid of previous smells!
3. You will need:
• one packet of vege-gel (vegetarian gelatine)
• 1 cup of water (but divided into two half-cups)
• 1/8 teaspoon vodka
• a couple of drops of an essential oil
Boil ½ cup of water, dissolve the gelatine in it. Add the ½ cup cold water to mixture and stir till blended. Add the vodka and essential oil and stir again till blended. Pour into a jar and place in warm-ish place. Too warm and it will completely liquefy!

I hope these tips are vaguely helpful! I will write more another time. . .