Monthly Archives: October 2018

A stir fry of sorts

Some time ago on holiday with friends I made stir fry for dinner, and now, they want the recipe. But, I don’t remember how I made it! It’s stir fry, it could be anything! The main ingredients I remember are: some peppers (because I remembered thinking very long and hard on whether I should add them), no mushrooms (because we forgot we had them and I made soup with them later), and cashews (because we had to especially get more because someone ate them…). So, here’s an extrapolation from these parameters using my prior knowledge on what I would probably put in a stir fry.

Stir Fry

Ingredients (4-ish people)
—————
1 red chili
piece of ginger (1 cm)
~5 cloves or garlic
1 lime (we will use both zest and juice)
soy sauce (keep on the side if you have a soy-intolerant friend :p)
—————
1 broccoli
~200 g mangetout
~200 g bean sprouts
2 peppers (any colours)
handful cashews per person
bunch of spring onions
oil (sunflower or a mix of sunflower and coconut or sesame)

Make a spice base by grating garlic, ginger and zest of the lime, and adding finely chopped chili (remove the seeds unless you want it extra spicy). Cut the broccoli stalk in pieces* (keep them separate) and divide the head into medium-sized chunks. Remove the core and seeds of the peppers and cut them in strips, then cut the strips in threes to get nicely sized bits. Very roughly chop the cashews, it’s okay if there’s still some whole ones.

Put a wok (or large skillet if you don’t have one) on high heat and add your oil. When the oil’s hot, add the spice base and fry it for a minute or so. Then add broccoli stalk bits and peppers and fry for a few minutes. If using sesame oil, I usually only add it at this point because I don’t want it to get too hot and evaporate.

Add the rest of the broccoli, cashews, and mangetout. Add black pepper and salt (especially if skipping the soy sauce) and stir. Splash in some water to make the broccoli cook easier and reduce the heat somewhat.

Once everything is done or nearly done, add bean sprouts and lastly the spring onions (they don’t need to be fried). Alternatively, you can briefly cook the bean sprouts by poring boiling water on them, leaving it for a minute, and draining them. You can then add the cooked bean sprouts and the spring onions after turning off the heat.

Flavour the stir fry with soy sauce and lime juice. I recommend squeezing only half the lime and tasting, then decide if you want more lime**.  Serve with boiled rice (I prefer brown rice with this meal) or noodles.

Notes:
* Almost everyone I know throws out the stalk of the broccoli, but it’s actually perfectly fine to eat. Some time ago I had a Chinese neighbour who taught me how to cook her veggie stir fry and she would be careful to use all of the edible parts of the plant. No reason not to, just make sure you boil/fry the stalk bits a bit longer than the rest. I now feel justified using it too, although I do remove a bit off the end since it’s usually dried out.
** You’re gonna squeeze the lime, then taste a bit of veg by fishing it out of the wok with your fingers. You will then go “oh shit, this is way too limey!” Idiot, you are tasting the lime juice on your fingers. Wisdom gained from personal experience.
– I’m not telling you to wash your veggies in the recipe, but you should wash your veggies.
– Even though they are not in this recipe, you can definitely add mushrooms (brown ones  – which are grown above ground – have vitamin D and are tastier than white ones). You can skip any of the vegetable ingredients and add some others, a few suggestions: green beans (in halves or thirds), spinach, baby corn, white or red cabbage (slice very thin), carrots, … I also like making golden brown fried tofu and adding this to the stir fry.

Magical Pixie Dust (aka seroendeng)

When you’ve made your Indonesian satay sauce and you’re ready for more, here’s a good one. Seroendeng [seh-roon-deng] is an Indonesian side made from coconut and used to sprinkle over rice or other food. The great thing about it is that you can make a bunch in one go, keep it in a sealed container, and use it with a lot of rice-based, asian-y dishes to add some flavour. Or you know, just eat it straight from the bowl if you have some leftover…

Seroendeng

Ingredients
—————-
A spoonful or two of the paste as for the satay sauce recipe*
2 tbsp brown sugar (or palm sugar)
about 3 tbsp oil (coconut or sunflower preferably)
200-ish gram of desiccated coconut (or like, whatever amount you want)
[optional] handful of peanuts

Heat up a skillet with the oil. When the oil’s hot, fry the spoonful spice paste (boemboe) for a few minutes. Turn the heat low and the coconut. Stir through the oil and spices and keep stirring the whole time. Add the sugar and peanuts, if using. Keep stirring until the coconut looks mostly brown. Take off the heat. Done.

* I recommend making seroendeng when you’re already making spice paste for something like the satay sauce.

Serving: As the last thing before eating, sprinkle a few spoonfuls over your rice (or veggies, or on top of your satay sauce, or all of the above). 

Indonesian goodness

Indonesian food is quite popular in the Netherlands (…let’s not talk about the colonizing past for a sec) and that’s wholly understandable: it’s the best. Here in the UK, I can’t find all the exact ingredients I need, but I’m pretty sure I’ve given it a good try. I really like cooking this for a group of friends and so far, reactions have been very positive.

A home cooked Indonesian meal could look something like this: some boiled rice, vegetables like green beans, leafy greens and some bean sprouts, tempeh or tofu but most importantly, satay sauce. The peanut-based sauce is really what makes it so delicious and so that’s the first recipe I’ll give you. Always make a little more than you think you need (but only do one iteration of that thought process else you’ll end up with an infinite amount of sauce).

Indonesian satay sauce

Ingredients (for two people, I think)
——————
2 small shallots
3 cloves of garlic
piece of ginger (about 1 cm)
half a red chili
ground coriander (like, 2 tsp?)
cumin (same?)
—————–
couple of bay leaves
A LOT of peanut butter (at least two scoops with a tablespoon as full as possible)
some oil (coconut or sunflower pref.)
water (maybe 50-100 mL to begin with, but you’ll add more as you cook the sauce)

Make a paste from all the ingredients between the lines (this is called a boemboe [boomboo]). You can use a food processor or spend a lot of time chopping them as fine as you can/ using a grater. Pestle and mortar is the traditional way.
Heat up a layer of oil in a saucepan and fry the paste for a few mins. Add the bay leaves and stir so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom too much. Add some water and a few scoops of peanut butter. Stir to get a homogeneous mix and let it heat for a while. Add water to thin to the consistency you want (the sauce will thicken up some as you heat it) and add peanut butter to get a thicker sauce or if you decide you want more. Best to cook the sauce for a while but not to let it boil.

Notes: For this recipe and other Indonesian cooking I usually look at the site kokkieslomo, which is great if you can read Dutch… Peanut sauce I’ve been making since forever but I took some inspiration from here.

People, you are responsible for changing the world

Recently my facebook feed has seen quite a few articles shared that have a message along the lines of “Going vegetarian/vegan is the most impactful thing an individual can do against climate change”. The main point of these articles is that the meat (and dairy and egg) industry contributes significantly to the greenhouse gas emissions (CObut also e.g. methane) from human activity, more so than another large contributor, transportation. And these are the factors that an individual can have a direct impact on; by not eating meat, you decrease the demand for it, and so less of it will be produced. I’m not going into the validity of these claims here. They make sense, and I’m sure that if you don’t think it’s true you can find these articles and their sources yourself. I want to write about something else.

A typical comment I see when these articles are shared (from strangers or from friends when I shared one of these articles), is the following: “Significant greenhouse gas emission happens on a large scale, done by large companies an the government. My individual impact is negligible and on top of that, we should hold these companies and the government responsible for solving this problem, not individuals.” I agree that we need systemic change, and that turning off the lights when you leave the house isn’t going the save the world, but boys and girls, and people who don’t identify as either, and people who identify as both, do I disagree with these statements. 

It is such a massive illusion to believe that anything is ever going to change if you put the responsibility of effecting this change with the government and with companies. Government and companies do not exist, at least not as entities that can pilot spaceship Earth. They are just emergent entities that react to the collection of choices made by individuals. Let me explain what I mean, starting with this diagram:

 

I’ve just sketched out what I think are the main ways in which these three groups, individuals, companies, and government, affect each other. Now there’s probably more going on there, but the main point is that they are connected. All of these have an effect on the world and a change in either of them can cause a change in the others. However, I would argue that the only one capable of actively changing their mind, to be the starting point of the change we want to see in the world, are the people. Let me go into some more detail about why I think we can not hold companies, or the government, responsible.

COMPANIES

Companies have to make money. If they wouldn’t make money, they wouldn’t exist in the first place. (The only exception being for example charitable institutes, but those are basically a group of people changing the world in a somewhat organised way). It’s probably true that for most companies, making money is also the driving force, but even if the company’s leaders have other goals in mind as well, it still has to be geared towards making money. Why? It’s like natural selection, the genes that are good for reproducing themselves are the genes that will make it to the next generation. Companies that make money are the ones that have the means to keep doing what they are doing, and grow to do more of what they are doing. If a company optimizes for something else and makes a loss, they have to downscale until eventually, they will have to sell out or go bankrupt or in any case, stop what they are doing.

So say you are the CEO of a company, let’s say one that produces frozen foods. You are concerned about the environment, and you know that your animal products have a much larger impact on global warming than any of the other products, so you decide to switch to alternative meat products. However, you have to invest in developing the recipes and changing the production line to suit the new products. Your market research also shows that meat alternatives are not as popular as animal products, and people aren’t willing to pay as much for them. Basically, it would mean profits would go down. If you enact this change, your company wouldn’t be able to grow anymore, maybe you have to scale down even, and besides, the shareholders get upset because you aren’t making as much of a profit as you could do. Your competitors fill the gap in the market you left, and you aren’t as significant an influence anymore as you used to be.
Sure it’s possible that you figure out a way to make the non-meat products more profitable, and maybe you even find a greater demand for them than you expected. There actually is a huge market for fake meat products and your company thrives on it. You, and the company as an entity, end up having a larger influence on the food production of the world. But this change wasn’t instigated by the company, it was a reaction to the changing demand for alternative meat products. The company is always locked in by the arrows entering it: demand from people, and laws, subsidies and taxes that the government puts upon it.

The change in demand is what made this change on the worlds possible, and this of course, is a consequence of people deciding that they prefer fake meat to real meat. They could of course have many reasons for doing so (and indeed there are many reasons to avoid animal products), but the point is that they are the ones with the freedom to make a choice. This power is what makes them responsible. In our example as we are seeing in reality also (at least in the UK), it is the people that decided now would be a good time for spaceship Earth to go a little more vegan, and the companies that reacted.

GOVERNMENT

Much like companies, governments exist in a natural selection-like system. Only for politicians, it’s not money, but votes and backup from their political party or allies that keeps them in power. Simply put, the politician who makes the most popular decisions gets the most votes, and will get the most power to make more of these decisions. Obviously this is not a perfect system, since voters aren’t perfectly informed on the politicians’ decisions, and not everybody votes. So let’s limit this statement to whatever politician seems to act most according to the voters will (give or take some personal preference based on other things like the politician’s gender or what accent they have), will gain power/stay in power. Therefore, politicians are forced to act in a way that they think will give them the most votes or party support.
If you want to become a politician to combat global warming, you will have to find people that want to put you in power to do that. If you are an election candidate and you want to win the elections so that you can enact your plans to reduce greenhouse gas emission, you just have to hope that people vote for your plans. If your plans are not popular enough, you will have to focus on that; inform people on global warming, argue for taking action and convincing people of your plans. Again, the change starts when people change their minds.

PEOPLE

You can do whatever you want, basically. I mean, you are bound by physics, sure. And you have to take care of yourself mentally and physically, of course. There are laws that you have to live by and there is only so much you can do with whatever limited resources you have. If only your local store would have more fake meat products on sale it would be easier to have them more often. But remember, you are always deciding what the world looks like, whenever you spend money, whenever you vote or whenever you affect other people’s decisions by spreading your opinion. Even if it seems like you can only have the smallest effect on the largest problems, remember that you are the only one who can really start to change the world.

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Thanks for reading! Just as a note, these are all just my thoughts based on my understanding of the world. I probably made a lot of mistakes! However, I figured, I have given it some thought and that’s more than most people who write things on the internet do, so even though I don’t feel justified in writing an opinionated piece like this, I did it anyway. 

One more thing, it can feel absolutely horrifying to take responsibility for anything, especially if that thing is the whole world and everybody on it. I for one, applaud anyone for trying, even if you only have the smallest change of success, it’s worth it.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor comic baseball bat meteorite

image source (reddit)

Introductie Tall Ships Races blog

This used to be the welcome page and introduction to the Tall Ships blog. I’m just gonna put it here for consistency’s sake. Unfortunately, the squadron of translation monkeys I ordered has not arrived yet, so this part is still in Dutch.

Hallo!

Dit is mijn blog, dat ik heb opgezet om mijn ervaringen te delen van het meedoen aan de Tall Ship Races 2014. De Tall Ship Races is een jaarlijkt evenement, dat wordt georganiseerd ter bevordering van internationale vriendschappen en kennismaking en begrip voor andere culturen. Het is een race over zee die vier havens in verschillende landen aan doet.

In 2014 was Harlingen een van de thuishavens en de start van de race. Stichting Harlingen Sail maakte het mogelijk voor Nederlandse jongeren om sponsorgeld binnen te halen en mee te varen als “trainee” op één van de schepen. Dit blog heb ik geschreven als trainee aan boord van ‘De Morgenster’ onderweg van Harlingen via Frederikstad naar Aalborg.