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Saving the world one turnip at a time.

I was driving on the freeway towards the city. A mobile sign, electric-powered, by the side of the road read: 'Offset your car today' with the website of a company that would take your money and plant a bunch of trees somewhere.

My brother-in-law recently finished planting 10,000 mountain ash seedlings - yes, 10,000 - in an attempt to return his property in deepest South Gippsland to its pre-European settlement rainforest state. Had he waited, he could have geared his planting to a carbon offset scheme and made a fortune. I did suggest to him a few weeks ago that he maybe should attempt to sell retrospectively planted trees as a carbon offset scheme that is superior to the mere seedlings planted by other companies - 'while their trees will not produce oxygen for years, ours are ALREADY issuing valuable oxygen into the atmosphere on your behalf and offsetting your carbon emissions RIGHT NOW!' He laughed a little too hard and held his back. He has a bad back. Well, you would, wouldn't you?

Then I got to thinking about other kinds of offsets. People are obsessed with food miles right now. (Why miles? What happened to kilometres?) So let's set up a food miles offset plan. You visited a restaurant last night? For shame. Not only did you show scant disregard for the fact that restaurants get their supplies from all over, but you piled food miles on food miles by travelling to eat! Unless you walked; in which case, given the weather last night, you froze to death on the way home.

So let's try and offset some of those food miles with an innovative way to eat guilt-free, wherever you like, and not have to fret about destroying the environment.

Here's how it works: simply examine the packaging of every food item you purchase, or check the origin of fresh items on the supermarket shelf. Based on Kitchen Hand's easy food miles calculator, you simply send me money and I will plant a turnip in my backyard for every payment received. Don't want to make calculations? Kitchen Hand's easy all-you-can-eat annual subscription - let's say, $2000 - gives you all the food miles you want.

I just saved the world. Now let's eat, starting with something from very far away.

Tandoori capsicums.

Make a marinade: whisk two tablespoons of lemon juice, a tablespoon of vegetable oil, a minced garlic clove, a small knob of minced ginger and a dash of salt.

Cut the tops off four red capsicums. Place them in a baking dish and brush the marinade both inside and outside the capsicums.

The filling: heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan. Add half a teaspoon each of cumin seeds, turmeric and chilli powder. Add a chopped onion and a chopped garlic clove. Stir about five minutes. Now add a diced (small dice) potato, the same amount of sweet potato, a couple of tomatoes (or drained canned ones if out of season), two tablespoons each of sultanas and chopped roasted cashews. Stir around for a minute or so then cover and cook on low until vegetables are soft.

Now stir in a handful of chopped fresh coriander and a cup of finely cubed paneer. (Fry the paneer in ghee first for extra flavour.)

Spoon the filling into the capsicums, replace the tops and bake for half an hour, medium heat, dish uncovered.


Use the whole can of tomatoes including juice otherwise it will be too dry.


  1. If you can manage a tax offset on that I might just join. I think I'm around 250,000 wine and water miles so far this week alone. I reckon with friends I could add another 100,000 tonight. Would you like to join my scheme where for $3,000 we'll bury you in a our eco friendly vineyard in a coffin made from recycled glossy food mags?

  2. If you replaced the filling of your Tandoori Capsicums with cooked rice and lightly browned minced veal, and shifted the seasoning over into the European peasant end of the scale, and put a light gravy made from the veal drippings and browned flour over the whole thing, you would have 'stuffed peppers'. Which is a recipe from my back yard, figuratively speaking. Which means we've traveled zero food miles. (Yes, I realize this is totally NOT how that theory is supposed to work. All to the better. It doesn't WORK, anyway.)

    Let's celebrate by breaking out the Brazilian single-varietal chocolate. And wash it down with some Darjeeling.

  3. honey if I had to offset the amount of Australian wine we drink we could put the polar ice caps back to their pre industrialized nation state.

  4. Haha, ditto on what Jo said! Damn Austalians, making such delicious, yet inexpensive wines!

    I can usually figure out the American equivalent of Australian terms in your recipes, but I'm confused about "sultanas." Do you mean grapes or raisins? And how many turnips will it cost me if I need to get them from Austalia?

  5. Ed: yes, glossy food mags are right now probably consuming more forests than are being produced by every carbon offset scheme put together.

    Julie, your back yard peppers sound great. (I'll take Ceylon high-grown tea tips, thank you!)

    Jo, maybe we should just pipe it across the world - chardonnay on tap!

    Becky, dried sultana grapes - smaller than raisins, although raisins are just fine in the recipe. (By the way, consumers subsidise your Australian wine purchases - prices here are about equal to what Americans pay, which introduces a whole new complication to the argument. I think it also means you owe me a few drinks!)


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