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Ideas for climate-smart, nutritious festive meals

Potatoes can be a great source of vitamins (Image by Wow Phochiangrak/Pixabay)
"As part of a review on potatoes and human health we have shown that potatoes are a significant source of vitamins and a whole host of macro and microminerals"

With countries struggling to press forward after the recent COP25 summit in Madrid, and ever-increasing awareness of the impact that the climate emergency is having on our planet, consumers can do their bit by making changes to their daily habits, including cooking climate-smart, alternative meals, some of them using excellent Scottish produce. That’s the message of Professor Derek Stewart, the James Hutton Institute’s agri-food sector lead, who even has a few recipe ideas to try out during the festive season.

Barley. One of Scotland's most important crops, barley is pivotal to brewing and distilling yet remains largely under the radar in terms of the perception of its significance as a nutritious food crop. “Barley is rich in health-promoting carbohydrates, e.g. beta-glucan, that aid digestion, reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and intestinal cancer. It also has almost as much protein weight for weight as an egg or quinoa.”

Potatoes. Tis’ the season of potato intake, but did you know the humble tattie is a great source of vitamins C, B6, B9 and a whole host of macro and microminerals? Together, these biocompounds are responsible for maintaining a good health balance and delaying the onset of several degenerative diseases.

“We know you are going to want them, but make sure the intake is not excessive. As part of a review on potatoes and human health we have shown that potatoes are a significant source of vitamins and a whole host of macro and microminerals.

“To get the best health benefits from them, cook, cool then cook again. This makes the starch difficult to digest down to sugar so you will be less likely to get the usual sugar rush and crash, but the bugs in our colons love these ‘resistant starches’ and keeping them happy benefits health.”

Blackcurrants. A ‘cure’ for hangovers is still one of the most sought-after discoveries, but science tells us there is no one-size-fits-all approach to alleviating the discomfort caused by a heavy night of revelling. A useful tonic for hungover merrymakers might be found in a much-loved soft fruit favourite: blackcurrants.

“Hangovers are associated with dehydration, low blood sugar and associated salt imbalance and this can be redressed by taking in blackcurrant juice which, due to its good sugar/salt balance, plenty of water and a palatable taste is easy on the stomach, whilst the inherent goodness of its vitamin C content gives your immune system a boost. All in all, the ideal New Year’s Day remedy.”

Raspberries. Consumption of berries may have beneficial effects on health related to type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, neurodegenerative diseases and cancers. The beneficial effects may be due to the presence of protective polyphenol components in these fruits. “Cranberries are passé. Why not add some Scottish soft fruit using frozen raspberries? Give our sauce recipe a go; details below.”

Beans. With growing awareness of the impact of the climate crisis, consumers are shifting their diet patterns, but we all still need a good source of protein. “Faba (broad) beans provide excellent protein and are a great source of dietary fibre too. Check out our recipe for roasted broad (faba) beans that people can nibble with as the chat flows.”

Check out Professor Stewart's suggested recipes below:

Barley turkey stuffing


  • 2 cups (500 mL) pot or pearl barley
  • 4 ½ cups (1.125 L) chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups (750 mL) chopped onion
  • 2 cups (500 mL) sliced celery
  • 2 cups (500 mL) chopped carrot
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chopped tomato
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) poultry seasoning
  • Season to taste with black pepper
  • Optional: 1 lb (500 g) of bacon

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-low heat, add barley and chicken broth. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until cooked.

Cut bacon into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces.

In a frying pan, sauté bacon (if using) until crisp, then add garlic, onion, celery and carrot and cook until tender-crisp. Drain fat.

Add bacon-and-vegetable mixture to barley with tomato and seasonings. Mix well. Spoon stuffing into turkey cavity. Place a slice of bread over stuffing to seal off cavity and keep stuffing moist.

Makes 6 cups (1.5 L).

Raspberry sauce


  • Serves: 10
  • 350g (12 oz) cranberries
  • 250g (9 oz) raspberries
  • 250ml (8 fl oz) red wine, such as Merlot
  • 150g (5 oz) caster sugar

Put cranberries, raspberries, red wine and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Use a whisk to mash the cranberries. Turn down heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Pour sauce into a container and refrigerate. It can be served hot or cold.

Roasted beans


  • 125g dried split broad beans
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • You’ll also need one large cookie sheet or shallow baking tray – about 30cm x 40cm should do it – or use a couple of smaller trays.

Soak the broad beans for 6-8 hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 180C.

Drain the broad beans, rinse well, place in a saucepan and cover with about 5-600mls of cold water.

Bring the broad beans to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for about 7 minutes. This is just to soften them somewhat (so you should be able to pierce them with a fork, but they should not be remotely mushy). Without this step, I find the roasted broad beans to be just a bit too hard.

Drain the broad beans and allow to cool a little.

Mix the salt and olive oil and then toss the broad beans in this mixture.

Spread the broad beans out on the baking tray and place in the oven to roast for about 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Allow to cool on the tray and try not to eat too many of them before serving them to guests along with the beverage of their choice.

Roasted beans - Scottish variant

In Scotland we do like some spice so here is an alternative take on the above with a bit of kick. This recipe makes enough for 3-4 servings & takes approx. 6-8 hours of soaking time + 30 min to prep + 35 min to roast.


  • 125g dried split broad beans
  • 50g plain flour
  • 0.25 tsp fine-grained salt
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper and/or a teaspoon ors chilli flakes/powder (more is you like a kick)
  • 4 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 25g coarse-grained brown sugar (I used unrefined demerara)
  • couple of twists of freshly ground black pepper

Soak, boil and drain the broad beans as per the basic recipe for roasted broad beans above.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Place the flour, salt and cayenne in a bowl and whisk together.

Gradually whisk in the olive oil. The mixture will have the consistency of a thick paste.

Stir in the crushed garlic, sugar and black pepper.

Toss the broad beans well in this mixture and then spread them out on the cookie sheet or baking tray. As the mixture is very sticky, the beans will tend to clump together, so you’ll need to pick the clumps apart so that the beans are spread evenly. Also, don’t worry too much about the fact that some beans end up with more of the coating than others - I didn’t and the results still tasted good!

Place the tray in the oven to roast the broad beans for about 35 minutes or so. The coating should have browned lightly.

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Printed from /news/ideas-climate-smart-nutritious-festive-meals on 15/04/24 01:19:15 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.