Tag Archives: food

Honour the pumpkin

Pumpkin photo-shoot

18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin are thrown away every Halloween in the UK; that’s the equivalent of 1,500 double decker buses, according to the Independent.

Time to join the tweetathon using #pumpkinrescue hashtag.

The Ecologist reports on the #pumpkinrescue manifesto.

 

Here are a few points from the manifesto.

  1. All supermarkets to make publicly available the amount of food waste they create and detail what happens to it.
  2. All supermarkets to ensure safe and healthy surplus food is redistributed to those on low incomes.
  3. Government to increase their investment in the Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

I am pleased with my organic pumpkin’s potential as a lantern. It has a flat bottom so won’t roll around and it is fresh with a long stem making it easier to lift off the lid.

I am even more pleased with my pumpkin’s nutritional qualities: gentle, soluble fibre, immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates, providing sustainable, slow-release (yet low-fat) energy.

(Above para from a book I co-wrote, Make More of Squashes).

I want to honour the pumpkin as food.

The easiest way to prepare a pumpkin is to bake it. That way you only need to slice it in two, and scoop out the innards (put the inner ligaments in the compost bin and and bake the seeds for 5 minutes in a hot oven with soya sauce, or fry them).

Here’s a great blog on how to bake a pumpkin in ten steps, including cutting tips.

If you are making a lantern, then there is no escape: you have to make the effort of scooping out the flesh. So  you might as well make the most of your hard work and not discard the goodness.

Use the pumpkin flesh in a soup with coconut milk/stock/water, and spices, or cubed in a stew.

What is your favourite pumpkin recipe?

Pan-fried pumpkin flesh atop a bed of curried coconut lentils

Pan-fried pumpkin flesh atop a bed of curried coconut lentils

 

Carved pumpkin lantern's photo shoot

 

Why is Metrobus bad for Bristol?

VIDEO: The Blue Finger from Joe Evans.

The Blue Finger, an area in the north of Bristol (a UK major city), is rich with the country’s best agricultural soil.

Traditionally the heartland of Bristol’s market gardens, the Blue Finger Alliance is working on feeding Bristol again with fresh, local produce, grown by local people.

Last week, bad news for the Blue Finger Alliance.

The council gave the go-ahead for a controversial new transport scheme requiring the building of new roads and a bridge.

The scheme will swallow up about half of the Stapleton allotments, according to Travel West, and threatens Feed Bristol, an Avon Wildlife Trust project which teaches growing skills.

In the council chambers where the scheme was voted for (six to four), campaigners sang Joni Mitchell’s song:

“…you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…”

The ‘rapid transit’ bus route is intended to provide faster links between Bristol’s train stations.

Sounds good – in theory. The city desperately needs a functioning public transport.

But building new roads does not improve public transport.

By all means, increase buses, revive disused train lines, engineer tram systems.

But build new roads? That’s a hidebound to nowhere.

Road-building generates even more traffic,” says the Campaign for Better Transport, “damages the countryside, adds to climate change and makes cities, towns and villages less pleasant places to live for everyone.”

Bristol is the 2015 European Green Capital, a prestigious award supported by Bristol 2015 Ltd, created with Bristol council. Yet this scheme is the opposite of what Bristol Green Capital stands for.

The Metrobus scheme is a waste of precious resources, and a heartbreakingly backward step for a sustainable future-proof Bristol.

 

 

 

In Bristol’s green heart, we trust

Gus-Hoyt

Green party councillor, Gus Hoyt, says Bristol’s mayoral Cabinet has a “green heart at its core”. (Image credit Bristol 24-7)

Previously city councillors had voted for their leader. But the Coalition government gave ten of England’s biggest cities the option to vote for its own. Last May, Bristol people voted in a referendum to elect their own mayor, the only city to do so. In November, independent candidate, George Ferguson, became the city’s first “directly-elected” mayor.

Does a directly-elected mayor give more power to the people because they (rather than councillors) are voting? Or does the new role give too much power to one person, the mayor? But that’s another story.

Last November, Gus Hoyt, Bristol North’s first Green party councillor, got a late-night call from newly-elected mayor, George Ferguson, inviting him to join the new mayoral “rainbow” cabinet.  Gus Hoyt explains in his blog why he accepted.

It’s a question because the Green Party is opposed to the cuts – yet the Bristol mayoral cabinet is pledged to cut £35 million. The intention of the cabinet is to minimise hardship, says George Ferguson. “I’m trying to minimise the effect on services,” he says.

Personally, I don’t get this cuts business. For a start, the UK is one of the most powerful countries in the world. To my mind, Austerity Britain is a marketing slogan to cover up the reality which is: “Stop giving money to the poor, so the rich can get richer.” But I digress.

Last night at a Bristol Friends of the Earth meeting, guest speaker, Gus Hoyt – focusing on food and energy – described the positive things the cabinet hopes to achieve.

Green Bristol food vision

  • Make it easier for local food producers to sell their produce, building connections with local supply chains
  • Establish a “nuts-and-bolts” food market at Bristol Temple Meads railway station new enterprise zone – if successful it could be replicated in areas of deprivation
  • Aim to declare Bristol a zero waste city hopefully working with green-friendly Labour MP for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy, who introduced a food waste bill in parliament
  • One fruit tree to be planted for each Bristol child born so apples and nuts can be harvested at will, and children can learn where food comes from (it really does grow on trees.)
  • Edible beds in public spaces and food production in parks so food can be picked for free
  • Turn Bristol into a food capital. The city already hosts several food festivals – let’s host more
  • Enable more schoolchildren to learn how to grow food to eat and how to cook it.

At this point Gus Hoyt referred to the horsemeat scandal, and how we must bust the myth that affordable food has to be rubbish. When people cook from scratch, food can be healthy, fresh – and affordable.

At this point, let me invoke my mother invoking her mother:

“The secret of good cooking is quality ingredients. The first step to learning how to cook is knowing how to choose quality raw materials.”

My grandparents lived in poverty in the East End – but they knew how to cook. The UK media delights in making healthy food a class issue, as it sneers at middle class obsessions about organic food. Hello?! The true class issue is companies producing rubbish food and spending millions on marketing it to poor people.

Back to last night’s meeting. There was a discussion about the Blue Finger, a stretch of local land perfect for growing food. At the start of the 20th century, Bristol was ringed with market gardens which fed Bristol. Now we buy tasteless produce in supermarkets trucked in from far away.

And should the negative effects of climate change and fuel shortages take hold, making Bristol more self-sufficient in food makes a lot of sense. And more pleasant and healthy, too.

At the Friends of the Earth meeting, Phil Haughton of Better Food Company said that plenty of local farmers would be happy to lease/sell a field the land: what is missing, he said, are entrepreneurs. Meanwhile Joy Carey, author of Who Feeds Bristol, said to make Bristol food-secure, eight main things need to happen including composting, growing, learning to cook and supporting small shops and producers.

Involves all of us

Bristol Food Policy Council (the first in the UK) is developing a food plan with those eight components. Bristol, be proud.

Green Bristol energy vision

  • Bristol to become the go-to-city for renewable energy 
  • Make Bristol a truly solar city
  • Bristol can be “a living university ” for green institutions
  • Aim for Bristol to become the European Green Capital
  • Invite aeronautical businesses to use their expertise to create tidal technology (rather than bomber ‘planes) –  a kind of “swords into ploughshares” idea
  • Secure £10 million to make council houses more energy-saving
  • Work with institutions such as the NHS and universities to make energy more affordable with ‘Energy Partnerships’
  • Wind turbines at Avonmouth are due to open in December
  • Bristol to be 100 % “fracking” and nuclear-free.

So, dear reader, does this gladden your heart? It did mine.

Katie Stewart: Marmalade 2013

Photo shoot in snow

Oranges snow today

The cookery writer, Katie Stewart, died earlier this month.

There was an outpouring on Twitter from those including me who had learned to cook from her cookbooks.

Then Guardian food and wine writer, Fiona Beckett, suggested a Katie Cook (#katiestewart) day and others on Twitter took up the call, followed by Alex Renton in The Times. This is my contribution.

I have been following Katie Stewart’s helpful, practical recipe for making chunky marmalade since 1980 from The Times Calendar Cookbook. Having decreased  sugar bit by bit, I now use less sugar than fruit.

Katie’s original amounts: 3 lbs/ 1.1/4 kg Seville oranges | 6lbs / 2.3/4 kg sugar | 5 pts/ 2.3/4 litres water | juice of 2 lemons.

I use organic Seville oranges. They cost twice as much this year as non-organic ones because we live in a nutty world where wholesome food is more expensive than junk food. Still, added expense worth it because:

  1. Organic oranges have more pronounced taste because they are smaller and denser (basically less watery) than non-organic oranges
  2. More nutrients in organic too: “conventional farmers (drive) down nutrient levels via their pursuit of ever-higher yields,” says Charles M. Benbrook
  3. By paying the extra, I am doing my bit for healthier soils and water, and feeding the world. Think of it as a charity donation.

Talking of which, Katie Stewart’s family has asked for donations (rather than flowers) for The Kids’ Cookery School. The charity’s mission is to give every child in the UK an unique fun cooking experience to help them make informed choices about food. You can donate online.

My marmalade 2001 blog post talks about the young US soldier, Bradley Manning, Wikileaks whistleblower. Currently in pre-trial court martial proceedings, on Thursday he was refused the whistleblower’s defence: motive.

The marmalade: Katie Stewart’s recipe for Chunky Seville Marmalade, her invaluable tips, my amounts and spin on my Marmalade 2011. Apologies not metric – any help with converting amounts welcome.

Marmalade 

5lbs organic Seville oranges

4 lbs organic cane sugar

2 lemons

4 pts of water + 1 pt for extracting pectin

Top Katie Tips

  • Place a few saucers in freezer so boiling jam can cool quickly when testing to see it has set
  • Put weighed sugar in a preserving pan in low oven to warm
  • Clean jars thoroughly with hot water and dry them in oven
  • Add lemons at preserving pan stage.

Five stages of making marmalade

1. Clean oranges + simmer to soften
Washing oranges

Scrub non-organic oranges and remove stalks. Cook in a large pan or two smaller ones – with lids – in 4 pints of water and simmer heartily for about an hour until peel is soft. Orangey aroma fills room…

Drain cooked whole oranges and preserve cooking water as if it were a precious liquid (it is).

This process can be done earlier, or even the day before.

2. Extracting pith and pips for pectin

Pith and pips

Pith and pips (left)

Pectin, extracted from the insides of the fruit, is the setting agent. Cut cooked-and-cooled oranges in half. Scoop out with spoon the oranges’ insides – the pith and pips (pith and pips pith and pips – say it quickly) .

Add pith and pips to large pan with the 1 extra pint of water. Simmer for ten minutes then drain: this pectin-rich liquid will help jam set in Stage 4.

3. Slicing peel 
Slicing peel
Flatten softened peel with your hand, and cut up peel of oranges (and lemons), thinly or thickly, as you like.

4. Sugar boiling drama 

Fast-boil for imminent set

Fast-boil for imminent set

Add the sugar (warmed from the oven) to a preserving pan. Strongly suggest a preserving pan is good investment – otherwise use two of your widest pans.

Add the precious-liquid (stage 1), drained pectin-juice (stage 2), and cut-up peel (stage 3) in with sugar in preserving pan. Start boiling…

You must not overboil or you can lose that magic-setting moment. It really is as terrifying as it sounds. But you know what they say: the other side of fear is excitement.

It takes about 20-30 minutes to get it to boiling temperature and then you have to watch it like a hawk.

Start timing your 15-20 minutes when the jam is boiling like mad i.e. not just bubbling but when liquid goes into a furious fast-boiling glucky whirl – then start timing those 15-20 minutes.

So, after 15 minutes, take the pan off the heat and drop some hot jam on one of those icy-cold plates.

Let jam-droplet cool, tilting plate to encourage cooling, then push droplet gently with your finger. You are looking for tell-tale wrinkles and jelly-like character. (The opposite of an ideal lover? My 2011 joke).

If droplet is still runny, carry on boiling the big pan for a few minutes then test again. And so on.

Stage 5. Marmalade in jars

cooling marmalade

The marmalade droplets are now unequivocally set. Let jam cool in pan until not-too-hot nor too-set for pouring . Next, the sticky bit. Use newspaper to cover kitchen surface, use a ladle or a small cup. Good luck.

Recipes say use waxed discs to keep out condensation and mould but, cutting-corners-cook that I am, I have not not done so for years, with no adverse effects. Wipe jars from stickiness and proudly label.

Marmalade in jars

What is Tesco Real Food?

Tesco Real Food is the name of of Tesco’s recipe magazine and website, Tesco.com/realfood.

Launched by Tesco PLC in 2011,  the magazine is given away free by Tesco six times a year as a marketing promotion (see pic above).

Tesco sells real food in the sense it is tangible, not imaginary. But Tesco food is not what this Real Food Lover calls real food.

I have had this definition on my Real Food Lover blog since 2008.

“What do I mean by real food? As close to nature as it can get. I want mine grown organically – without chemicals and with respect, as close to my home as possible. And wholefoody and unprocessed too, please.”

Others have a similar definition.

The Real Food Festival says: “Real Food is all about great tasting, sustainably and ethically produced food.”

Real Foods, based in Edinburgh, has, for the last 30 years, sold: “healthy, natural, organic (real) food to the nation at affordable prices.”

In a blog post responding to Tesco’s recent use of the term “real food”, Real Foods writes: “… ‘real food’ is food from which the body can extract the maximum amount of nutrition with the minimum amount of waste; food in its most natural state with the best bits still left in rather than foods that have been processed so that the goodness has been removed and replaced by chemicals which, if not actually harmful, are nutritionally ‘empty’.”

Like the efficient retailer it is, Tesco has done its consumer market research and understands the nation’s need for nourishment. The result is its Real Food marketing initiative. Will it help people eat real food?

The magazine promises 32 “seasonal” recipes on the front cover.

Out of Tesco’s three “Season’s Best” recipes, one features mangoes from Peru. Mangoes are not grown in this country. They can never be seasonal for the UK.

Ten out of the 32 “seasonal” recipes were puddings with no fresh produce at all. Some were for Valentine’s day, Pancake day and Mother’s day. Are these annual celebrations what Tesco means by “seasonal”?

If so, Tesco has misunderstood the importance of seasonal for real food lovers.

Eating seasonally is about enjoying freshly-harvested produce. The fresher and more seasonal the produce is, the more nutrients it has and the better it tastes. That is one of the (many) reasons why local is important because it means the food is fresher when you eat it.

Tesco Real Food magazine’s current issue invites readers to Love Local and check out online its “wide variety of food from local producers around the UK”.

I checked out Tesco.com/local with my Bristol postcode and was directed to the Gloucestershire region. I was offered only eight products, four of which were beer. Yes, all good local produce, including Pieminister pies and cold-pressed rape seed oil.

But eight products do not a local-food-supply-chain make.

Like most supermarkets, Tesco sources globally not locally.

This article on apples gives us a clue.

According to the Telegraph, at the height of the UK apple-growing season in 2010, Tesco sourced only ten per cent of apples from Britain. The rest were imported. However its billboard ads promised ten different British varieties (subject to availability).

I get the feeling Tesco likes using words such as real and seasonal and local and organic because they sound good. But does Tesco subscribe to the principles and practices that underpin these words?

Tesco Real Food magazine’s current issue has an advertising feature for Tesco Organic. It says organic produce is grown “with reduced reliance on fertilisers”.

This is incorrect. Let me explain. Natural fertilisers – such as composted green and animal manures, and nitrogen-rich crops – are crucial to organic farming. This is how the soil is nourished.

On the other hand, chemical fertilisers are banned in organic farming because they strip the soil of life and cause environmental damage including water pollution.

Tesco’s Organic range is truly organic, and I am not questioning that [added after publication for clarification]. But does Tesco understand organic farming methods? Or is it using organic to make Tesco’s other products – such as intensively-farmed chickens – seem more wholesome?

Here is another example of the mismatch between Tesco Real Food and the reality of Tesco food.

As far as I know (please tell me I am wrong) Tesco still sells foods with trans fats despite a promise to ban them by 2011. Trans fats may make food last longer, but they are essentially candle-wax with huge health risks.

Trans fats are not real food. In fact, they are not even food.

Tesco’s Real Food magazine is glossy, handbag-size and beautifully-presented. In thick bold type, it emphasises words such as “nutritious” and “soul-warming”.

Is Tesco Real Food  the marketing version of trans fats, a cheap filler that tricks us into thinking we’ve been nourished?

Real food producers can tell you exactly what is in their food: how and when and where it was grown, reared, produced and processed – how the land was fertilised, and the farm animals cared for.

Why is Tesco spending its marketing millions pretending to be real?

               

Vegan noodle pie

vegan-noodle-pie

I dedicate this post to fellow blogger, Meg Wolff, who recovered from cancer thanks to a macrobiotic diet and Donna, a woman who befriended me at a Devon train station, who – it turns out – also cured her cancer after following a macrobiotic diet for ten months.

When Donna first approached me at the brightly-lit station on a dark wintry rainy evening last week, saying: “Hi, I am Donna,” I thought she had mistaken me for someone she knew.

Or maybe we had met…in another dimension?! (I love these stories so bear with me, you rationalists).

Donna asked me: “Are you interested in shamanism?”. “Always” I answered because I love real-life mystery.

To which she replied: “You have good medicine around you.” And I was thrilled.

Donna gave me her card and we are now in email contact – that’s how I know about Donna’s macrobiotic diet, and Axminster’s Awareness Centre, and her parents, the original ‘organic kids’, now 89 and 91. So listen up, you young things, eat your organic greens to get some healthy longevity inside you!

This is all the encouragement I need to eat more organic grains and vegetables, keeping animal-food to a minimum…

Donna and my other dedicatee, Meg Wolff, share many beliefs including the magic of writing things down.

Go visit Meg Wolff’s inspiring blog and I won’t even mind if you don’t come back.

Ah, you are back. OK, so Meg sent a newsletter which included a recipe for vegan lasagna. As a mama, I made lasagna but never considered how to veganise it – until this moment!

So I played around with Meg’s original recipe and here is mine – all ingredients from my local organic shop, the Better Food Company.

I peeled and chopped a big slice of pumpkin, putting the chopped-up pieces gently oiled, in a roasting pan to sizzle away in a medium-hot oven for 40 minutes.

For oil, I used Clearspring organic sunflower seed oil (first cold pressing for a naturally-nutty taste), a new discovery thanks to speaking coach, John Dawson.

While the pumpkin pieces were doing their thing in the oven, I made a vegan white sauce with organic soya milk, sunflower margarine and Dove’s rye flour, adding sliced fennel and mushroom, and tamari sauce, for interest and taste.

Then I drained and mashed 450g of tofu with gently-fried slices of onions and some sprinkling of smoked paprika.

I dunked 50g of gluten-free buckwheat noodles in a pan of boiling water until they softened – about five minutes.

Then I assembled my layers into an oiled-casserole dish, starting with the drained noodles covered with half the fennel and mushroom sauce, followed by the mashed-up tofu and the roasted pumpkin pieces, followed by the rest of the sauce – and baked it for 20 minutes.

I served it with fresh mustard leaves which grow on my balcony in salad pots from Cleeve nursery bought at the Organic Food Festival in Bristol last September – an easy way to have fresh leaves (see pic below)!

It was comfort food-supreme with the baked noodles reminiscent of lokshen pudding from the alter heim.

Happy Obama week!

salad-growing-on-a-balcony

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Beetroot and lentils supreme

dark beetroot and lentils topped with yogurt on a bed of cooked millet

I peeled two beetroots from Marshford. After cutting the slithery vivid purple ones (careful not to stain my clothes) into chunks, I added them to a pan of green lentils, just covered with water. I’d soaked the dried green lentils for a couple of hours beforehand but for speed, use a can. Or red split lentils which don’t need soaking.

Within 40 minutes of simmering, the lentils and beetroot were tender. I added a teaspoon of salt for flavouring (I love salt. It makes what is bland tasty. But I must be careful not to be cavalier because over-salty is horrid not to mention unhealthy.).

To make this dish go further, I simmered some organic millet for 30 minutes in twice its volume of water. What a fine grain millet is! Gluten-free and nutrient-filled. Try it sometimes instead of rice to vary the minerals in your diet. Here are some more cooking instructions.

Then we topped the dark beetroot/lentil mixture with Greek yogurt. I also added capers because I love the vinegar they reside in.

For its photo-shoot, I placed the bowl on a book (picked up secondhand in an Oxfam shop) by one of my top-favourite cartoonists, Posy Simmonds.

How appropriate the book had fallen open at jealousy! (An emotion to which I confess I am prone.)