Tag Archives: organic

#Nojunk bean chocolate cake

Happy grandchild with chocolate bean cake “I pledge to eat and feed my family only real ingredients I can recognise or spell.”

Last week, I signed the Organix #nojunk pledge because children need real food – not additives, fillers or artificial processes that produce profits for food manufacturers yet ill health for our children.

Is this right? NO!

Last week’s blog was about Organix, its pioneering ethos and why organic standards protect our children’s healthy by banning the nasties.

I promised a #nojunk cake and here it is.

Hand-written recipe for Bean Cake

The recipe is thanks to Olea’s mum. Olea and my granddaughter Tayda are schoolchums. After I had contributed a wheat-free raw date and lemon cake to my granddaughter’s 5th birthday party, Olea’s mum wrote out there-and-then a healthy wheat-free recipe (see pic) using…beans.

I am a big fan of beans thanks to The Bean Book by Rose Elliot, my cooking bible when my own children were little in the 1980s.

Healthy beans

Beans are seeds, a plant’s future offspring. They spill on the soil where they wait for the right conditions to germinate. Their food reserves support this process and is also good for us when we eat them. Packed with protein, vitamins and minerals, beans are nutritional powerhouses.

Big yet compact, their plentiful food stores are low-fat and high-energy. They quieten sugar-levels because of their high-fibre – the soluble sort that gently coats the gut and is slow-acting – and have high-levels of cancer-busting antioxidants. (Above from my intro on beans in Make More of Peas and Beans).

Olea’s mum’s #nojunk bean cake

Raw ingredients for bean cake, eggs, melted butter, beans and melted chocolate, ground almonds, pot of honey

The cast assembled (clockwise from top): eggs, pot of honey, melted chocolate over a drained tin of butter beans, ground almonds with baking powder and melted butter.

Blend up:

  • 1 tin of cooked beans (butter/kidney/black – unsalted, drained)
  • 4 eggs
  • 100 – 150g ground almonds
  • 6 tablespoons of coconut oil or (melted) butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda plus natural flavouring (spice, essence, ginger, vanilla etc)
  • 1/2 cup sweetener

Lightly grease baking tin. Bake 180° 30 – 40 mins-ish.  

I omitted the 1/2 tsp of baking powder, using instead an extra egg (5 eggs in total). I used organic eggs and butter for extra nutritional value (and guaranteed high animal welfare standards).  As sweetener, I used half a jar of honey for low-glycemic slow release sweetness (no one noticed honey taste at all).

For flavouring, I used a 150g bar of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate, melted in a pan over another pan of boiling water, and blended into the cake mix. I also dribbled melted Green & Black’s chocolate on the cooled cake.

Cake mixture in fluted tin belonging to my grandma

I blended all the ingredients together with my trusty £20 hand-blender and poured the cake mixture into a fluted tin that once belonged to my grandmother. (When my mother gave me her cake tins recently, she said: “It feels like the royal abdication.”).

 

I served the cake with Biona organic sour cherries from a jar for the adults.
Slice of chocolate bean cake with unsweetcherries from a  jar
 

 

 

Everyone who tasted the cake pronounced it a success.

And no one guessed the mystery ingredient was healthy wholefood beans! Happy child sitting on low table eating healthy bean cakeTwo-year old enjoying my choco bean cake

 

 

 

 

 Organix #NoJunk Challenge badge

And….Join the #NoJunk Challenge!

Hey, I have just entered this blog post in the Organix #NoJunk Challenge Blog Hop…fingers crossed!

Reclaim real food with Organix #nojunk campaign

Happy grandchild with chocolate bean cake

I wish Organix had been around in the 1980s when my children were little. 

Organix produces healthy food for children so it is a godsend. Because it is certified organic, the junk is already excluded.

I love a good ban. Here is a small example of the junk which has always been banned from organic standards. 

  • Hydrogenated fats 
  • All colourings whether or not natural (except annatto)
  • All artificial flavourings.

You will never find the above in organic food because their standards are based on the Precautionary Principle: why take an unnecessary risk?

And what an unnecessary risk.

Hydrogenated fats or trans fats are industrially produced. A cheap filler, they prolong shelf life and make a fake cake look cake-like. They are linked to the UK’s obesity crisis. Child obesity is a huge health risk and is NOT FAIR to kids.

Artificial flavourings and colourings mask the yuk taste of the junk, and are linked to hyper-activity and allergies. Like trans fats, these additives are a cheap alternative to real ingredients, and a health risk. There is currently no requirement to reveal their exact quantity in food.

I love Organix’s latest campaign.

“I pledge to eat and feed my family only real ingredients I can recognise or spell.

I signed the pledge. I am sick of food ingredients that only a chemist can understand. I do not want food technology – I want REAL FOOD!

Organix was founded in 1992 by Lizzie Vann. After a childhood rife with asthma and eczema, she learned as an adult about the link between food and health (cut out those nasty additives for a start!).

As well as making tasty organic food for children, Organix also educates carers about how to make real food, and campaigns for nutritious food in hospitals, schools and nurseries. 

Awarded an MBE in 2000 for services to children’s food, Lizzie Vann was also a founding member of Food for Life, the multi-charity programme transforming school meals one meal at a time.

Food for Life’s manageable targets: 70% unprocessed, 50% local and 30% organic.

Lizzie Vann says: “A growing infant is not a miniature version of an adult. Their key body systems…are in a state of fast development for most of their early childhood. During this dynamic time, it is essential that the environment in which they grow is free of toxins, and the foods they are fed are pure and offer quality nutrition.”

If I were emperor for the day, I would command the food industry to stop being reckless with our children’s health.

I would ban the use of cheap, empty, risky, filler ingredients which make huge profits for manufacturers but are ruining our children’s health. 

I would decree food manufacturing magnates be force-fed the junk they peddle to children. From henceforth, the only food they would be allowed to sell would be stacked with nutritious goodness, with no toxic nasties. 

Please do sign the No Junk pledge.

PS The pic at the start of the blog is of my granddaughter and a healthy chocolate cake…recipe next week!

Christmas coleslaw

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After seasonal excess, I crave a dish to revitalise my innards and reboot my digestion.

“Oh, herbacious treat! ‘Twould tempt the dying anchorite to eat…”

I love new age raw, as in for instance Kate Magic.

And coleslaw is a classic.

Ah, the classics never let you down. Tried-and-tested, refined by human habit, a classic endures for good reason.

Coleslaw traditionally uses cabbage, a seasonal winter vegetable brimming with goodness.

I use organic ingredients to get maximum nutritional benefits. Plus its farming practices save the soil and the bees.

Coleslaw recipe

Basically grate, grate and shred, shred as finely as possible. (How I bless my power-tool, the food processor) then cover liberally with luscious dressing.

1lb 8 oz (680g) each of grated carrots and white cabbage

1 pint (0.6L) well-blended dressing made truly-tangy with lemon juice and crushed garlic
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- Juice of 1.5 lemons (organic lemons are more juicy because growth is steady not boosted by artificial fertiliser).
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- olive oil (organic ensures authenticity)
- balsamic vinegar
- natural yogurt (or replace with additional oil and vinegar)
- seasoning.

Thanks to nudge from John (below): I estimate for 500 ml dressing 300 ml yogurt + 250 ml olive oil with remaining ml: balsamic + lemon juice. I would squeeze the lemon juice and then add balsamic to taste (a good slosh).

Put the copious amounts of grated scrubbed/peeled raw carrots and finely shredded cabbage. Add the dressing, mixing well.

Versatile, serve it solo or with all manner of dishes including curries and hey – that left-over Christmas roast.

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Community buy-out to secure biodynamic farm

Bluebell WoodThere was a time when the earth was free and belonged to all. People grew food and grazed animals, to eat, to live. Then the land grabs started. With legal stealth and physical violence, “enclosures” were enforced over several centuries in Britain. The commons – the earth and soil and woodlands used by peasants for farming – became the property of warlords who exploited the need to grow food for survival.

It does not need to be this way! We do not need to run the world for the benefit of might-is-right profiteers!

Fast-forward to the 21st century. One of the problems of producing food in the UK is the lack of available land. Who will be lucky enough to inherit? Most of the land belongs to a small percentage of the aristocracy.

Farming land is rare. Land is seen as an “investment”. Investors buy land to lock up their money, using it like a savings account. This means land becomes prohibitively expensive and makes it difficult for would-be farmers to find a foothold.

But I bring encouraging news. Community farm ownership seeks to break the “land-as-investment” deadlock, and make land accessible for farming.

Let’s take a closer look at this model by visiting Rush Farm in Worcester – which I had the good fortune to do as part of my work with Greenhouse.

Lleyn sheep Rush Farm

Rush Farm is an 150-acre mixed traditional biodynamic and organic family farm in the heart of England. In 2012, its current owners joined with the Biodynamic Land Trust to form Stockwood Community Benefit Society Ltd. The aim is for the Benefit Society to buy Rush Farm and its ethically-run 27-unit eco-property, Stockwood Business Park, from its current owners.

Pic below of current owners, Sebastian, Tabitha and Sophie, three siblings of the Parsons family.

Sebastian, Sophie, Tabitha_6269

In this way, the land can neither be passed down to the next generation as an inheritance, nor can it be sold. Stockwood Community Benefit Society ensures the land remains as a community-owned biodynamic and organic farm – for ever.

Is land a community resource for the benefit of many, or a commodity to be bought and sold to profit but a few? In his article Transforming Capitalism, Martin Large of the Biodynamic Land Trust argues that managing land as a community resource can alleviate the current economic crisis.

This is the mechanism: Stockwood Community Benefit Society is selling shares, from a minimum of 100 £1 shares (£100) to a maximum of 20,000 £1 (£20,000) shares. Unlike commercial shares, community shares cannot be sold. Instead, shareholders are supporting a sustainable enterprise.

IMG_0400However, it’s not all one-way – Stockwood Community Benefit Society anticipates paying-out 5% interest a year to its community share holders. Here is a pic of its stall selling shares at Rush Farm fete on the 3 August. The £1 million share offer was launched in May and has already raised about half a million pounds. Offer ends 31 October 2013 so invest now!

A bit more background: Sebastian Parsons, and his two sisters, Tabitha and Sophie, bought Rush Farm in 2005. Their parents, Anne and Adrian Parsons, have managed it as a biodynamic and organic farm ever since.

WOW. Thanks to these enlightened farming methods, the soil is revitalised, carbon-rich, and brimming with fertility. Its native Lleyn sheep and Hereford cattle are beautifully cared-for. The farm’s mixed habitats –  ancient woodlands, wetlands, herb-rich meadows and grassland – are nurtured and wildlife has returned, including bees, butterflies, lapwings and curlews.

IMG_0405

Demeter biodynamic-certified and Soil Association organic-certified Rush Farm sells meat and fresh produce, and also earns an income from the rental from its on-farm Stockwood Business Park (see my pic of a light industrial units) – a vital rural hub employing over 100 local people, and making it viable for them to stay in the countryside. The business park is full of groovy businesses, too.

teiner/Waldorf kindergartenStockwood Business Park even has its own Steiner/Waldorf nursery kindergarten. (Please can I be three-years-old again, and attend?).

Wrapped around a working farm with lush nature, the business park has to be one of the most blissful places in he world to work.

Sebastian Parsons

Sebastian Parsons is also the CEO and co-founder of Elysia, which includes the UK distribution of Dr.Hauschka‘s organic skin care products, and is based at Stockwood Business Park. The voluntary chief executive of the Biodynamic Association, Sebastian also applies Rudolph Steiner’s far-out but incredibly practical philosophy on the interconnectedness of everything (anthroposophy) to to Rush Farm, Elysia, and Stockwood Community Benefit Society.

Makes sense doesn’t it? Because everything is connected!

Photo 03-12-2006 07 01 49 PMSebastian’s grandfather was David Clement, a pioneer of Britain’s biodynamic movement. In 1933, Clement bought Broome Farm (also in Worcester) which became an agricultural research centre, and for half a century, the Biodynamic Association’s headquarters. But, sadly, in the 1980s, Broome Farm was sold  and lost to biodynamic and organic management– to the Parsons’ chagrin.

“My sisters and I never spoke about it at the time,” says Sebastian. “But much later we found that each of us had resolved to one day buy Broome Farm back. We never did. However, when we bought Rush Farm, we felt we had achieved our aim, and fulfilled our commitment to the land.”

More social history, this time about Rush Farm. Under its previous owners in the 1950s, Rush Farm inspired the writing of The Archers, the world’s longest-running radio soap opera.

Radio Times Nov 1951

Radio Times Nov 1951

Early episodes were recorded at Rush Farm and its nearby pub, The Bull, at Inkberrow, while Rush Farm’s fireplace featured as the Archers’ fireplace on a Radio Times cover (viz pic). And if that is not enough farm gossip, Olympic showjumper, Pat Smythe, used to ride at Rush Farm, when it was a stud farm in the ’50s and ’60s.

Now Rush Farm is in the limelight again, thanks to its Stockwood Community Benefit Society share offer to secure the biodynamic and organic farm’s future – for ever.

Community investors – be part of the solution! Invest in this worthwhile sustainable enterprise (with 5% return). Deadline ends 31 October 2013.

Beetroot and Carrot Salad

Beetroot and carrot salad

I used to think beetroots had to be cooked. Now I am wiser, I know they can be  raw. And may be more nutritious as a result.

Grating beetroots makes crunching effortless while an oil and vinegar dressing adds luxury. Carrots, also grated, are a perfect companion.

You know what they say: eat for colour: orange, reds (and more), each colour containing different immune-boosting nutrients.

I first came across the beetroot/carrot combo at the Better Food Cafe about seven years ago, and copied the idea, working out a version at home. 

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Then turned it into a recipe for Grown in Britain CookbookI wish I had name-checked my inspiration so glad to be doing so now. My beetroots came from  the Better Food Company, too.

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I peeled the carrots and beetroots, above. Grown organically, slowly, biologically, they are chemical-free and needed only scrubbing, plus the skin has nutrients. (But I am not perfect and peeling is faster).

I was taken with the yellow, white and purple carrots, as they used to be before 17th century Dutch growers went monoculture orange to praise William of Orange. Poetically, these 21st century rainbow carrots were grown in Holland.

Bear Fruit Bear Pit
I had bought my Dutch rainbow organic carrots at the Bear Fruit stall (above) in the Bear Pit, Bristol.

The Bear Pit is, by the way, an example of urban regeneration from the grass-roots-up. A dingy subway on a busy city roundabout now transformed by locals into a lively market and meeting place.

Beetroot and Carrot Salad – ingredients for four

  • 600g raw beetroot
  • 600g raw carrots
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • Dressing: 4 tablespoon olive oil + 50ml balsamic vinegar
  • oil for frying/toasting + soy sauce for seeds
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh herbs (parsley, coriander) or snipped salad cress.
  • 1.1. Scrub/peel carrots and beetroot, and trim tops and tails. Keep carrots whole for grating. Peel the beetroot and cut in half. Grate the raw vegetables, using hand grater or food processor. Combine in large bowl and add olive oil and vinegar dressing.2. If not serving immediately, don’t add dressing yet. Instead, store covered in fridge. Remove 1 hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Then add dressing (below).

    3. For the vinaigrette, put the oil and vinegar in a screw-top jar, put the lid on tightly and shake vigorously.

    4. Gently heat olive oil in a small frying pan and toast the seeds for 3–4 minutes over a moderate heat, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the soy sauce at the end of the cooking, if using. Most of the sauce will evaporate, leaving a salty taste and extra browning for the seeds. Store the toasted seeds in a jar with a lid if preparing the day before.

    5. When ready to serve, add the chopped herbs to the grated beetroot and carrot. Shake the screw-top jar with vinaigrette, then pour over the vegetables, and season to taste. Toss the salad gently until everything glistens. Scatter the toasted seeds.

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

Organic nourishment from Neal’s Yard Remedies


As an organic fanatic, I apply the same quest for uncontaminated naturalness to skincare products as to food.

I don’t want to rub parabens (preservative linked to cancer) into my skin.

I don’t want my unctions laced with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (chemical used in paint stripper linked to skin irritation and allergies), thank you very much.

About half of what you put on your body goes in your body.

Thanks to campaigning, the European Commission is considering a restricted ban on parabens.

However, worrying evidence already exists. Which is why organic standards have already banned parabens.

This is what I like about organic standards: they are based, o so sensibly, on the Precautionary Principle.

Does this ingredient pose a potential health risk?

Is this risk necessary? If not, then…

– don’t take it!

Thanks to the Precautionary principle, organic standards have already banned, as I said, parabens, and Sodium Laurel Sulphate. (And many more).

Factory-made chemicals with potential health risks are cheap to produce – they are in the small print on the packaging. The beneficial ingredients are in bigger lettering, shouted on the packaging, sounding as if they make up most of the product.

Organic skincare products avoid ingredients with health risks and have more active ingredients than non-organic products.

I am always happy to promote products that are as honest as they can get.

I work in PR but I’m also a campaigner. And luckily (could it be any other way?) I do both.

I have been working with Neal’s Yard Remedies, a campaigning (my favourite type) brand.

Please check out its up-to-minute information resource: NYR Natural Health News now edited by previous-Ecologist editor and investigative journalist and author, Pat Thomas.

This blog describes Neal’s Yard Remedies’ eco-factory at Peacemarsh, Dorset.

Neal’s Yard Remedies was founded 30 years ago by pioneering Romy Fraser.

Determined the company would not fall to greenwashing corporates, she sold it in 2006 to environmental campaigner, Peter Kindersley of Sheepdrove Organic Farm (which supplies Neal’s Yard Remedies with organic herbs). The organic products are now all 100% Soil Association certified.

Mini-digression: Romy Fraser makes soaps for Neal’s Yard Remedies, and runs courses on Trill Farm, her must-visit organic farm in Devon - with Daphne Lambert (for the-most-nutritious food education – and food).

Last month, we had a great evening at Neal’s Yard Remedies store in Bristol for Organic September.

We invited Bristol bloggers interested in organic products for babies.

Lovely people and what a great supportive blogging community. And yielding such fresh honest responses to the evening, such as from Tigerlilly Quinn’s night out, ShipShape’s review , Purple Ella, Knitty Mummy, and Circus Queen (moon cups and all!),

Brilliant to meet people previously only-met online. Despite being a social media maniac, I believe: Nothing. Beats. Real. Life.

Max from Neal’s Yard Remedies in Bristol gives Bristol blogger, Purple Ella, a hand massage.

Fantastic to have support from Neal’s Yard Remedies HQ in Covent Garden. Nicola Nolan gave a great talk about the company, and its Bee Lovely campaign to ban the lethal bee-harming and totally unnecessary neonicotinoid pesticides – please sign the petition.

Also, from Covent Garden, Jane Killingsworth.

Organic cheeses provided by Sheepdrove Organic Farm – its Butcher’s shop is just across the Whiteladies road.

The best of organic Mediterranean produce from artisan farms and cooperatives – breads sticks, dip-in spreads, olives. Thank you, Organico. (My fuzzy pic)

Me bee-hind the Bee Lovely campaign and Bee Lovely organic products stand.


Neal’s Yard Remedies is like an old-fashioned apothecary – rows of healing herbs and spices.

Thank you to all the Bristol bloggers and Tweeters.

Thank you, Nadia Hillman, for above fab photos – do credit her if you use them!

I took this one of Nadia!

London, 17 May: Symphony of the Soil UK premiere

I am a soil lover.

Some see soil as dirty.

What does that say about our relationship with the world?

Love soil – our lives depend on it.

I am proud to be promoting the Symphony of the Soil UK film premiere on 17 May 2012.

With specially-composed music from a Hollywood great, and original animation, Symphony of the Soil is a multi-media film. Read its roll-call of expert interviewees soil scientists, farmers and campaigners including Dr Vandana Shiva.

Organico, the Mediterranean organic food company, is sponsoring the invitation-only premiere. Do Like Organico on Facebook for the chance to win tickets to this exclusive event.

Director and filmmaker, Deborah Koons Garcia (above) will be  talking about Symphony of the Soil with the Soil Association’s Helen Browning OBE and organic farmer.

In 2006, I organised the London premiere of Deborah Koons Garcia’s film documentary The Future of Food. It examined the corporate domination of our food system, sounding the alarm on GM patents, and exposed revolving-door politics between biotetch executives and the US administration.

The Future of Food helped spearhead the US real food movement, currently calling for GM labelling in California.

Deborah Koons Garcia says  that Symphony of the Soil is a positive film because we can all do something, such as make compost or support organic farms.

“I am making a positive film, science presented in an artistic manner [so] that people will fall in love with [soil] and become part of the soil community – because we are anyway. We rise up from it and we go back to it. So we’re part of it and when we are responsible members of the soil community, we give back to it, it gives back to us. …

“When people see this film they’ll actually become even more committed to a positive relationship with soil.”

As I am writing this blog, I hear BBC radio news announce: “Half of Britain is in drought.”

I shout to the radio: “Go organic!”

Organic soils retain more water than non-organic soils, according to long-term research.

If we put back what we take out, the soil can nurture us.

“We don’t grow plants. We grow healthy soil – and the soil grows the plants,” says a grower in the film.

Symphony of the Soil illuminates the complex dynamic relationship between soil life plants – “a dialogue of nutrients.”

It is all common sense. You have to put back what you take out otherwise soil becomes barren.

So why not listen to our common sense?

Follow the money.

Dr Hans Herren co-chaired the IASSTD 400-strong scientific review of agriculture which found that what the world needs now is small-scale ecological farming.

Interviewed in the Symphony of the Soil, Herren says of organic farming:

“…but it does not fill the pockets of the few. It only feeds the consumer and the farmer.”

Symphony of the Soil is a beautiful and moving film – shows how clever and intricate and subtle nature is.

But it will also made me angry and sad because there is so much needless destruction of this natural precious resource.

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?

               

Carrot cake at the Grand Canyon

I ask the Grand Canyon rancher: “What is the trail for the scaredy-cats with no heads for heights?”

Nonplussed, she sends us to the start of the Bright Angel trail.

Looks steep and scary to me.

I do not dare take in the view. Just focus on my feet.

Try to ignore the images of pitching headlong over the edge which my mind is generously supplying.

We see a zag of lightning.

Thunder hollers in the canyon.

Anxiety about heat exhaustion (it was 100 degrees when we started) is replaced by fear of being struck by lightning.

Fat plops of rain fall.

When we reach the Mile-and-a-half shelter, I am soaked. Chilly.

Three US students and a  family from Amsterdam are also sheltering. We commiserate over Holland losing the World Cup.

The students have been hiking since early morning.

They witnessed a helicopter rescue for a hiker with a scorpion bite. The helicopter took six hours to arrive, the rancher two.

Not enough money, say the students. The Grand Canyon is feeling the recession.

The rain stops.

We set off on our return journey up the trail.

Miraculously, my mind is no longer furnishing scenes of disaster.

I am no longer hugging the side of the rock.

I am taking in the view. And stride.  A miracle.

Time for the carrot cake’s photo-shoot (see pic above).

I baked it the night before, amalgamating and adjusting several recipes found on the web for the simplest.

Here it is before I forget it.

Whisk five small eggs (or four big ones) with 1+1/4 cups of sugar and 1+1/4 of organic coconut oil

Fold in 2 cups of organic flour and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.

Plus 3 cups of grated organic carrot and some cut-up raisins.

Bake in a greased loaf tin for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Insert a knife to check it is not wet when withdrawn. If wet, the cake is not sufficiently cooked.

Because of the high altitude (7,000 feet) of Flagstaff, the cake took another twenty minutes.

I concocted a separate topping of whisked organic tofu, lime juice and organic agave nectar (the un-organic kind is highly processed and not worth it).

The topping did not come with us to the Grand Canyon.

Unlike the brave carrot cake, that did.