Archive for the ‘i buy real food’ Category

A New Growing Season

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Winter Aconite - Eranthis Hyemalis

In the hedgerows catkins hang from the hazel, the first bright green buds adorn the hanging boughs of the willow and on the woodland floor, winter aconites begin to fade  as clusters of snowdrops grab the limelight before the canopy closes in.

Spring has arrived and nature starts a new growing cycle as Man starts his – planting for a new season and stripping hedgerows -indescrimantly removing the flowering and fruiting shoots that would have formed a vital food source for our indiginous invertabrates, small mammals and birds.

The world is a year older, but we are none the wiser?

Striped hedgrow

Snowdrop - Galanthus Nivalis

Figs glorious figs

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Brown Turkey Figs

Not the dried leathery things that you find yourself peeling out of  packets at Christmas but freshly picked ripe Brown Turkey figs, one of the juiciest, sweetest most fragrant fruits you’ll ever taste. Brown Turkey a large dark skinned variety with deep red inner flesh is probably the most common of the two types that are successfully grown here in the UK, the other being White Marseilles a pale green skinned variety with pale cream flesh. The recent mix of heavy showers and patches of brilliant sunshine has ripened a bumper crop of fruit.

There is one of each variety in the garden, the White Marseilles a cutting, of a cutting, of a cutting of a tree I was given 30 years ago, both are covered with ripening fruits, but for me the Brown Turkey has the edge on flavour and sweetness. They say the early bird catches the worm, but in this case – its the fig, watch out because black birds love them along with just about every other kind of flying insect in the garden, they will all do their best to beat you to this delicate sweet bonanza.

Eat them just as they are, fresh from the tree, their great served with cheese or cold meat, especially lamb, but for me, best of all, is to poach them in red wine and sugar.

You’ll need a large skillet with a lid, trim the stalks off, stand them up and pack them in neatly, pour in a mixture of red wine and water about 3 to 1, sprinkle in about 150g of caster or preserving sugar, I like to add a couple of table spoons of brown sugar to deepen the flavour. The fluid should be about a third of the way up the figs, bring to the boil then place the lid on and simmer for about 20 mins.

Taste, depending on your level of sweet tooth, add more sugar if required, simmer for a few more minutes until sugar has dissolved, allow to cool and serve with double cream or a good quality vanilla ice cream. Use white or Rose wine with White Marseilles – a glorious seasonal treat to look forward to every year.

White Marseilles Figs

Asparagus

Friday, May 28th, 2010

The Asparagus season has arrived, our home grown season which is far too short, is already in full swing, so you need to get a move on, look out for signs on the road, farmers markets and farm shops all will have good supplies of locally grown asparagus.

By comparison imported asparagus available through out the year from supermarkets just doesn’t compare for flavour to the delicious experience of purchasing freshly cut asparagus directly from a local grower and simply steaming it until tender and serving with hot melted butter.

Asparagus is one of the most nutritious vegetable you can eat. Packed with a whole cocktail of nutrients and vitamins including large amounts of folic acid which is especially good for pregnant women as it protects against spina bifida in developing babies. Folic acid has to be taken daily as it can’t be stored in the body, Asparagus is also a good diuretic and does a great job of cleansing your liver.

Remember, for the best flavour, cook it as quickly as possible, as the sugars in asparagus turn to starch if its left hanging around in the fridge.

I get mine from Goddard’s Asparagus, a small producer just outside the village of Redrave, on Fen Street, on the edge of the Lopham and Redgrave Fen on the Norfolk Suffolk border.

Henry

Spelt Bread. A great introduction to home baked bread.

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Bread is one of the oldest baked foods. It is genuinely good for you, being rich in vitamins (particularly the B group), calcium, iron and trace elements, it is also a useful source of protein. Spelt, originally introduced into Britain by the Romans, has a higher fibre content and less gluten than ordinary wheat, making it a very healthy option. Growing in popularity you can now find Spelt flour in most farm and organic shops. This is a simple recipe and a great introduction to delicious home baked bread. You could also use wholewheat or rye flour instead of spelt flour.

15g Yeast
550g Spelt Flour
200g Plain white flour
1tbsp Sea Salt
1 beaten Free Range egg
500ml lukewarm water

Method:
In a large bowl, mix 15g of yeast with 4tbsp of lukewarm water, add 2tbsp of plain flour and stir to a smooth paste. Leave to rest under a tea towel for about 20 minutes at room temperature.

Slowly stir in the rest of the water and add both flours and the tablespoon of sea salt. Work into dough adding more flour if necessary and knead on a well floured surface for about 10 to 15 minutes. Place the dough in the large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour.

Knead the dough lightly to take some of the air out, form into a rounded shape and place firmly, to flatten the base, onto a greased baking tray, cover and leave to rise again for about 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 220c/425f/Gas mark 7, cut a cross into the top of the dough and brush with the beaten egg. Place in oven and bake, with a small bowl of water which will help a crunchy crust to form, for 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 200c/400f/Gas mark 6 and bake for a further 10 minutes, remove and allow to cool on wire rack.

Eat and enjoy, you’ll never buy processed bread from a supermarket again.

Seasonal Seville orange marmalade recipe a particular English passion, old-fashioned but still delicious.

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Marmalade is, as we know, an acquired taste, and although not invented in this country, is a particularly English passion. Originally is was made by the Portuguese in the 13th century, from quinces and eaten as an aid to digestion; the name comes from the Portuguese word for quince ‘marmelo’. In the 16th century, with the arrival of sugar in England, citrus fruit began to be used, especially Seville oranges and it is these seasonal oranges from Spain which remain the favourite ingredient to this day.

One of the joys of making marmalade is the preparation; the careful washing and cutting of the peel rather than simply tipping fruit into a pan and the process appeals to men as well as women. Perhaps one of the most famous marmalade eaters is Paddington Bear, whose author, Michael Bond is the patron of the Worlds Original Marmalade Festival which takes place annually in the village of Dacre in the Lake District.

Ingredients
1.4kg/3lb Seville oranges
Juice of 2 Lemons
3.4ltr/6 pints water
2.7kg/6lb sugar

Makes 12-14 jars

Method
Wash and then half the oranges and squeeze out the juice. Collect the pulp, pips from the oranges and lemons in a piece of muslin and tie into a  bag.

Orange Marmalade-1010605

Slice the peel thinly, put the peel, fruit juices and water in a preserving pan and tie the muslin bag to the handle. Allow to stand for 24hours.

Gently boil the the mix until peel is soft and the liquid has reduced by half. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze to extract all remaining juice (improves pectin content).

Add warmed sugar approx 1lb to each pint of pulp and stir until dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 15 mins or until the marmalade sets.

Allow to stand for about 15 mins then stir and pot into clean warm jars.
Sunday morning breakfast, papers, a pot of fresh coffee, thick slices of hot buttered toast and home-made Seville orange marmalade heaven!

Method can be used with any combination of citrus fruit’s.

Food Pesticide Data

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The latest results on pesticide issues have revealed that Spanish spinach sold by supermarket chain Asda exceeded the safety levels for young children and adults.    The data also showed that although spinach purchased at Safeway and Waitrose stores met with the laid down safety limits, the legal limits were not adhered to.

The PRC (Pesticide Residue Committee) concluded that “safety margins would be significantly eroded” as a result of the level of methomyl, the pesticide found in the spinach sold in Asda. At 150% of the safety level for adults and a staggering 240% of the safety level for toddlers the PRC said that “symptoms such as increased salivation, an upset stomach or a mild headache could occur, but these effects would be expected to be short-lived (lasting not longer than 6 hours)”.

Methomyl, a carbamate pesticide which affects the body’s nervous system is thought to interfere with the hormone system too and Friends of the Earth have put out a warning that a substance carrying such high health risks should be eliminated from our food.

Although the results were favourable as far as milk and blackcurrant juice being completely free of residues are concerned and that UK carrots have now cleared up the past problem of organophosphate residues, Friends of the Earth is still putting out warnings that the cocktail of pesticides in our diet is continuing to place a significant risk on our health and wellbeing.  An example of this is Iprodione.  It is suspected that this chemical found in fruit and vegetables such as melon, dried fruits, carrots, cucumber along with some herbs can be the cause of hormonal disruption.  Nonetheless, the Government continues to look at safety levels by way of individual pesticides in individual produce.

Friends of the Earth is campaigning for retailers to commit to doing away with the sale of food containing such risky pesticides produced in the UK and abroad in the hope of creating a residue free diet for all concerned.   The organisation has asked the Government to apply the same standards of safety to fresh food as processed baby food and to play a more active part in helping the farmers find an alternative to pesticide use.  It has been suggested that money is spent on research and an advisory service set up to help the land workers reduce the current dependence on chemicals.

Sandra Bell, from Friends of the Earth said:

“Although there is some good news in the latest pesticide results, we must remain very concerned that supposedly-healthy food contains pesticides which exceed the safety levels for toddlers. Asda should wake up to the fact that consumers care about safety as well as price and make sure the food they sell is safe for toddlers. Strict new laws for processed infant food should ensure that in future these are clear of residues. But parents should also be able to trust fresh food, especially as fresh fruit and vegetables are so important for a healthy diet”

The Main Findings of the Data

Spinach

A sample of the spinach sold in Asda surpassed the official safety limit of contained residues.

Baby Food

Six samples of Heinz and Boots baby food was found to contain pesticide residues.

Dried Fruit

Almost 75% of dried fruit samples, the majority of which were sultanas contained pesticide residues.

Apples

Thirty nine percent of apples produced in the UK and other countries contained residues.

Carrots

The residue result as far as carrots are concerned has improved over recent years and now only 13% contain residues.  Samples of carrots from the Netherlands on sale in Morrisons contained organophosphates whereas UK carrots were found to be organophosphate free but did contain iprodione, the hormone disrupting chemical.

Imported Cheese

A Canadian cheese available from the shelves of Safeway contained lindane, a pesticide linked to breast cancer and banned within the EU.

Melon

Twenty-six percent of melon samples contained residues.

Celery

Thirty three percent of celery samples contained residues.

Bread

Over 50% of bread samples contained residues of pesticides with sixteen of the samples showing multiple residue results.

Chips

Around 25% of chips contained pesticide residues. Chips bought from two fish and chip shops one in Carlisle, Cumbria and another in Telford, Shropshire were found to contain aldicarb, a kind of carbamate which is hopefully soon to be withdrawn from UK use.

Environmental Benefits – Organic Farming versus Intensive Farming

Monday, September 21st, 2009

There is no doubt about it; research shows that the health of the environment we live in is affected in a negative way by intensive farming.  The distress caused to animals, humans and damage to land and water are devastating and destructive.  On the other hand the benefits of organic farming are considerable and it has been proven that over a given period of time most previously caused damage can be rectified using this method.

Organic Farming Benefits – Almost No Synthetic Chemical Input
With intensive farming land is damaged and often lost completely by the use of chemical inputs such as pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.  Using a particular piece of land to grow only one variety of produce (known as monoculture) also calls for chemicals to be used due to the fact that disease and pests tend to thrive in one plant growing areas. As a result the soil depleted of nutrients and minerals becomes less fertile so chemicals are added and a vicious circle is created.  Rivers and waterways are also polluted when the chemical fertilizers from the intensely farmed land run into them.

There are many knock-on effects of this, one of which is the way the forests of the Earth are destroyed to make more land available for farming.  This land, in turn, gets damaged in the same way as before and so the cycle continues.  The FAO (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation) states;

The expansion and intensification of conventional farming is harmful not only to the environment, but also to the very resources essential to farming. Over the past two decades, some 15 million hectares of tropical forests are lost each year to provide land for agriculture.

Organic Farming Benefits – No Erosion of Soil
As well as destroying the soil, excessive crop growing results in the soil becoming compacted and rainwater cannot be easily absorbed.  Therefore, the rainwater runs off the soil into rivers taking with it the chemical inputs which causes pollution and increases the risk of flooding.

Crops grown each year using conventional systems require the soil to be cultivated.  This act alone destroys organic matter and kills a great deal of the soil fauna, leaving the soil itself open to the elements of the wind and rain.

When the structure of the soil is damaged and cultivation continues, compaction once more occurs resulting in improper drainage and the roots of the plant are unable to get the nutrients they need to grow healthily.

Soil erosion becomes an even bigger problem when natural barriers like hedgerows are removed in order to create a larger space for crops to be grown.  The wind and rain often take topsoil along with them and sometimes heavy rain can take the soil away completely.

Is Organic food healthy?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

As far as understanding the benefits of eating organic foods are concerned, we first need an awareness of the facts surrounding conventional produce of a non-organic nature as well as the way in which pesticides are used in certain foods.

In order to this, we can begin by taking a look at the highly respected and influential campaigner against the use of pesticides, Pan UK.

The results of their thorough research show us that:

  • Each year, an enormous amount of pesticide (31 billion tonnes) is sprayed on land within the UK
  • Chronic illnesses such as cancer as well as reproductive and neurologically related health issues are often a result of long term or regular exposure to pesticides
  • It is reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 772,000 new cases of disease caused by pesticides occur each year
  • There are 150 pesticides which have been identified as potential cancer causes by USEPA, the United States Environmental Protection Agency

        People who work on farms along with others who are involved with the use of pesticides are directly exposed to the associated dangers and as Pan UK tell us, the plantation workers in Costa Rica (from where of a high proportion of fruit is exported to the UK) verify that this is the case.

        …Local farmers complain of respiratory problems, allergies and serious chronic dermatitis. Local communities have seen their cattle lose their hair and their unborn calves after eating contaminated pasture. They’re concerned that they are drinking and washing in water affected by the same chemicals.

        Of course, we all need chemical substances that are left naturally, but problems arise when we begin to mix chemicals in order to carry out particular actions as in the case of pesticide production and use.  The results are definitely not good.

        Intensive farming uses pesticides which contain many thousands of hidden chemicals.  This not only puts our personal wellbeing at risk but also has a significant negative effect on the healthy state of the environment in which we live.

        Known as ‘inerts’ many of the toxic chemicals react with each other, for example, DDT and Dioxin.  This creates a magnified toxicity.