Eating sustainably, ethically, responsibly, humanely…

The food system is broken. Food is not a commodity. Cheap shouldn’t be king – cheap has a price; for humans, animals & the environment. @martharoberts

I keep banging on this same drum, sounding out that how the food we eat and the choices we make about what types of food we choose to consume, affects both us and the environment we all have to live in. This is how factory farmed pigs are housed. This is the pig equivalent of Guantanamo.

The way they’re caged & their waste treated has a huge impact on the water table, polluting rivers & waterways, damaging soil & the ecosystem around and causing health problem for people unfortunate enough to be living close by. The stench is unreal. It has to be experienced (once!) to realise just quite how eye-wateringly, throat clenching, breathing impacting it is. And that is aside from the very real pain, suffering and mental anguish caused to the poor animals constrained in these multi-story prisons or death factories.

This clip below is taken from videos shot by activists…

…from one of those huge death camps run by the US Smithfield Food Corporation, the largest pork producer in the country, who’ve also been caught SPRAYING THIS FUCKING SHIT INTO THE AIR.

Then there’s the huge question of what species can safely & sustainably be eaten without causing a possibly disastrous drop in population numbers. I don’t necessarily think all the dodos killed were eaten by humans; but it took less than a century for all of them to disappear totally from the face of the planet. We’re even better at mass-destruction nowadays…

I’m going to be writing a whole lot more on eating sustainably, ethically, responsibly, humanely. And with minimal waste. As a start, at the foot of this post, I’ve listed the various fish species divided very easily into two sections; one labelled “Eat Me”, the one other labelled “Don’t be a selfish dickhead”.

There are a number of organisations already effectively working in this area. In this piece I want to highlight three that I’ve not previously mentioned before.

Firstly, there’s the Real Junk Food Project; they divert surplus edible food destined for waste and make it accessible for human consumption. They say

“We believe it is a human right to have access to food and the scale and senselessness of food waste has to stop, and it needs to happen in our lifetime, to ensure the next generation do not suffer from our ignorance.”

There’s a video of one of the team talking about how they want to feed the world and save waste that’s well worth watching

Secondly, there’s FareShare, who similarly collect food that would otherwise be dumped and, via a nationwide network of volunteers, deliver it to partner charities who then in turn distribute meals to those most in need

 

and then lastly there’s chef Massimo Bottura’ Refettorio Felix, in St Cuthbert’s, London that fights against food waste ‘in support of social inclusion and individual well-being’. It’s part of his Food For Soul project that he setup in Milan in 2015 with subsequent projects following in Brazil (Refettorio Gastromotiva) and then two more in Modena and Bologna. Each of these projects shares the common themes of using surplus food, working with local artists, to create engaging dining spaces and serving dishes to vulnerable local communities.

That we still need these initiatives in England, a country that claims to be the 5th richest in the world, in the year 2017, is, quite frankly an obscene, festering, national disgrace. That said, the amount of food wasted around the world is also a similar obscene disgrace, so, swallowing my bile and pure, simple, unalloyed hatred of the Tories and the neo-liberals and their “austerity” measures, I urge you all to support at least one of these.

And lastly? A reminder that WASTED! The Story of Food Waste, which stars Massimo alongside Mario Batali, Dan Barber and Danny Bowien — Anthony Bourdain is its executive producer — is an 85-minute film about the food waste crisis and those working to combat it, is showing in a special screening on 23rd June at the Curzon Chelsea in King’s Road. It’s followed by a panel including director Anna Chai, Justin Byam-Shaw, chairman of food waste project The Felix Project and food waste champion Patrick Drake.

Tickets for the screening cost £12 which includes a booking fee of £1. Profit from the ticket sales will be donated to The Felix Project. For information, go to londonfoodmonth.co.uk.  Go and see it!

And if you need anymore encouragement, here’s a final reminder from the resource efficiency group WRAP, of how much there’s still to do:

Figures from the United Nations indicate that 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption is wasted around the world every year. Ten million tonnes goes to waste in the UK alone.

And finally? Finally, here’s that list of fish I promised you earlier. These in the first group you can eat with a clear conscience:

  • King Salmon
  • Sockeye Salmon
  • Pink Salmon
  • Chum Salmon
  • Wild Striped Bass
  • Soft Shell Crab
  • Pacific Rock Fish
  • Wild Yellowtail
  • Swordfish
  • Farm-Raised Abalone, Arctic Char & Barramundi
  • Catfish
  • Clams
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Pacific Cod (Alaska only)
  • King Crab
  • Snow Crab
  • Tanner Crab
  • Dungeness Crab
  • Lionfish
  • Spiny Lobster (Mexico only)
  • Freshwater Prawns
  • Spotted Prawns
  • Rockfish
  • Sablefish/Black Cod
  • Sanddab
  • Farm-Raised Scallops (wild is an okay alternative)
  • Farm-Raised Shrimp (wild is an okay alternative)
  • Tilapia
  • Farm-Raised Rainbow Trout
  • Wild Albacore Tuna
  • Wild Skipjack Tuna
  • Wild Yellowfin Tuna
  • Branzino
  • Black & Red Grouper
  • Lobster
  • Monkfish
  • Octopus
  • Squid

But steer clear of these below. Change your buying habits, encourage your friends to do the same and, importantly, tell chefs & restaurants that you won’t eat fish from this group so won’t eat at their places until they’re on board with this idea and have stopped serving these species:

  • Bluefin Tuna
  • Farm-Raised Salmon (because it’s hugely polluting & screws up the other water inhabitants!)
  • Eel
  • Farm-Raised Yellowtail
  • Wild Abalone
  • Basa/Pangasius/Swai
  • Cod (Atlantic, Russia, Japan)
  • Crab (Asia and Russia)
  • Atlantic Halibut
  • Spiny Lobster (Belize, Brazil, Honduras, and Nicaragua)
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Orange Roughy
  • Pollock
  • Atlantic Sardines
  • Sharks
  • Imported Shrimp
  • Squid (China, India, and Thailand)

Let’s skillet kids

I recently bought another new skillet. This one is a 15″ monster to go alongside the smaller 10″ version I’d bought last year. There’s probably no kitchen utensil finer than this for searing and browning stuff  — unless you have a salamander like this below in your kitchen; most amateur cooks can’t spring for something that expensive and that big — and it’s even good for baking items in the oven; like corn-bread, the recipe at the foot of the page by Sean Brock being a fine example of that.

salamander

It arrived like the first one claiming (and very probably truthfully) to be pre-seasoned but, having already read widely and had the experience of the earlier one to fall back on, inc. this great piece entitled “The Truth About Cast Iron Pans: 7 Myths That Need To Go Away” by the very wonderful J. Kenji López-Alt of the Serious Eats website as well as the previously reviewed “The Food Lab“, I decided to start as I needed to go on.

2016-04-16 at 14.48

The process is simple — pre-heat an oven to as high as it’ll go (250ºC+, around 500ºF), rub a very fine film of vegetable or olive oil into the pan making sure it coats everywhere (use your hands!) inc. the handle and the base, taking care to remove all excess with a paper towel, place in the oven for around 60 minutes, then turn off the heat and wait for it to cool. It’ll take a long time to cool — up to 2 hours — so be patient. Cast iron is fantastic at retaining heat; that’s why it’s so good at what it does. The downside is that many a cook has unwittingly grabbed the handle too soon. Believe me, it hurts like a bastard. And the blisters take some time to heal. And you’ll feel like a dick.

Coating with oil. Then removing...

Coating with oil. Then removing…

“Rinse & repeat” as many times as you like until the pan shines. (NOTE: I don’t really mean rinse by the way. But then you knew that of course, didn’t you?)

The B&W photo below is taken after the first of 5 planned seasonings — a process that has to be repeated regularly every couple of months if the pan isn’t to degrade. But if you do as you’re told and stick to this discipline, then the pan will outlast you, it will outlast your children and it will probably outlast their children.

I think you’ll agree that it’s looking pretty bloody good already, the shine of the new coating starting to come up and at the same time, smoothing over the bumps that the modern manufacturing process leaves.

pan

Really old skillets are smooth already as part of the production involved casting it in sand-based moulds, then polishing the resulting pebbly surfaces until all the little hillocks had been removed. So vintage cast iron tends to have a satiny smooth finish. By the 1950s, as factory production scaled up and was streamlined, this final polishing step was dropped from the process. The result? Modern cast iron retains that bumpy, pebbly surface.

Well, it does, at least until all your hard work and time invested, starts laying down a thicker layer of polymerised oil; the result left when the oil you’ve carefully rubbed over the surface (and equally carefully rubbed off — it’s molecules we’re looking for) breaks down under the intense heat of the oven into a plastic-like substance that has bonded to the surface of the metal. And this non-permeable layer is what gives well-seasoned cast iron its non-stick properties as well as smoothing over the lumps.

There’s even talk that pure flaxseed oil — because it contains more free-radicals than the more usual oils deployed — works more effectively and more quickly. Me? I haven’t yet gone to those lengths (it requires 18 hours, 6 seasonings and I’ve not had the damn thing that long) but the science seems sound, which of course appeals to the inner geek in me and so I’d say, if you have an old skillet that needs some TLC or you just want to experiment, then this could well be the right time to look at Sheryl Canter’s approach. Go for it!

By the way, I find can’t actually get the 15″ one into the oven; it’s just too frickin’ big. We may have to move to allow me to buy a bigger oven so that I can properly season this one…

And finally? Finally, here’s the promised Sean Brock recipe courtesy Food Republic:

If you get it right, it’ll look like this:

© Photograph: Peter Frank Edwards via Serious Eats

Bacon gives me a lardon…

HT to @400degreesoven for this one. And stop that childish sniggering at the back please…

“Atom Bomb Baby”? Glow-in-the-dark boars…

Along with Them! — a cautionary tale about giant irradiated ants — which was Warner Bros.’ highest-grossing film of 1954 — the curiously cast Five (1951) and the original (and best) Japanese “Godzilla” (Gojira) from 1954, us Brits also managed to produce the Fiend Without A Face” (1958) as we too jumped on the “dangers of the atomic age” bandwagon.

During the 1950s, nuclear horror films were very much of the moment as the studios, never slow to jump on a trend, unleashed a veritable avalanche of (mostly completely forgettable & rightly unsung) mutated radioactive beasts upon their audiences who left theatres both terrified of these creatures and, of course, at the same time, of the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation at the hands of the Godless commie heathens of the Soviet Union.

Well, as you all know, humanity has managed to dodge that particular bullet. At least so far; with Trump, Kim, Putin & May in power, who knows for how much longer?

Safe? Until now that is. Now the animals are conspiring against us. First the Japanese let loose with their radioactive boars from Fukushima. Thanks to @val_littlewood I’m now reminded that the Czechs have joined in the “fun”.

The radioactive cloud thrown up by the environmental disaster that was the 1986 Chernobyl explosion drifted across all of Western Russia and Europe but it seemed to hang around for a particularly long time over the Bohemian Forest (known in Czech as Šumava and across the border in Germany as Böhmerwald) dumping as it did, large quantities of radioactive isotopes (inc. Caesium-137 which is water soluble so easily enters the food chain and, with a half-life of 30 years, isn’t going away anytime soon).

This stuff is then taken up by an underground species of mushroom (colloquially known as “false truffles” or, more colourfully, “deer balls”), that the boars (in behaviour common to all pig species) love to root around and dig up and eat. They look so innocent don’t they?

So, whilst not quite “glow in the dark” damaged, they’re not really any longer suitable as part of anything approaching a ‘healthy’ diet; indeed, half of the boar meat destined for the human food chain is condemned and destroyed. Watch out people, they’re getting closer. The inevitable film depicting the downfall of humanity under a wave of killer boars is probably being filmed even now — “Attack Of The Boars From The Gates Of Hell” anyone? The stuff of nightmares….

© “Outside” magazine

OK, I know you’re asking though: “Hey Chris, what if we can find a non-glowing, safe-to-eat boar? How best to serve it?”. I hear you. I hear you. And what better recipe to offer you than one courtesy those fine people at the (English) Real Boar Company? It’s for ‘Wild Boar Casserole in a Rich Italian Style’:

• 2lb generous cubes of diced shoulder
• 2-3 tbls oil (or butter)
• 1 tbls flour
• 1/2-pint robust red wine

Marinade
• 2 cloves garlic
• 2 tbls spiced oil
• 1 onion diced
• 2 tbls spiced vinegar/wine vinegar
• 3-4 sage leaves, sprig rosemary leaves, finely chopped
• 2 tbls Masala (optional)
• 2 tbls robust red wine
• 2-3 cloves
• 1 1/2 tsp salt
• 2-3 crushed juniper berries
• Plenty fresh milled pepper

Mix the meat with all the marinade ingredients and marinate in cool place for 24 hours.

Drain from the marinade, pat dry. Heat the butter or oil in a heavy frying pan and brown the meat all over, sprinkling in the flour to brown a little too. Don’t overfill the pan as you want the meat to brown, not stew.

Remove to a casserole, preferably earthenware, Deglaze the pan with the marinade and wine and pour over the meat.

Cover tightly, cook in a very slow oven (250F/130C/gas 1) for about 2½ – 3 hours until the meat is very tender and the sauce reduced.

Cook with the lid off if not well reduced for the sauce should be little more than a sticky substance that coats the meat. Degrease any excess fat and serve with polenta or creamy mashed potatoes.

And finally? The other part of the post title? A song by a doo-wop group called The Five Stars singing just that — one equating sexual power with The Atomic Bomb:

A diet that ISN’T 100% pork?

Yes; that’s mine. There are days when I don’t eat any pig products at all. Not many of these days still, I admit but equally, it’s not all about pork at every meal.

© Thriving On Plants

I guess — without wishing to sound too achingly trendy or à la mode (pretentious? moi?)– I’m slowly becoming a combination of vegivore & flexitarian; choosing to eat less meat and to emphasise the importance of (and fantastic flavours from) vegetables and pulses.

If Fergus Henderson is the patron saint of all things meat (well yes, of course he is), then, along with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Yotam Ottolenghi occupies that same elevated level in the pantheon for vegetables. He — rightly — says:

Vegetables are so much more versatile than they are often given credit for. It’s easy to typecast vegetables -– eggplant gets roasted, broccoli gets steamed, cabbage gets boiled, zucchini gets pan-fried – but there’s a whole cast of characters out there, waiting to get given a different and often more exciting role.

And let’s not forget fermented foodstuffs eh? A whole (microscopic) world of joy awaits me there…

It seems almost anything can be made more tasty and more interesting by allowing it to submit to the joy of being cultured by live bacteria.

© Healthy Latin Eating

You could do worse than join the Garden Organic group and then start planting & cultivating & nurturing suitable heritage seeds:

HSLSeedList2017_0