The Belly Rebellion

T

On International Women’s Day 8th March 2005, 600 women from all walks of life turned up at a hip new conference centre in called Base Camp in Copenhagen for the launch of a new food revolution called Belly Rebellion. If this new grass roots movement gathers momentum it could well change the way we look on food in Europe and the Western World. Just like the International Slow food Movement it was born out of outrage.

So what was the spark that ignited and united over 600 women to rally to the cause – well it appears that last November a group of Nordic chefs had a huge conference on the future of Nordic food. Chefs from all the Nordic countries headed up the prestigious panel of chefs from Norway, Sweden, Greenland, Iceland and Finland.. The conference was sponsored by the Nordic Council of Ministers, who as one of its primary roles, has equality between the sexes.

Camilla Plum and Katrine Klinken were among the 20 delegates at the conference. – suddenly the penny dropped, there were no women chefs – why were there no women chefs? The response was swift and spontaneous – no women chefs were good enough to join this auspicious group to discuss the future of gastronomy in the Nordic region. ‘They must be joking ‘– the male chefs were unrepentant. Nor surprisingly there was incredulity at the audacity of the response, followed by fury – hell hath no wrath like a woman chef scorned!. The Danish Council and the Nordic Council blushed in shame.

Letters to the papers, telephone calls to radio and television stations, eventually the idea for an alternative conference was born and the term Belly Rebellion was coined.

Sponsors vied to support the event, women chefs, caterers, food companies, food producers, activists and farmers, immediately wanted to be involved. The delegates were an extraordinary cross-section of women mostly from Denmark, with a smattering of people from the Nordic countries, England and Germany, and mise from Ireland.

I was invited to speak about food and our families and the Farmers Market Movement. The main issue that seemed to unite all the women in the room was the concern about the quality of food in Denmark and the difficulty of finding good quality food in a country where the retail food market is dominated by supermarkets and the local shops are no longer independent.

Consequently it is almost impossible to find fresh naturally produced food in season. There are a few organic ‘box schemes’ and a smattering of farmers markets but for the majority of busy people who don’t have time to visit the few farmers markets- the reality is that fresh naturally produced local food in season is simply unobtainable, mass produced food is the only option.

At present Danes spend 9.5% of their income on food, the lowest in Europe. Here in Ireland we spend 20.3% in comparison to 22.7% in 1994/5 so we have no reason to feel smug.

The reality is that nowadays few people connect the food they eat with how they feel. Few people in the Western world really understand a basic fact which is blatantly obvious to our Asian friends – ‘Our food should be our medicine’. Nonetheless, this issue has certainly stimulated debate in Denmark. The many speakers at the day-long conference to launch the Belly Rebellion addressed the problems and helped to heighten awareness about the health crisis that is emerging because so much of the mass produced denatured food that people have easy access to, is in fact nutritionally deficient. There were calls for better food in hospitals, school, canteens, cooking and gardening classes for children and the establishment of school gardens.

Mae Wan Ho, director of the Institute of Science in Society in London, spoke about genetically modified food.

Other speakers spoke about the European food monopolies who decide all about the food we eat, about food in hospitals and kindergartens, about ecology and local food production. Workshops on a variety of food related subjects in the afternoon. There were lovely long coffee, lunch and dinner breaks to give people opportunity to chat and brain storm. This was the girls’ day, not a chap in sight, no male journalists or photographers. Sanne Salmonsen, Denmark’s queen of Rock and Roll, performed for free to show her support, as did the cool all-girl band called the Cookies – the Gipsy Mystique dancers, danced and swirled to wild and wonderful music. Danish grande dame Jytte Abildstrom, 70 year old red-haired comedienne had everyone in stitches, she too volunteered her services as did another famous Danish rock and roll lassie called Pernille Hojmark, who had everyone out dancing, or at least tapping their feet.

The day eventually wound down about 12.30 with people resolved to continue the debate and to suggest initiatives on the internet – you too can get involved – its not necessary to speak Danish, most Danes speak perfect English.

www.oproerframaven.dk

Camilla’s Roasted Fennell, Potatoes, Pickled Lemon, Saffron and Yoghurt

Camilla roasted a spatchcock on a grid on top, only flavoured with garlic, salt and pepper. The cooking juices dripped onto the roast vegetables during cooking.
Serves 8 

4 fennell bulbs
4 pickled lemons (see recipe)
8-24 potatoes, depending on size
1 teasp saffron
4 pods cardamon
salt and freshly ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
20fl oz (1 pint) natural yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F. 

Cut the fennel bulbs into quarters through the root. Cut the pickled lemons in half. If the potatoes are large, cut into chunks (the size of a small potato). Arrange all the vegetables in a roasting tin, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove the seeds from the cardamom, discard the pod, crush in a pestle and mortar. Add freshly crushed spice and a good pinch of saffron to the yoghurt. Mix well, pour over the vegetables. Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes. Serve.

Camilla Plum’s Cardamon and Vanilla Ice-cream

Serves 6-8
7 cardamon pods
1 vanilla pod
5 free-range organic egg yolks
5oz (150g) castor sugar
24fl oz (725ml) cream

accompaniment
baked apples (optional)

Crush the cardamon pods, remove the seeds and crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put into a large bowl. Split a vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and add to the cardamon. Add the egg yolks and castor sugar and whisk well then add in the cream and mix again.
Pour into an ice-cream machine and freeze for about 20 minutes. Serve with baked apples.

Camilla Plum’s Fried Soused Herring

For 4 Persons
8 fat herrings, boned, but in one piece
8 tbsp. ryeflour
50 g butter
1 onion in rings

Marinade:
300ml (10fl.oz) cider vinegar
150ml light cane sugar
1 tbsp coarse salt
20 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Coat the double herring filets in rye flour, spiced with a little salt and pepper. Fry the fish in browned butter till the flesh whitens, no more. Put the fish in a deep dish with the onion. Boil the marinade together for a few minutes, and let it cool till lukewarm. Cover the fish with the marinade, and cool completely, but do not put it in the fridge. It takes away the flavour. Eat on buttered rye bread with lots of fresh onion rings.

Eggs in mustard sauce with herb salad

For 4 persons
4 boiled eggs, Yolk just stiff

Sauce:
25 g butter
2 tbsp flour
400ml (14fl.oz) whole milk
4 tbsp coarse French mustard
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. traditional coarse mustard
salt 
pepper

Herb salad: 
2 handfuls very small dandelion leaves 
2 handfuls lambs' lettuce
Bunch of rocket
Small crunchy head of lettuce
Bunch chives
Handful of salsify leaves
Bunch of chervil
Small bunch dill
50ml (2fl.oz) virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Clean the leaves in plenty of cold water, make sure there is no crunch between the teeth. Dry completely on a towel. Melt the butter in a small pan, without colouring, whisk in the flour, and then the milk, a little at a time. Let it bubble for five minutes. If it becomes very thick, use a little more milk. Take it off the heat and whisk in the different mustards. Spice with salt and pepper. The sauce must not boil again, or the mustard becomes flat. Mix the leaves with the oil, salt and pepper and arrange on 4 plates. Peel the eggs and cut in half. Spoon the sauce beside the salad and arrange the eggs on top, cut side up.

Eat with cured, pickled or smoked fish, or on its own with rye bread.

Lemon mousse

for 4 persons
3 eggs
100 g (3½ oz) light cane sugar
3 big lemons
3 sheets of gelatine (here we use 12 sheets to jelly a litre of liquid)
200ml (7 fl.oz) whipping cream

Whip yolks and sugar till light and fluffy, and the sugar is completely dissolved.

Scrape the zest of the lemon into the yolks. Soak the gelatine in cold water for five minutes. Squeeze and melt in a small pan, take it of the heat. Mix in the juice from the lemons until the gelatine is completely dissolved, no lumps. Mix with the yolks and mix well, or there will be gluey stripes. Whisk the egg whites till stiff, and whisk the cream till stiff. Mix both into the yolks. Put the mousse in tall glasses and let it cool in the fridge. Eat with thin wafers and candied lemon peel on top.

Foolproof Food

Rhubarb Bread and Butter Pudding

We’ve been having fun ringing the changes with our recipe. Bread and Butter Pudding is also delicious with apple and cinnamon or even mixed spice. I can’t wait to try gooseberry and elderflower as soon as they come back into season.
Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed 
55g (2oz) butter, preferably unsalted
450g (1 lb) red rhubarb
Sugar 
450ml (16 fl oz) cream
230ml (8 fl oz) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
175g (6oz) sugar
1 tablespoon sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding

Garnish:
Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish 

Slice the rhubarb in pieces, put into a dish and sprinkle with sugar leave to macerate for an hour.

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the rhubarb, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the rhubarb. Cover with the remaining bread, buttered side down.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence and sugar. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, for at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

Bake in a bain-marie - the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.

Hot tips

The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, now celebrating its 10th anniversary 

Has a range of courses on offer and is also open for visits between April 1st and September 30th. Just some of the courses on offer in April – Grains, Bread and Sourdough, Organic gardening for Beginners, Goatkeeping Workshop, Cooking for Children, Ecolandscaping for new sites – there is much, much more on offer right through to October – Tel 071-98 54338. email:organiccentre@eircom.net  www.theorganiccentre.ie 

Earth Day 2005 – 22nd April. - GM-free Ireland Network cordially invites you to collaborate in launching 1,000 local GMO-free zones throughout Ireland at 2pm on 22 April. Their objective is for organic and conventional farmers, hotels. Restaurants, pubs, retailers, schools and homes North and South of the border to display GMO-free zone signs and simultaneously declare their lands and premises GMO-free. Full details on www.gmfreeireland.org/zones

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

Letters

Back to List
Latest Letter
All Recipes
Back to Website
All Darinas Letters are published each week in The Examiner

Past Letters

  • Recipes