In 2001 Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation hit the book stands in the US. It rocked the consciousness of the nation and stayed on the New York best sellers list for more than two years. Its revelations about how the fast food industry operates and how animals are reared and slaughtered on huge feed lots in the Mid-West forced Americans to think about animal welfare issues. It highlighted the appalling working conditions and pitiful rates of pay of the meat and migrant workers.
Since then McDonalds and other chains have undergone a metamorphosis as they adapt to the growing customer demand for ethically produced meat and more healthy food. Other books, documentaries and films and acres of newsprint are helping to heighten awareness that things are going horribly wrong on many levels.
Even governments now are no longer in denial about climate change and global warming and even more importantly are beginning to face the decidedly uncomfortable fact that we can no longer really depend on cheap fuel. There is a huge urgency to prepare ourselves for a world fast approaching where fossil fuel will become so prohibitively expensive that we are forced to do without or find alternatives.
Let’s stop and think for a moment, take the dairy farmer. He picks up the phone to order diesel for his tractors “Sorry there won’t be another delivery for 4 months”. An hour later the power goes. The 100 cows need to be milked. Where does he start, he can remember how to milk but how can he teach the younger workers. The design of the milking parlor does not facilitate hand milking and where will he find a 3 legged stool. Even if he does manage to milk, what will he do with it? If the milk tanker comes, the creamery would be in the same boat!
I’ll stop here but you must get the message. This kind of scenario is hard to think about in fact most people are in complete denial that it or something similar is not as far away as we might think so we would do well to dwell on the new era we are going into and prepare.
At Slow Food Nation in San Francisco last weekend there was a lot of talk about transition farming and transition towns and villages. Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced the London Climate Change Adaptation Strategy which encourages people to take a variety of measures to prepare for what is now completely inevitable. It is not a case of if but when.
San Francisco and indeed most of California is unquestionably a place apart. There is an awareness and consciousness about food and environmental issues. I feel that for sure folks in Minnesota or Idaho may not see the same reality, even though they have many challenges. Factory farming has so damaged the environment that farming is becoming impossible in some areas. There are problems of soil fertility, soil erosion and chronic pollution.
In the U.S. there are more people in prison than there are farmers and the number of farmers has shrunk so dramatically that the National Census does not carry a category for farmers. They must register under ‘Others’ – How can it have happened that we so undervalue the very people who provide us with our means of life. But in the midst of despair and despondency there is certainly hope – something is definitely stirring at grass roots level. People are no longer waiting for governments to do it, individuals and committees are taking the initiative themselves. Slow Food and environmental activists are joining to develop local food initiatives. Slow Food Nation attracted 60,000 visitors over a weekend of seminars. Inspirational and visionary speakers brainstormed on a new way forward and how to bring about change and encourage sustainable food production world wide so that all food will nourish rather than merely fuel. The new Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture was launched and when it has been signed by more than 300,000 it will be presented to the incoming President of the United States as the voice of the American people that than the multi nationals. Thousands and thousands of people ate, drank and were merry as they toasted the farmers, fishermen and artisans and celebrated the beautiful fresh produce of the Bay Area. It was truly a life changing experience. www.slowfoodnation.org
Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly
Makes 2.7-3kg (6-7 lb)
2.7kg (6 lb) crab apples or wind fall cooking apples
2.7L (4 3/4 pints) water
2 unwaxed lemons
Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 3/4 hour.
Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 450g (1lb) sugar to each 600ml (1pint/2 1/2 cups) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven.
Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately.
Flavour with sweet geranium, mint or cloves as required (see below).
Apple and Sweet Geranium Jelly
Add 6-8 large leaves of sweet geranium while the apples are stewing and put a fresh leaf into each jar as you pot the jelly.
Apple and Clove Jelly
Add 3-6 cloves to the apples as they stew and put a clove in each pot. Serve on bread or scones.
Apple and Mint Jelly
Add 4-6 large sprigs of fresh mint to the apples while they are stewing and add 4-8 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint to the jelly just before it is potted. Serve with lamb.
Apple and Elderberry Jelly
Add a fist or two of elderberries to the apple and continue as above. Up to half volume of elderberries can be used. A sprig or two of mint or sweet geranium or a cinnamon stick enhances the flavour further.
Meringue Roulade with Blueberries and Blueberry Coulis
Serves 6 – 8
4 organic egg whites
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
1/2 pint (300ml) whipped cream
8ozs (225g) Irish blueberries
Sprigs of Mint, Lemon Balm or Sweet Cicely
Fresh Irish blueberry coulis (see recipe below)
Swiss roll tin 12 x 8 inch (30.5 x 20.5cm)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC\350ºF\regulo 4.
Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer. Break up with the whisk and then add all the castor sugar together. Whisk at full speed until it holds a stiff peak 4 – 5 minutes approx.
Meanwhile, line a swiss roll tin with tin foil, brush lightly with a non-scented oil (eg. sunflower or arachide).
Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Put a sheet of tin foil on the work top and turn the roulade onto it, remove the base tin foil and allow the meringue to cool.
Meanwhile make the blueberry coulis (see below).
Spread the whipped cream and blueberries over the meringue, roll up from the wide end and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6–8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate with mint leaves.
Serve, cut into slices about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick accompanied by a little fresh blueberry coulis.
Note: This roulade is also very good filled with raspberries, loganberries, sliced strawberries, peaches, nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, or mango and passionfruit.
8 ozs (225g) Irish blueberries
2 ozs (50g) icing sugar
Put the blueberries into the blender with the sugar, blend. Taste and add a little lemon juice if necessary. Store in a fridge.
Rose Hip Syrup
Rose hips are new in season so make this delicious cordial bursting with Vitamin C; it’s also great with proccesso as an aperitif
Makes 2 pints
Use either wild rose hips – Rosa cavina – or the hips of Rosa rugosa
2 lbs (900g) Rosehips
4 ½ pints (2.6 L) water
1 lb (450g) sugar
Bring three pints of water to the boil. Meanwhile chop or mince the rosehips
just as soon as they are ready add them to the water and bring it back to the boil.
Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 15 minutes.
Strain through muslin. Put the pulp back into the saucepan, add another 12 pints
water and bring to the boil, infuse and strain as before. Pour all the juice
into a clean saucepan, reduce uncovered to 1 2 pints. Add in the sugar, stir to
dissolve and allow to boil for 5 minutes.
Pour the syrup into sterilized bottles. Cover with screw top caps.
Serve with ice cream or use as the basis for a drink.
Damson & Bramley Apple Tart
The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. It is quite simply the best pie pastry. Individual tarts may also be made.
Break all the Rules Pastry
225g (8oz) butter
50g (2oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, free range and organic
350g (12oz) white flour, preferably unbleached
700g (1 1/2lb) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
225g (½lb) or more wild Damsons
150g (5oz) sugar
Egg wash, made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
Castor sugar for sprinkling
Softly whipped cream
Barbados sugar (soft dark brown sugar, not Muscovado)
1 x 18cm (7 inch) x 30.5cm (12 inch) x 2.5cm (1 inch) deep or 1 x 23cm (9 inch) round tin or 1 x 23cm (9 inch) square
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle. Having said that, I have on occasions bunged all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz bang, whizz bang made the pastry in a matter of seconds and rolled in out minutes later albeit with a certain amount of difficulty. Even if it does break a little it responds very well to being patched and appears flawless and golden when it is fully baked.
To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 5mm (1/4 inch) thick approximately, and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, top with Damsons (don’t remove stones). Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.
Make in exactly the same way but use approx. 900g (2lb) sliced red rhubarb (about 1/2 inch thick) and approximately 370-400g (13oz-14oz) sugar.
FOOL PROOF FOOD
Irish Blueberry Drop Scones
Drop scones are so quick and easy to make, the blueberries make lovely addition.
10oz (275g) plain flour
1¾ oz (45g) sugar plus more for sprinkling on top
2 teasp. baking powder
¼ teasp. salt
3oz (75g) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2oz (50g) fresh or frozen Irish blueberries, thawed if frozen
1 large free range egg
6 fl.oz (175g) milk
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C/regulo 7)
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Rub in the butter until crumbs form. Stir in the blueberries.
Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl. Add to the flour mixture and stir with a fork until the ingredients are moistened and bind together.
Drop the batter in heaped tablespoons, 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.
Sprinkle with sugar and bake until golden brown for about 12 minutes. Serve immediately.
Sunday 5th October, Cavan – Grounds of Radisson SAS Farnham Estate
Dinner: The Old Post Inn, Cloverhill
Mushroom hunt & picnic: Adults €30 / 12-16yrs €15 / Under 12’s €5
Mushroom hunt, picnic & dinner: Adults €60 / 12-16yr €40 / Under 12’s €20
Booking:Call 01-6779995 or email email@example.com by Monday 29th September
On Sunday 28th September
Stephen and Sarah Canty of Food for Thought are supplying a sumptuous West Cork Picnic, with all local good clean and fair produce. Wines from our very generous sponsors Febvre and Co.
Adults €20, children €8, €15 for 2, €22 for 3
Bookings, Simone at Interior living, 11 Mac Curtain Street, tel 4505819 from 10am to 5.30pm Mon – Sat
Talk on Codex Alimentarius by Ian Crane
The UN plan to eradicate Organic Farming and to destroy the Natural Health Industry
Thursday September 25th at 8pm
Quaker Meeting House, Summerhill South, Cork City
Entrance Fee €5