Ruby Harvest Soup

Ruby Harvest Soup

  • 1 red onion
  • 1 small butternut squash or approx half an orange one
  • 1 beetroot, peeled
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 8 fresh tomatoes or 1/2 cans

Chop all these except the garlic into smallish cubes (does anyone ever do cubes?? – ‘Smallish chunks’) and sauté in olive oil for 10 minutes. 


  • 3 handfuls red lentils
  • the chopped garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk

Stir and add enough stock to cover the lentils with a couple of cms to spare


  • 1 generous sprig thyme if you have it fresh
  • 1 heaped teaspoon each gr cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika.

Simmer for 40 – 50 minutes. 

I blend half of it.

You can freeze this.

Slaughter numbers jump by 2.2 billion

As always, this hard-hitting blog reminds us just how much we take animal suffering as the norm.

There's an Elephant in the Room blog

Despite the euphoria caused by the proliferation of plant based dietary options in shops and restaurants, the statistics don’t bear out the wishful thinking about veganism taking over the world any time soon. In fact, given the accelerating climate catastrophe with the terrifying extreme weather events in every paper and news bulletin, the numbers make me seriously doubt the number of humans taking our mortal peril as a species seriously.

In the most recent statistics, the total number of land-based individuals whose lives are hacked from their terrified throats in slaughterhouses across the globe has leapt from 74.9 billion to 77 billion – an increase of almost 2.2 billion in a single year.  Even allowing for a 0.1 billion increase in the global human population (7.7 – 7.8 billion), this is a disaster for our victims and ought to be a sobering bucket of cold water for every company and…

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vegan or plant-based?

There is a big conversation to be had about individuals’ motivations for eliminating or reducing consumption of any animal products. I’m not in a position to tease all this out right now, but I want to flag it up as a concern.

And yet, and yet: surely if people cut meat and dairy out of their diet, some might say, the result is to be welcomed, no matter what the impetus? And of course in one way that is correct. If people go plant-based for environmental reasons, for health reasons or even because it’s trendy, the net result is less animal suffering.

The problem is, though, veganism is a whole ethical standpoint that leads us to question all the choices we make in our lives; and, for me, most importantly it challenges a worldview – our collective current worldview – that animals are here to be exploited by us, and that commodification of the other-than-human is not only OK but ‘natural’.

It is, clearly, this attitude, so widespread as to be ‘normal’, that is behind all our environmental problems today; and for myself all my professional work and personal life is about challenging this unthinking anthropocentrism.

However, as I’ve said, this is not the time for me to unravel this; so if you haven’t read it I’d like to direct you to a very good blog on the Vegan Society website, which begins to address these intertwined issues:

animals, other nations

This blog was written when I first started to go vegan, in 2012. I imagine there will be passages I might update now, but for the moment I’m pasting it verbatim. I don’t apologise for the fact that there’s hard stuff in it.

animals: ‘other nations, caught with ourselves’

‘We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.’
Henry Beston (from The Outermost House: a year of life on the great beach of Cape Cod)

From an early age I was lucky enough as to be brought up with animals, both as family companions and as wild species whom I was taught to recognise, respect and learn about, and from. Our house was always filled with animals, whether chosen pets or wild animals in various states of injury and healing (both I and another sister had wounded animals brought to us from when we were quite young).It’s inconceivable to me to live one’s whole life without developing relationship with one or more animals. There’s a dislocation, a dissociation, happens in a society where humans form an isolated stratum in the eco-system, disconnected in any real way from our near-neighbours.

For a child, time spent looking after an animal is a natural and important way of learning compassion and empathy.

More, it seems to me that the measure of an enlightened culture is not just its treatment of other humans, but its treatment too of the animals from whom and with whom we’ve evolved. We have grown up as a species alongside (other) animals; and some, like dogs and horses, have been close companions to humans for thousands of years.

At an ancient and profound level our souls resonate with the animal kingdom, and we can learn much about our own species and this planet by learning from them and their (and our with-them) interrelationships. Spending time with the animal kingdom opens doorways we may have forgotten, and can restore a kind of meaning as we are reminded of our interconnectedness with them, and the whole great web of life. It’s through the animal kingdom too that we can start to reclaim our healthy instinctual nature.In shamanic cultures animals are recognised as spirit-guides, representing not only themselves but archetypal aspects of our human psyches too; they may well perform the role of soul-restoration.

Animals in vision and dream can be teachers. In shamanic practice, ‘meeting’ in the Otherworld of dream or vision a particular animal or type of animal three times is seen as significant, and the dreamer does well to find out all he or she can about the characteristics of that animal in order to see more deeply into his or her own psyche, and its messages and needs.

Animals can be healers: there’s much documented testimony to the power of pets to alleviate symptoms in humans, whether psychological or physical (though of course that’s a false dichotomy; my guess is that being around animals is restorative to the soul which in turn boosts the immune system). For myself, time out walking with the dog, time alongside horses, time watching the birds feeding in the courtyard is profoundly healing and uplifting; sometimes subtly, sometimes more obviously.

Today, with my poetry group here, over and over in my writing and the gaps between I returned to watching the birds, with their different characteristics: the woodpeckers flitting in – the youngster who hangs on the feeder motionless for ten minutes, digesting the nuts and preventing anyone else from arriving; the nuthatch with its insistent upside-down fierce pecking; noting the bluetits queuing up to sip drops of water from the forest of ice-spears on the quarry-face that walls one side of the courtyard, their comic acrobatics, their speed, their little tricolour faces and clockwork head-tilts; the little drab-shy dunnocks, hedge sparrows that are not actually sparrows at all but members of the ‘accentor’ family:

Watching all day
the dunnocks
in the courtyard puddles
on their little stick-legs
playing ‘grandmother’s footsteps’
with the rain, with my gaze –

how big the world is,
how diverse,
how unmappable!
And how wise it would be
to be in love with

As a child I was, and as an adult, too, I am entranced by those stories of animals who help each other, and help if needed humans, also, to survive: the stories of dolphins who raise drowning dolphins, and humans, to the surface to breathe; that video on YouTube of a small dog dodging traffic to pull its injured dog companion across a three-lane highway to safety; stories of dogs who trek hundreds of miles to find their human companion; those stories of children raised by gazelle, by wolves.

And how do we reward them? With captivity. With torture. With eating them. What we do to others we do, of course, to ourselves.

Our relationship to animals surely needs to change as we move towards meeting the spiritual, and material, demands of our time.

The transport of live food animals from Britain to Europe has started again. Calves just weeks old are shipped to Europe to be raised in the dark and have their throats slit for veal (darkness and bleeding to death makes the meat white). That is, if they’ve survived: far more often than one would like to hope they arrive broken-limbed or with dislocated hips from being dragged, pushed or dangled by one leg in being winched on and off planes or ships.

Geese are force-fed for paté de foie gras. Ducks are intensively-reared, and like hens de-beaked.

Pigs, these most intelligent of animals, are largely confined to tiny cages as breeding sows throughout the ‘developed’ world, where they literally go mad. Smuggled video cameras in abattoirs show pigs being kicked, punched; having cigarettes put out on their snouts.

Many if not most cows in the UK, hard though it is to believe, spend at least half their lives and sometimes all of them away from pastureland, close-confined in barns. (‘Grassfed’ doesn’t automatically mean outdoors; sometimes they are fed cut grass in intensive rearing units.) If the big corporations have their way, much more of this will happen in intensive mega-dairies.

Salmon are farmed, which means that their natural migrations simply don’t happen. In common with all farmed animals, quite apart from the misery, the intensive farming methods used, plus interference with their natural health and welfare means that disease is rife.Shark are de-finned live for the tables of the East, being thrown back into the water to die.Dolphins and whales of course are hunted for food.

Monkeys are, or were until recently if not any longer, served as ‘delicacies’ in Japanese restaurants where, live, they are penned by the necks and their brains eaten.And dancing bears, caged, live a life of utter misery with rings disfiguring the soft tissue of their noses, being beaten and electro-prodded to make them ‘dance’ for tourists.

Of course this raises questions about ‘right relationship’. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could restore animals to their rightful place, as respected co-habitees of this amazing planet – third in line from the sun, conditions just right for life as we know it; one degree hotter or one degree cooler and we wouldn’t even be here – alongside us? How would it be to ease back on the pedal, to consider how many lives are given to satisfy our appetites, and whether those appetites and therefore lives lost are truly necessary?

For me, I made the decision at 16 to become vegetarian. It was also consonant with my Buddhist practice, in which I’ve taken the precept of non-harming. (I knew, too, that if push came to shove I couldn’t actually kill an animal; if I could, maybe I’d feel better about eating it.)

For many years, though, I made my living as a shoemaker. This was part of a whole drive on my part to learn the basic skills of smallholding: growing, cooking, animal-husbandry, cheese-making, bread-making, wine-making, pottery, spinning, weaving, knitting, vegetable-dyeing, medicinal herbs, healing, woodcraft. And for many years I was aware of a deep-seated hypocrisy in myself regarding the use of animal products that involved taking an animal’s life (as opposed to, for instance, eating an egg from a sterile hen – yes they produce eggs even without a cockerel in the flock – or wool shorn from a living sheep). From time to time people challenged me on the leather use, and I’d respond, glibly, that I was using up the waste ‘you carnivores leave behind you’. But that was simply a pat answer. It is true that if one is going to take the life of an animal at all, one should perhaps use the whole of it, with gratitude. But I didn’t want to be involved in animal exploitation at all.

So then I was eating cheese and drinking milk (albeit organic, which at least guaranteed minimum welfare standards for the animals involved), both of which practices involve cow pregnancy and the killing of unwanted calves, and in any case almost all the male calves; and although many cheeses use vegetarian rennet to set the curd, many still use an enzyme from calves’ stomachs.

I’d always said that when my daughter left home (I’d brought her up vegetarian) I’d become a vegan. I didn’t. It took me ten years, until very recently, to take this logical next step, ethically speaking.

I couldn’t imagine giving up tea completely (I don’t have many addictions, but that’s a small one), and I couldn’t imagine enjoying tea without milk. To my utter astonishment, I actively liked the taste of the Co-op’s organic soya milk (and nothing’s perfect: there is still the question of both food miles and processed foods); and it only took a week or two before I started to actively dislike the taste of cow’s milk – too fatty, too animaly. (And it is, after all, made for calves – who wants bones like cows?? ‘We are what we eat…’)

Cheese has been much harder. I really miss it.  I have found that for me the way forward is not to be utterly rigid. If I cut cheese out completely I crave it badly. My compromise has been that if I go out and there isn’t a vegan option I eat cheese; and on a poetry day where everyone brings food to share, I usually do, too. Allowing myself to do this has had the desired effect: I rarely want to; but when I do, I really enjoy it, without guilt. (UPDATE: there are two amazing vegan ‘cheeses’ now on the market, and both come in non-plastic packaging. One is Tyne Chease, and the other Mouse’s Favourite.)

I confess I do still eat some eggs. They have to be free range and ideally organic, and I prefer to buy them from flocks where I know there isn’t a cockerel.

I’m lucky that The Man is supportive. He’s been a vegetarian for many years, but relies very heavily on cheese, yoghurt and milk. We share the cooking, and he has adapted to cooking a vegan evening meal, topping his dairy levels up (big-time) at lunchtime. There are any number of really tasty vegan meals which many of us eat without thinking about it – veggie shepherd’s pie, many  cous cous and rice dishes, paellas and risottos, veggie spag bol, soups and stews, pasta and sauce, salads, ratatouille, nut and veg roasts, corn on the cob – and on and on. We mostly make our own dishes up, based on what’s in the garden (leeks, potatoes, onions, garlic, purple sprouting broccoli, chard and errr quite a lot of cabbage). Yes, there’s an issue with both iron and B12 – dark green leafy veg, nuts and veggie red wine (some is ‘fined’ with bull’s blood) for the iron, Marmite, yeast flakes or another yeast extract for the B12.

And now I’ve run out of steam. I don’t want to proselytize; but if I say to you that we could feed the current population, globally, on a veggie diet that would use ten to fourteen times less land than on a meat one…?

And can I recommend the wise, beautiful and committed blog of fellow Buddhist and virtual friend, David Ashton, for his insightful and passionate responses to the eating (or not) of animals?
Also interesting is Jungian Jeff Howlin’s blog; this one is on animals and learning from them:


Vegan sweet potato, courgette & spinach korma

A Month in the Country 18 – Making it up as I Go Along, by Roz Cawley


There are cooks who religiously follow recipes, shopping for the exact ingredients and not deviating from the set of instructions given – and there are cooks who look at what they have got and make up a recipe to fit. I belong to the latter school – ‘What I’ve got is what you’ll get’!!

This is what I conjured up last night after looking at the contents of the fridge and larder – It’s a Vegan  Sweet Potato, Courgette and Spinach Korma – and I have to say that it did turn out rather well. I think it was the extra Garlic and ginger paste that cinched it!)

Here’s the recipe (Serves 4) – and even this is not to a ‘professional cookbook’ standard…I just made it up as I went along!

1 Sweet Potato

1 medium Courgette

2 medium Red Onions

1 Green Sweet Pepper

6 cubes frozen Spinach

3 tbsp Red lentils

1 tin full fat Coconut milk

1 tbsp Sunflower oil

2 tbsp Korma paste

2 tsp garlic and ginger paste


Pre-heat oven to 200C.

Peel and cube sweet potato

Peel and chunky-cut onions

Chunky cut courgette (I do not peel)

Cut pepper in half, remove seeds, chunky-cut.

Open the tin of coconut milk without shaking. Pour off the coconut water from the separated coconut cream on the surface. Reserve the water for later.

Fry  the courgette, onion, pepper and sweet potato for 10 minutes. After five minutes, add the Korma paste and extra garlic and ginger paste, stirring constantly.

Add the coconut cream – allow to melt in, then add HALF the reserved coconut water.

Bring to a simmer. Cover and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven, stir in the lentils, place the frozen spinach cubes on top of the other ingredients. Re-cover and bake for another 30 minutes.

Slightly fork in the spinach before taking to table.

While the Korma is cooking, cooking, brush 4 Naan bread with Olive, sunflower or other flavoured oil. (Butter can be used, but meal will not then be vegan). Bake on bottom shelf of oven for last 5 minutes

I served this dish with Samosas, but Basmati rice is a good alternative.


With thanks to Roz Cawley, who writes a blog here:

The (ill-)health of our poor planet

To my huge distress, I have been noticing the lack of house martins and swallows this year. Last year, I saw my first on the Isle of Iona, on 28th March. Iona is more than 600 miles north of where I live, in gentle temperate surroundings, where now, end of the first week in May, I have seen, in the immediate locality, just three swallows where normally I’d expect to see around 15 or 16. I still haven’t seen a single house martin, and they normally arrive earlier.

I tell myself the hirundines are all just late; but we know there’s drought and insect loss (and pesticides) affecting watering holes and feeding places in mainland Europe, Spain and France, on their long journey from Africa.

I’m heartbroken at this.

We really can’t keep ignoring species loss – as big a problem for the rest of the natural world as climate change – and of course the two are inexorably linked.

And although it’s way past time we focused only on our human needs – it’s anthropocentrism that’s caused all this in the first place, in my view, and my own focus now is on shifting to an ecocentric approach in my life and my work – there is still the truth that we actually depend on everything else in the ecosystem, from pollinating insects to trees, and everything in the earth and water zones between or adjoining. We live in an utterly interconnected and interdependent web of being.
Today, May 7th 2019, The Guardian’s leading articles, based on the very recent UN’s Global Assessment Report (‘…the most thorough planetary health check ever undertaken’) are sobering, if not ‘new’ news.
Decline in global biomass of wild mammals is 82% in fewer than 50 years (or at least, that’s my understanding from the graph).
In terms of our diet, there has been change, driven by young people mainly, over the last few years: it’s much more mainstream now to eat a vegan diet; but a great many people still don’t want to look at this problem, and its effects:
Meat & dairy production accounts for 83% of farmland; 58% of greenhouse gas emissions; 57% of water pollution; 56% of air pollution; 33% of freshwater extraction; and ironically provides only 35% of our protein (2nd-hand at that, so to speak), and 18% of our calories.