buckwheat pancakes with a (part-foraged) summer filling



In Brittany, where I spend a lot of my writing time, the speciality is krampouez, or galettes de blé noir, which is buckwheat crêpes. I love these, and they are so easy to make.

Buckwheat is not a grain but the seed of a plant in the sorrel/rhubarb family, so it’s gluten-free too.

It’s very satisfying to gather one’s own fresh organic vegetables and cook them just minutes later. It’s equally satisfying to forage for wild food.

I’ve done a lot of foraging over my adult life (long before it became trendy!), from the hedgerow foods and the dye-plants I’d gather, baby daughter slung on my chest, on the North Devon coasts and in the woods in my early incarnation as spinner, dyer, knitwear designer and knitter, to the autumn-turning-winter we spent in a campervan on the coast in Les Landes, southwest France, where we lived on chestnuts, berries and mushrooms, with shellfish for the non-vegetarians (my ex-, now late, husband and my toddler daughter).

Because it’s foraging season, in this recipe I used fat hen (chenopodium album; photo above) and wild sheep’s sorrel in the filling in mine. The fat hen was self-seeded in my squash and courgette bed (it likes disturbed ground and is common on eg waste areas), and I’ve deliberately left it to grow as the pigeons have taken all our chard, and this is a good chard or spinach substitute. (I think it’s ‘lambs’ quarters’ in America.) Fat hen is highly nutritious, and is also a dye plant. You can use spear-leaved orache as well; this is atriplex rather than chenopodium, but is the same family. (Worth buying a really good photographic guide for identification; I use Roger Phillips Wild Flowers of Britain book.) Obviously you can use spinach or chard instead.

An equally good substitute would be rock or marsh samphire; also plentiful this time of year in certain places, usually near the coast.

If you include a few leaves of foraged sheep’s sorrel, do be sure not to mistake one of the wild arums, like cuckoo pint (‘lords and ladies’) for sorrel – get a good ID.

Since they’ve gone nuts, I have to include courgettes from our abundance of them (and oh! those beautiful yellow flowers that the bees love! – See below.)

But vary the filling as you like – it’s good with creamy mushrooms, ratatouille, mashed avocado with seasalt, tabasco and finely-chopped nuts and yeast flakes, or garlic-sautéed courgettes with onions – and any number of other fillings.

For the galettes for two people (two small ones each):
4 heaped tablespoons buckwheat flour
8-12 tablespoons water, added gradually and beaten well
half-teaspoon salt
half-teaspoon+ of any, or combinations of, tagine spices, turmeric, cumin seed, mustard seed

For the filling:
A big handful of spinach or chard, washed, destalked, torn up – OR fat hen/orache/samphire, plus sorrel
2 courgettes, sliced
bunch parsley, finely chopped
3 or 4 leaves mint, finely chopped
clove garlic, finely chopped
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
a little olive oil
juice of half a lemon
(Coyo coconut yogurt if you want to use it)

First make your pancake mix. I make mine fairly thick as they’re less likely to stick, and I use a small cast iron frying pan (about 8 inches bottom diameter in old money).

Sauté the courgettes in a dash of oil on a low heat until soft. Throw in spinach, chard, or fat hen, garlic, and herbs. Lid the pan and let it all wilt gently. Add the other ingredients, turn heat right down.

The secret to a successful pancake is a) proportions (roughly twice as much water as flour, or a little more than that), and b) the pan. Smear a heavy-bottomed pan with a very little oil and heat till smoking. Test it with a drop of the mix. If it sizzles, it’s ready. Pour a ladleful of the mix in, and immediately tilt the pan so it covers the bottom. After about a minute, turn the heat down slightly. Let it cook (but don’t burn it) for two or three minutes, until a knife slipped under the pancake will easily lift it. Then flip, and cook for another minute or two,

Hope you like it as much as I do. Let me know!

Butchery of the Planet

We can’t afford not to take this step.


A few years ago George Monbiot advocated veganism, then backtracked, but has over the last year or two consistently declared that if we want to save the planet, its other beings and ourselves, the ONLY way to do it is via a plant-based diet.

As someone who hasn’t eaten meat or fish since I was a teenager, and has been predominantly vegan for 5 or 6 years now, of course I’m in favour.

There are paths we can afford to take. There are paths we can’t afford to take. There are paths we can afford not to take, and there are paths we can’t afford not to take. This falls into that latter category.

Leaving on one side how we might feel about creating such enormous suffering for animals (my own initial reason for stopping eating them), we know that environmentally there is no choice now. Monbiot backs up his words with informed references.

I’d just raise two provisos in relation to his article below: yes, eating soya directly is a much more efficient way of using land, and of feeding ourselves protein. However, it’s worth sourcing soya that is a) not genetically modified, and b) relatively local (we can grow it here in Europe. AND if you are a post-menopausal woman, it might be worth limiting your intake as it can deactivate the thyroid if eaten in quantity. There are many beans that contain plenty of essential nutrients that we can grow in Britain, and freeze for winter. We grow pea beans, cobra, borlotti and broad beans (cobra can be frozen green; the others we shell and freeze).

The other thing I’d raise is that we need to be really certain that we don’t, collectively, use Monbiot’s words on the rearing of free range animals (more inefficient in terms of land use etc) to justify a further move to factory farming.

Now read on…

~~~
Defending the living world and its people requires a shift from meat to a plant-based diet By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th June 2018 Whether human beings survive …

Source: Butchery of the Planet

feeding the world

The thing is, it’s not just about animal welfare, though that is my great passion.

It’s also and very starkly about our species not starving to death in a world in which we may, experts say, have only 60 harvests left.

There are choice to be made. In addressing our food consumption, we benefit humans and animals, plus the climate and habitat too. Win/win.

And time is running out.

As always, George Monbiot gives us the picture:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/dec/11/mass-starvation-humanity-flogging-land-death-earth-food

George Monbiot on meat

Iconoclast and environmentalist George Monbiot has written many times for The Guardian or on his own website about both the ethics and environmental impact of eating meat.

Here’s another lucid piece, and as always George backs up his arguments with the relevant research, so if you are one of those vegans whom meat-eaters love to bait with unsubstantiated claims of their own, ask them to read this piece:

http://www.monbiot.com/2017/10/06/the-meat-of-the-matter/

 

 

 

 

Brexit: animal welfare downturn?


We’ve come a long way in the last few decades in our awareness of animal rights. Of course there’s plenty of cruelty still – that’s a given; but in 2015 the number of vegetarians in the world, for instance, was estimated at 375 million; a great many of those out of choice (rather than e.g. that their habitation doesn’t offer animal protein, or they can’t afford it).

Meantime, the number of vegans is increasing hugely: in the States, the last 10 years the number of vegans has grown by 350%. More than 3% of US citizens identify themselves as vegan. Here in the UK, our rise is 360% in the 10 years to 2016, with half a million people identifying themselves as vegan. China has a higher percentage than anywhere.

Can you imagine how few people would even have been aware of the concept of veganism 100 years ago?

For many people, this is a lifestyle/health choice. (There is a growing number of vegan athletes, for instance.)

For many others, though, including lacto-vegetarians or even fish and meat eaters, reducing or cutting out animal products is also driven by a greater awareness of the gross cruelties visited routinely on animals bred for – let’s face it – our predation.

There is a great deal I could write on this; and there is much already written on many very good vegan or vegetarian sites.

But right now what I want to draw your attention to is the fact that the hard-won victory for animals in 1997, in which they were given legal status and protected rights as sentient beings – yes, it took that long – could now, just 20 short years on, be overturned if Michael Gove, DEFRA Secretary of State, continues with the intention not to honour this status.

When EU law has been converted into UK law, DEFRA has said they are likely to ignore Article 13 of the EU Treaty – which serves to acknowledge that animals can feel pain, suffer and experience joy (in other words, are sentient beings):

‘This obligation will not be preserved by the EU (Withdrawal Bill); which delivers our promise to end the supremacy of EU law in the UK.’ (DEFRA Under-Secretary of State, Lord Gardiner, August 2017)

If future British governments do not legally need to consider animal sentience, not only is this an enormously regressive step after such a struggle to have their rights recognised even minimally in law, but it could also let in further abuses. The idea that in 2017 it might be that we don’t even recognise animals, legally, as being anything other than machines for our appetites or entertainment is beyond grotesque.

If you feel you could help, there’s a petition to be signed, and a small donation to Compassion In World Farming would be very welcome. And, of course, if you are reading this you’re probably already a vegan; but if not, you could cut animal products completely out of your diet; or if you can’t imagine this step, you can reduce your meat intake and ensure that whatever you do eat comes from a more humane rearing method than factory farming (2 out of every 3 food animals are factory-farmed). Remember, however, that transportation and abattoir deaths will inevitably involve fear, cruelty and suffering.

Incidentally, Jeremy Corbyn is a vegetarian, and is (cautiously) possibly heading towards veganism (can you imagine Ms May being animal-free inclined?). The Guardian reporting on this gave a nod to the virtues of veganism. You can read a little more on this on one of the best vegan sites, One Green Planet.

www.ciwf.org.uk/repeal

 

 

 

garden recipes and a hint of wild boar (not to eat)

I mostly like cooking. It’s a good counterpoint, too, to the mental work I do all day as a writer and tutor. Growing and preparing food is something so essential, so creative, so earthy, so non-mental, handling the creations of the soil, the rain, the compost, the sun, the magic of seeds.

When you have to create recipes too, for instance when the harvest glut is coming in – as ours is now, finally, after a long slow start – it’s an interesting challenge to find a new way to cook courgettes, or green beans.

So here are some recipes for you. They’re all vegan, but non-vegans will enjoy them as well; and although they mostly include beans, these are in reasonably digestible forms. Because they’re vegan, I take care to include protein. (For more on supplying the nutritional essentials on a vegan diet, see here.)

Sorry there are no photos of the meals – I realise what a difference they make, but never think of it until we’re halfway through eating! Here instead are some photos of our veg over the years. (I know that’s not the same, but they’re pretty.)

Three essential ingredients for the vegan larder/fridge:

  • Nutritional yeast flakes (Engevita); buy the one with added B12 (blue pot). I was a lacto-vegetarian for 40 years, and knew that one day I’d need to take the logical step of removing the products of animal suffering entirely from my diet, but in the four or five years I’ve been vegan I still miss cheese a lot. Yeast flakes help add that – well, yeasty nutty tang.

    Occasionally I will buy myself some Violife pizza ‘cheese’ – it’s not a bad substitute; made from coconut milk, it’s both processed and a bit high in food miles, though, but, you know, one can only be virtuous a certain percentage of the time without pissing oneself off with self-righteousness, as well as one’s table-mates.

  • Coyo; the vegan yogurt, made from coconut milk. It’s completely delicious, and the sweeter flavour can be compensated for with a shot of lemon juice (my daughter calls lemon ‘the third condiment’, and it really is). I’m not going to beat myself up a 2nd time for coconut-miles.

    I used to miss yogurt, too (I mean dairy yogurt) – not any more (and if you’ve never tasted Booja Booja non-dairy ice cream, you’ve a treat waiting).

  • Cashew nuts are very high in nutrients, and there is no nut (or anything non-dairy else) like them for whizzing up for sweet or savoury sauces with one or other or both of the above; plus they make a fabulous base for a very tasty vegan ‘cheesecake’ (yes, really). But there’s the food-miles issue again; plus unless you buy Fairtrade, the trade is dirty (as of course is eg the cotton trade, unless it’s organic cotton) in terms of poor pay and working conditions and some toxicity for the pickers.

    For savoury dishes, sweet chestnuts are a great alternative, and I collect them regularly, even in England, in the autumn, and collect masses to bring back if I’m in France. Not so good for sweet dishes, in my opinion, though – although they are used widely in France, Italy and Switzerland for desserts. (In fact, remembering this, I think I might have talked myself back into them.)

  • In addition, beans – canned beans – of all sorts, including the highly nutritious chickpeas, and all lentils. Of course, in season, green beans; and we grow various beans to freeze so that we don’t have to buy canned: pea bean, borlotti, soissons.
  • Seeds: pumpkin seeds add an extraordinary amount of protein to any dish; try dry-toasting these, sunflower seeds and, if you’re feeling rich, pine nuts too, and when they’re popping throw in a dash of soy sauce and the juice of half a lemon.

1 This first one is not mine, but the invention of Meera Sodha, Guardian food columnist at The New Vegan.

It’s a warm salad of samphire, potato and chickpea, with chaat spices. My version below uses green beans instead.

While I had masses of samphire in my fridge – fresh from a stone wall at Cape Cornwall after leading my Land’s Wild Magic course down there in June, I had none this week, so I substituted French green beans (Cobra) from the garden. I also had no mango powder (strangely enough) but had some coconut flour (I suppose that’s equally strange; it was a gift), so I mixed that with a little lemon juice. We did have our own Charlotte potatoes (tick), which didn’t stay in neat tidy small cubes like Meera’s in her photo, but it didn’t matter as the whole dish is divine.

If you don’t like your food too hot, substitutedhalf a teaspoon each of mild tagine spices and smoked paprika for the chilli.

I topped it with Coyo, and we had slow-cooked garlic courgettes on the side.

2 I was at Greenway, where I’ll be writer-in-residence this autumn leading workshops  (several more to be uploaded yet) as well as creating my own new writing, with the co-ordinator the other day. I was treated to lunch in the café, but she’d brought her own delicious-looking ‘allotment soup’. Hmmm. Good idea for the glut.

Our garden can come up with the goods now. (I love the Keravel Pink onions which we brought back as sets from Brittany.) So here’s my herby cream-of-garden soup (for 2):

2-3 tbsps olive oil
I onion and 3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 courgettes
double handful green beans, chopped
1 large potato cubed or diced
stock or Marigold bouillon (up to 1 litre; make it strong)
1 tsp yeast extract or 2 tsps soy sauce

1 double handful fresh sorrel leaves if you can get them – sorrel is easy to grow (wild sheep sorrel will do, but beware it might be tough by now)
1 handful fresh parsley
1/2 handful fresh marjoram
1/2 a dozen sage leaves (all chopped finely)

1/2 tsp each:
cumin
turmeric
ginger
nutmeg

1/2 tub Coyo
juice of 1/2 lemon

SOFTEN the onion in the oil. Add sliced courgettes and garlic, and when they’re soft add the potatoes. Turn up the heat a little and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently so the potatoes don’t stick, then add the beans.

Add half the stock etc; add more as needed (keep the soup thick). Throw in the spices, and leave to simmer for an hour (stir now and then).

Then add the Coyo and finely chopped herbs, stirring well, and turn off the heat.  Leave to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, and serve with crusty bread with maybe a splash of olive oil. You can sprinkle yeast flakes on top.

3 Pasta e fagioli with mushroom sauce (for 2)
When I was a romantic young student, I met an Italian in a remote part of the Catalonian Pyrenees, and eloped with him right up onto the border with Spain, where we spent a winter in a commune with no electricity, an open fire for cooking, and water collected from a spring half a kilometre away.

Once that autumn I got chased up an apple tree in an ancient abandoned orchard by a trio of wild boar who clearly considered scrumping apples to be their prerogative; but that’s a different story.

Drawing by Michael Fairfax, from The Polden Pig

Later, I married him (the Italian, not a boar), and he’s the father of my daughter. He died suddenly in late 2015, and in his memory I offer this recipe. He was a good cook, and pasta e fagioli (beans) was one of his staples, though the sauce here is mine.

He also used to make all our bread by hand, and, as he was taught by his rural grandmother, he’d use no yeast except what he could gather by leaving a tea-towel out in a clover-field overnight to collect the dewy clover-yeast (yes, really). He was also the best gnocchi maker I’ve ever known.

The mushroom part
2-3 tbsps olive oil
1 big onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 dozen mushrooms, sliced
a handful of fresh herbs: oregano, parsley, a sprig of rosemary, some thyme – mix and match

Soften the onion in warm oil; add garlic, mushrooms and herbs. Sauté gently.

Put a big pan of water on to boil.

The sauce
Blend together on a low heat:
200 gms natural Coyo
200 gms ground almonds, finely chopped cashews, or hazelnuts
3 tbsps yeast flakes
1 tsp bouillon powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
juice of 1/2 a lemon or to taste
salt and pepper
(I added some leftover mashed potato)

When the water comes to the boil, throw in some pasta (I use red lentil pasta as I love it and it’s full of protein), and a double handful of green beans (or to be more traditional other podded beans) chopped into roughly 2cm lengths. They’re ready after 8–10 minutes (salt at the end). Drain and put back in pan with a dash of olive oil.

Mix the mushrooms and the sauce and stir into the pasta e fagioli.

Finally, 4: butterbean and cashew (or other nut) paté or spread 
This works well with broad beans early in the season and later podded beans like soissons or borlotti too.

Put into a whizzer (I use a handheld Braun stick thing):

1 good handful cashew
1 tin butterbeans or kidney beans (or any other bean really, but the butterbeans’ mild flavour allows the nuttiness to emerge), drained and rinsed
big slosh of olive oil
handful each fresh parsley and basil
1/2 handful fresh oregano or marjoram
1 tbsp capers
few drops Tabasco (to taste)
nutritional yeast flakes
shake of Tamari
salt and pepper
(a little chopped onion if liked).

Whizz and enjoy!

I think it might also be good with cucumber and dill weed instead of the other herbs; also sorrel.

dairy farming is inherently inhumane

– period. It’s not about high welfare standards. It’s not about grass-fed rather than indoors and on concentrates. It’s not even about organic or otherwise. It’s about sentience, compassion, empathy.

In what they’ve described as a ‘landmark ruling for animal rights’, Go Vegan World is celebrating:

‘In a landmark decision the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) has ruled in favour of the Go Vegan World campaign, finding that our ad that lets people know that dairy is inherently inhumane is not misleading. This independent, official finding that our ad has been objectively substantiated with supporting evidence is hugely significant for the campaign and for animal rights.’

To read more, click here.