Category Archives: food
You wait years for one, then they all come at once. That is, stories with a dubious or tenuous equine link. Or in other words, we now know what happened to Richard III’s horse, and your humble scribe once again wishes he had the artistic ability to express it in a cartoon!
I’ll leave it to people with something interesting to say to comment on the haplessly horseless monarch. But the horsemeat story is crying out for an angle that seems to have eluded the Chattering Classes, and I’m faintly wondering if it might even have a very local aspect.
OK, to recap for posterity where we’re at. Horsemeat has been discovered in processed food products supposed to be beef. Nor is it a one-off: it’s widespread! Big scandal: how has this been allowed to happen? And a food scare: if this can be allowed to happen, what else could be in our food? Horses (which are, after all, abused in a very athletic context) get pumped full of hormones we don’t want in human food. The story is shining a spotlight on long and complex food chains, and everyone implicated is pointing fingers of blame at someone else.
And why haven’t the retailers who sell food to the public protected us? Well, in that most relevant question the evidence is clear: they do protect us. When was the last breakout of salmonella or e-coli attributable to supermarket ready meals? Whatever processes they have are working perfectly well to protect consumers from contamination.
But hang on! It’s not food poisoning or BSE we’re worrying about, it’s horse hormones! How do we know those aren’t in the food chain? Well, speaking from complete ignorance of food processing and testing but a little insight into basic science, I’ll stick my neck out and say I don’t believe that happened. Why not? Because with today’s rigorous levels of testing, such chemical contamination would surely not have passed undetected!
You should be glad that those who run your food chain focus their testing where it matters, and aren’t devoting disproportionate time and effort to testing things irrelevant to your wellbeing. At least hitherto: I suppose they’ll now have to add another cost to your food.
Meanwhile, when vox pop consumers are asked their reactions, most of them give the perfectly rational reaction: if they’re prepared to eat cow then why not horse? If they’re happy with the taste then what’s the difference?
Oh, and yes, I did say a very local angle in the second paragraph above. How so? Well, Dartmoor is famous for our ponies, some of which are usually to be found about 15 minutes walk from my front door. Do they feature in some yet-to-be-discovered branch of this food chain? And if the fallout from this deprives someone of profit from them, how many will be allowed to remain a few years hence?
 I discovered that blog while googling for an image I could snarf for this post. I gave up on the picture, but enjoyed the blog so much I just had to share.
 Excluding myself and others who are unaffected by virtue of not eating meat.
Much of this autumn’s seasonal produce has been below average in both quantity and quality, possibly due to the weather.
But I’ve been given the most enormous squash from someone’s garden. Got round to using it yesterday. Taking the line of least resistance I thought I’d make a big cauldron of spicy pumpkin soup – a dish I know well. But on chopping it up I find that unlike a big pumpkin, this vegetable is mostly good flesh, with relatively little of the stringy bits and seeds that need to be scraped out. There’s too much flesh for my big cauldron! I made the soup with nearly three quarters of it (it contained so much moisture I hardly had to add any water at all), but what to do with the remainder – which is still the size of about two regular shop-bought seasonal squashes? Can one make a veggie version of pumpkin pie? Should I trawl the web for some other recipe?
Went into town today to buy some salad for lunch (already had bread, cheese, and soup in the kitchen).
Our local greengrocer looks different. Bare, empty. With a much-reduced range on display. There are notices apologising for the reduced range, but explaining they’re in administration. Oops!
Apparently if all goes smoothly they have a buyer lined up, and it’s another greengrocer, so the difference to consumers should be minimal. It’s a foreign company – a wholesaler – taking over, but from only just across the border in Kernow. Our Cornish neighbours grow some excellent fruit&veg, so here’s hoping for some good local supply lines, though perhaps not so much in the coming wintertime as in the season of plenty.
If all goes well, can we infer the market economy is coming back to life again locally? The weak going out with minimal fuss, and giving way smoothly to the strong. Our food shopping has seen some improvements recently with on the one hand the coming of Lidl as an alternative to the muzak-ridden supermarkets, and on the other hand the rise of great specialist shops!
Our cheese shop has long been one of the best things in town. It’s one of the small shops in the area immediately outside the market: a shopping and services area that’s pedestrianised during shop hours.
This week it’s been joined by two more great food shops. Firstly the wholefood stall from the market has gone up in the world and moved into a real shop. On the other side, the olive stall has done the same. Both the new shops are taking advantage of their improved premises to expand their ranges a little, though it’ll be another day or two before the olive seller looks like a working shop!
That’s my three favourite specialist/luxury food shops all in a little row! Yum!
Oh, and any foodies might like to make a pilgrimage to Tavistock for the last weekend of this month, when the cheese shop hires the town hall for its annual cheese fair. A fantastic opportunity for the cheese-loving public (that’s me ) to meet the producers, learn about their craft, and of course sample a huge range of cheeses, accompanied by supplements from local wine to pickle, and whatever new attractions they can bring us this year. In common with other locals, I use this annual event to expand the range of cheeses I’ll regularly buy over the following year.
Anyone overdone the chillies? Silly question, we’ve all breathed fire sometime in our lives, haven’t we? And made the once-only mistake of rubbing the eyes with hands not quite as clean as we thought? But what about burning the fingers?
Today I bought a big one, for a curry I was making to feed friends. Chopped it up small, and as I was doing so felt a sharp pain in a finger. At first I thought it must be a tiny (invisible) wound, but I’m not so sure any more. Reacting to it brought heat and pain to the face too – aaargh!
The curry was meant to be hot, and turned out even hotter. Now after it, the backs of my fingers are burning from the inside. Even to look at they’re bright red, as of a nettle-rash or insect bite. Now I see why they use chillies as chemical weapons, and use their essence to keep elephants out in parts of India and Bangladesh. Yow!
Just had lunch with my favourite lunchtime drink: freshly-squeezed juice. A bag of oranges, with a couple of lemons for a bit of extra tang, make a glass for today and a jug for the fridge.
Making the juice is very easy with the orange-juicing attachment to the food processor. Just hold the fruits down on it as it spins, and juice trickles through. After a dozen or so fruits, the processor is about half full of juice, and there’s a lot of juicy pulp in the top. Work the pulp with a soft/flexible plastic spatula, and about 50% more rich juice works its way through, leaving a much dryer, pithy, and altogether less appetising pulp in the top.
Today I’m throwing that pulp away. But I dislike waste, and I’d like to think or hear of something productive to do with it. For example, if I were to feed it through the liquidiser (another function of the same food processor), would that yield something I can re-use, or would it still retain an irredeemably pithy/stringy consistency? What about adding it to cooking: for example, in the stock for boiling root vegetables destined to be liquidised for a soup?
Anyone successfully using this pulp? Any good tips?
Blackberries + gravity = a bonus apple
I was out this evening picking blackberries by the canal, when I heard a crashing in the trees nearby. Turning to look, I saw something light green and round fall into the water. After momentarily going under, it bobbed up to the surface and started to float downstream.
I’d have thought “tennis ball” if it hadn’t been obviously too heavy for that, and if there had been human activity in the area from whence it came. As it was, apple seemed altogether more likely. It looked good, so I found a suitable spot slightly downstream, took the sandals off, waded in and retrieved it.
It still looks good, and will complement the blackberries nicely, though I’ll have to supplement it with something from the greengrocer to match the quantity of blackberries.
It’s that time of year again. The annual cheese fair organised and promoted by Country Cheeses is in Tavistock. It’s a great opportunity for their suppliers (artisan cheese makers, most of them local) and consumers to meet. A marketing and education exercise for them, and a learning and familiarisation opportunity for us. Also there were a few local suppliers of things that complement cheese, from chutney to booze.
As usual, I went round it, with a view to expanding the list of cheeses I’ll be enjoying over the next year. There are relatively few new (to me) cheeses that I like half as much as the ones I already know: I expect that comes of having been a customer of the shop for several years, and having been to past cheese fairs, so I’ve already had plenty of time to identify favourites. Just a couple more for the buy-list.
What’s really new this year is a cheese-making demonstration, by a lady who is apparently a leading expert, and is consultant to many of the producers. She took us through an accelerated process from liquid milk to curds, which she then put under compression as in making a conventional farmhouse cheddar. Apart from cheddar, she also showed stretching mozarella, and briefly described variants like soft and herbal cheeses. A fascinating demo!
Yesterday we went up the moors to pick that sweetest of local fruits, the blueberry. As John points out, our local blueberries are a variety called whortleberries (pronounced ‘urtz) which are tiny but very delicious. We went as a group: four adults, one child, two dogs, one of whom didn’t want to let me get on with picking anything.
We got a reasonable quantity of the precious berries. In fact, a reasonable quantity each, which is just as well given that we aren’t combining them in a communal kitchen. But I found it unexpectedly hard: it only took about a minute of picking before my elbow started giving trouble, so I had to pick left-handed. The right arm seemed OK carrying the container I was filling, but today it hurts I shall just have to hope to be better in time for the blackberry season.
Just eaten the first of mine, as a spot of dessert after lunch. Yum!
Today I’ve spotted the first more-or-less ripe summer fruits of the season: wild strawberries, up on the viaduct!
Unfortunately there aren’t enough to be worth collecting to bring home. And they’re at a level to be sprayed by the many passing dogs. It’ll still be the best part of three months before the blackberries bring an abundance of goodness up there. But I expect the shops will very soon be carrying a seasonal abundance of delicious things that are fresh and local: we’re already getting summer fruit from Spain rather than shipped right round the world.