Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Courgette and Goat's Cheese Frittata

Served with ratatouille 

I saw a recipe that caught my eye by Rachel Allen in the Sindo mag (Sunday Independent to the uninitated) a couple of Sundays ago. It was for the above. Now I find it really difficult to follow a recipe but I did almost follow this one. I had less courgette than that specified and it said to use 8 eggs but I used 6 because 4 were duck eggs which are quite big.

Anyway I thought it was a nice recipe but it could do with some improvement so I changed it slightly adding less courgette and a lot more goat's cheese. I have made it a few times lately and even brought it with me as a contribution to a lunch where it was very well received.

It's very quick and easy and you can basically use any summer vegetable not just courgette. I added leek and it was delicious.

1 large green or yellow courgette grated down to seeds (discard the core)
1 leek finely sliced
1 clove of garlic
Some fresh oregano or flat leaved parsley chopped
6 eggs
a splash of milk or cream
salt and pepper
100g goat's cheese

Fry the courgette and the leek and garlic in some olive oil and butter until softened. Add the oregano. Pour the beaten eggs and cream over. Dot some goat's cheese through the mix and then slice some on top. Cook for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a pre-heated grill until just firm. Keep an eye on it.

Serve with a green salad and some seasonal veg.

With yellow courgette and leek 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Lamb and Redcurrant

Sometimes I think of unusual food combinations and never know if I have subliminally absorbed them or if they are a genuine Eureka moment. Usually it happens when I am trying to think of something different to do. I had bought diced new season's lamb as it was good value.  I was in redcurrant mode as had been picking mine and also had made redcurrant liqueur. I remember a couple of years ago Googling redcurrant recipe ideas and thinking there was a real dearth. Oh there were lots of baking ideas but nothing to really showcase how versatile these little berries are.

So if you can make a redcurrant chutney to serve with lamb and other type sauces why not cook them together? 

Lamb and Redcurrant 

600g diced lamb
2 onions finely diced
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 red and 1 small yellow chilli finely sliced with seeds
1 good sized piece of ginger finely chopped
4 good big teaspoons of cumin seed
good pinch of salt
1 star anise
250 ml chicken or beef stock
packet of spinach
two good handfuls of redcurrants
1 small red pointy pepper
Tomato puree

Brown the lamb pieces. Remove and save.  Add the cumin seeds to the pan. When they have toasted for a minute or so, deglaze pan with some water, add to the meat. Fry the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger until softened and golden. Add the salt. Put the onion mix and the meat into a casserole. Add the star anise, the chicken stock, a squeeze of tomato puree. 

Simmer for an hour or so and add the chopped pepper and redcurrants. Continue to simmer until the lamb is tender. Finally add some sliced spinach and just wilt.

Garnish with redcurrant.

Sometimes my ideas just work. This is one of those times.

And if you fancy a boozy idea why not try this? Redcurrant liqueur.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Farms or Factories

So when is a farm not a farm? And when is it a stretch to call someone a farmer? You know the Truly Irish advert with a "farmer" standing in a lovely green field talking about his pigs? Except there are no pigs to be seen. I'm fairly certain if the advert had shown the reality, sales of Truly Irish pork and bacon would have nose dived (at least initially). Consumers have very short memories.

We are used to seeing cattle grazing on lush green grass here for 6-8 months of the year, sheep all year round. But how often have you seen any quantity of pigs or chickens?

Pigs and chickens are reared here in what they call CAFOS in the US. Concentrated animal feeding operations. Over there most beef is produced in these. We just produce pigs and chickens in cafos.

The animals are raised intensively with little space and with little chance to behave as animals are supposed to. Cattle in feed lots can't graze and are instead fed concentrates of corn/soy - for the most part genetically modified. These cereals are primarily modified to withstand repeated applications of Roundup, the herbicide that the WHO has acknowledged to be "probably carcinogenic".  Cattle are natural grazers and this is an unnatural diet. Because of this, a harmless gut bacterium called E. coli has mutated into the very dangerous form, E.coli 015:H7 or hemorrhagic E. coli. The bacterium is spread rapidly through all the animals as they live knee deep in their own excrement for their lifetime.

  • Enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) is a bacterium that can cause severe foodborne disease.
  • In most cases, the illness is self-limiting, but it may lead to a life-threatening disease including haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), especially in young children and the elderly.

E. coil 0157H7 has now become so widespread it is being called an epidemic. Official estimates reveal that E. coli is killing as many as 500 people a year and causing another 20,000 people to become sick.

Pigs are raised in concrete houses and are not given bedding. This is supposedly to prevent the spread of disease. Animals that are natural rooters cannot root on concrete and so resort to eating each other's tails. To prevent this they have their tails docked. They often have their teeth removed as well. If anyone doubts me go to an abattoir on a kill day and look at the pigs being unloaded. Apart from the fact that they absolutely stink, they have had their tail stumps bitten and are often bleeding, they have excrement smeared all over their bodies. They also have to be fed antibiotics as a prophylactic (just in case) and this excrement is pumped out of giant pig housing units into the environment. Methicillin resistant Staph aureus MRSA is the result of this practice.

MRSA is the bacteria that you do not want to become infected with post op. If you do, you should bend over and kiss your ass good bye, as someone once memorably said to me as I was about to jump a huge drain out hunting.

Chickens and eggs are produced the same way even, "free range". I have written at length about this in previous posts. I worked in an intensive turkey plant for 4 years so I have extensive experience of it.

So how is this style of food production still being called farming?

"New guidelines on food labelling have been issued by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), which it says will help ensure consumers are not misled by the use of marketing terms on foods." Read more

So why is farming not being defined? I for one do not consider intensive animal production is farming. In order to satisfy the demand for cheap food we raise animals intensively. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch and if we have caused bacteria to mutate and become resistant to antibiotics or at worst deadly then we are paying a very high price indeed for our cheap pork chops.

Apart from the cruelty (can you imagine the outcry if dogs or cats were treated in this manner?) Even if you don't care about the cruelty and you have no interest where your meat comes from. Even if as far as you are concerned, the cheaper the better, think about this......

How would you feel if a member of your family in hospital after a minor surgery becomes infected with MRSA, which does not respond to the cocktail of antibiotics administered?

How would you feel if your small child or your elderly parent ate meat contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7 and died from kidney failure?

I think this image says it all. Is it not time we started to ask the question?

What is farming?

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Out of the Mouth.....

You know that saying "out of the mouth of babes.............?" Yea, that one. Came to mind the other day helping a student with an assignment. He was convinced that with all our food safety controls nowadays - HACCP, BRC etc. that the incidence of food poisoning must be way down. Felt almost bad telling him the exact opposite was the case. The incidence has risen exponentially and this is without most people bothering to report.

Then I read an article published in the Daily Mail (yes they do sometimes have good, well-researched articles on food and health, even if they are atrocious at almost everything else) about why scientists think raw milk is one of the world's most dangerous foods. I always remember my grandmother saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." I think in our modern world this really applies so much more. The fact is even with all our science, technology and knowledge we are still appallingly ignorant about so much to do with nutrition. It is only recently that scientists and medics are beginning to acknowledge that we were sold a pig in a poke about saturated fat being responsible for all coronary heart disease.

The fact is that raw milk produced from a well looked after and well fed dairy herd and refrigerated immediately after milking is good for you. Our ancestors drank it with far less technology than is available now and it did them no harm and probably did them a world of good. Do you know that the incidence of transmission of TB from raw milk is less than 1%? Now I'm not disputing that this may be due to increased surveillance and testing in our national herd but I really remain convinced that TB is a disease of poverty, malnutrition and bad hygiene and has little to do with milk.

The fact is that our food production has become highly mechanised and intensive. I rear free range pigs, who have acres to roam and I have never smelled pig. But, when a lorry drives down my road transporting intensively reared factory pigs the stench lingers for ages. I often wonder how meat from these poor animals can be healthy when they smell so bad.

I was told that potato (our food staple) is sprayed 7-9 times for blight and then finally with Roundup (a probable carcinogen according to the WHO) to kill the foliage before harvest. Wheat seed is soaked in Roundup before sowing to "eliminate" weeds.

And then people are laughed at when they say they are intolerant to gluten because when they remove it from their diet they feel better. The chances are that it is Roundup they are intolerant to. And removing gluten and let's face it - crap bread - makes them feel better. Replace this crap bread with real bread or sourdough and the chances are they will feel great. Sadly, the availability of real bread is abysmal in this country, especially in non-urban areas.

And then to cap it all, that old chesnut, we are living longer. Go back, look at the records or read this.
I don't ever remember hearing about Alzheimer's, autism, ADHD, or so much cancer in the very young when I was growing up or even as an adult, as now.

So what has changed? Why is there more food poisoning? Why are people saying they are intolerant to wheat and gluten? Why are there so many children with autism? Why is there so much cancer? Why are so many old and not so old being diagnosed with Alzheimer's/dementia?

Why are food and pharma companies now so massively profitable?

Why indeed.

As the Americans say "do the math"........