I am so glad to be participating in this challenge at this stage of the year! I’m afraid I did the usual thing of eating too much over Christmas (including lots of turkey and goose and pork…. not to mention sugary things…) and my body is aching to get back to some clean living!
I was unusually organised (for me) and went shopping (Arjuna Wholefoods on Mill Road) on the Saturday before so I had things I needed in the house: local cider vinegar (Aspall’s from Suffolk – organic), garlic from Prospects Trust, honey from Saffron Walden, Maldon sea salt from Essex, plus non-local things I have to have if I am going to eat less meat: dried pulses (chick peas and lentils), which are much lower-carbon than local meat, even if they come from India, as they come by container ship.
Then on Sunday I did my usual trip to the Farmers’ Market in the town centre (walking one way and bussing back) and bought some great fresh veg from Simon Steel of Mayflower Produce, who farms at Littleport near Ely (nearly organic and very cheap): sprouts and sprout tops, the first purple sprouting broccoli (such a treat!), red Russian kale, a cauliflower, beetroot and leeks, all for £6.50. This is a great time of year to get good veg – lots of root veg and brassicas, which I love. It all keeps well for a week if I put it in plastic bags in the fridge.) I also spotted a tongue at the Camcattle stall – I hadn’t meant to buy meat that day, but Dave and I love tongue, so we bought it for Sunday supper, with leftovers on Monday. Although it is beef, which is the meat with the highest emissions, because of the methane, I reckon this is OK occasionally for two reasons:
- Camcattle are about as sustainable as you can get (except for the methane), as they are grass-fed and eat discarded veg in winter and live on places that can’t be used for other purposes, like Midsummer Common and The Backs.
- Dave and I sometimes eat the less popular cuts of beef (tongue and liver and heart) as no one would raise a cow just for that – the producers often have to sell the liver for dog food. We don’t normally eat prime beef.
I am not quite sure about all my exceptions, but here are some of the five I’ve decided on:
• spices (I’m going to count them all as one – is that cheating?! They are so light and you don’t use much of them and they make such a difference to flavour!)
• tinned tomatoes (Suma organic chopped ones from Arjuna) – I couldn’t bear the thought of not cooking with them for a fortnight!)
• pulses – definitely chickpeas (and I’ll include gram flour in with that – it’s made from chick peas and I am gluten-intolerant, so can’t buy local bread. With gram flour I can have pancakes!)
Days one and two
Breakfast is always the same, whether or not I’m doing a challenge. I have oat porridge with mail-order gluten-free oats from Glebe Farm Huntingdon, made with water and then a spoonful of honey added. Fantastic! The tea I have certainly wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but it keeps me fairly cold-free – I have freshly crushed garlic with dried lemon balm from a friend’s garden.
For lunch on day one I had some of the leftover tongue (boiled with carrots, onions and celery (all from Simon), with a soup made of the broth and veg with a bit of mustard and spinach (from the Wild Country Organics stall at the Farmers’ Market). Followed by an apple – these apples have been in a box by our back door for the last three months, getting a bit more shrivelled but still nice, although you do need to pick them over regularly. I don’t know what kind they are (not Cox, which also keep well), as they were given me by my daughter and she got them from a local farmer who didn’t want them!
Home-grown borlotti beans!
For supper I had a borlotti bean stew, which was absolutely delicious. 2013 was the first year we had ever grown borlotti beans and dried them, so we had no idea what to expect, but we got several meals out of them and didn’t lose any during the drying, although some of them obviously needed using up quickly. The way I made the stew was a bit more complicated than usual, but I think it improved the flavour. I soaked the beans overnight and boiled them without salt, adding them to the rest of the dish at the end. I sautéed the sliced onions in local rape seed oil until they were soft, then added the chopped celery and carrots, as the onions seem to be sweeter that way. I cooked the tinned tomatoes separately in a frying pan with salt, pepper , cayenne pepper and crushed garlic, as they reduce better that way and the stew isn’t too liquid. Finally I added some ready boiled potato pieces and a bit of chopped fresh spinach (just to wilt it a bit at the last minute so it kept its colour). It was really lovely and I had some for lunch the next day, too, with a baked potato and some steamed sprout tops.