French Lentil & Mushroom Casserole

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Lentils and mushrooms make for a somewhat brown combination, but together they really complement each other and create a nutritious, delicious stew. Puy lentils are probably the tastiest lentil out there and hence, over the years, the French have seized on them for their cooking, so they’re often known as French lentils. As a legume (the seed of its plant), they really are powerhouses of protein, but so often they’re served as a side dish. This seems silly to me because a thick, warming lentil casserole is such a hearty, satisfying meal all on its own – it deserves to be the main, the focus of your plate. Taking inspiration from the lentils’ link to France, this casserole is bursting with French flavours, from the red wine to the rosemary and mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most nutrient-rich mushrooms out there. They’re a fantastic source of bioavailable iron and protein, which is always good news for vegetarians and vegans. They also have a strong antiviral effect – perfect for the colder months of the year when our bodies are naturally more disposed to catching viruses. But the best thing about these shiitake mushrooms is that they were grown here in the UK, so they are local fungi through and through. The chestnut mushrooms also come from a few counties away, and the rosemary’s from a little bush in my garden, so as a whole this casserole is a local pleasure.

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Serves 6:

  • 50g dried shiitake mushrooms (porcini also work well)
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms
  • 120g shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 medium onions
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 litre of hot vegetable stock
  • 150ml red wine
  • 400g of puy lentils
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprig of rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of miso paste

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First, give your dried shiitake mushrooms a quick rinse before placing them in a large bowl and pouring over the hot stock, leaving them to soak for twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, finely chop the onions and crush the garlic cloves through a press. Chop both the fresh shiitake and chestnut mushrooms into discs, making them all a vaguely similar size. Place the lentils in a sieve and give them a thorough rinse.

When the dried shiitake mushrooms have soaked for twenty minutes, use a slotted spoon to take them out, letting as much liquid as possible drip off so they’re fairly dry. Chop these mushrooms, discarding any hard stalk ends.

Place a large casserole dish (I like to use Le Creuset) over a medium to high heat and pour in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil’s hot, tip in the onions and fry for a few minutes until they’re starting to soften. Add the garlic and a few rosemary leaves and allow to cook for another couple of minutes, turning the heat down to medium. At this point add all the mushrooms and fry for approximately 5-10 minutes until they’ve all softened and shrunk down, cooked through.

Pour in the mushroom vegetable stock and the red wine, give it a good stir and then add the lentils. Stir once more, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle in the rest of the rosemary leaves. Make sure all the lentils are down in the liquid before placing the lid on and reducing the heat to a simmer. They should take about 45-60 minutes to cook, but every 10 minutes check it’s gently simmering and give the stew a good stir. You may find you have to add a little more liquid as the lentils soak it up – do a small amount at a time as you want a thick casserole by the end.

Once the lentils are soft and the flavours have all come together, mix up the miso paste with a tiny bit of water and then stir into the mix, turning the heat off. Serve with rice or roast potatoes for a traditional winter supper, or try it in a lunch bowl with some roasted vegetables and salad.

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Turmeric Tangerine Porridge with Blackcurrant Compote

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Turmeric should be called a superspice. It’s got the most amazing colour, distinct flavour and even better it’s one of the best things you can eat, especially in these winter months when your body needs a good immune boost. It has a host of medicinal properties and nutrients – the most significant of which is curcumin. This compound is both a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and recent studies have shown that it can prevent heart attacks, delay the onset of diabetes and fight cancer by helping to kill cancer cells and shrink tumours.

You most probably associate turmeric with curry and savoury dishes, but it’s such a warming spice that it goes perfectly with porridge and, in general, with sweet, fruity flavours. Tangerines have a citrusy sweetness with subtle sour tangs, which combined with the turmeric creates a unique, mildly exotic taste, making every spoonful of porridge delicious. Tangerines are such a great seasonal fruit – they’re my go-to for a naturally sweet afternoon snack in the winter. Not only are they chock-full of vitamin C, they’re also grown in Spain, so they haven’t had to travel too far to my greengrocer in southern England.

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Swirling blackcurrant compote through this porridge really is the cherry on top of the cake. Blackcurrants are so overlooked as a berry, which is mad because they’re so good for you – packed with iron, as well as B vitamins and vitamin A. I use blackcurrants handpicked from my very own garden, which to me is just the most wonderful thing – truly organic, local and with no one else involved in the growing and gathering apart from me. These babies have been frozen since last summer, so if you can’t get your hands on any right now then try alternative berries for the compote and be ready for the blackcurrant season this year. They’re little gems.

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Serves 2

For the porridge:

  • 1 cup of oats
  • ½ cup of coconut milk or almond milk
  • ½ cup of water
  • 2 tangerines
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg

For the blackcurrant compote:

  • ½ cup of blackcurrants (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1½ teaspoons of yacon syrup, maple syrup or honey

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First of all, place the blackcurrants in a saucepan along with the water and sweetener of your choice and turn to a medium heat. Once the pan’s hot, keep stirring the blackcurrants until their juices start to come out and the berries are just starting to burst. At this point reduce the heat to low.

Juice the tangerines either by peeling their skins and squeezing out the juice from the segments by hand, or by putting them through a juicer if you have one. In another saucepan, pour in the oats, water and milk and bring to the boil. Once the oats are starting to absorb the liquid and break down, add the tangerine juice, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg. Give it a good stir to make sure everything is combined.

After 5-10 minutes, depending on whether you’ve used jumbo or porridge oats and how soft you like them, pour the porridge into two bowls and then top with the blackcurrant compote. I like to serve mine with a sprinkling of desiccated coconut.

Warm Winter Sprout & Quinoa Salad

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Quinoa is a slightly contentious topic in the food world at the moment (as this article highlights), due to the west’s sudden love and demand for this little grain. There’s no doubt that quinoa is one of the world’s greatest foods, especially for vegetarians and vegans out there: it’s a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids, it has almost twice as much fibre as most other grains and it’s packed with magnesium. In most ways, it trumps all other grains, but when poor Bolivians and Peruvians can no longer afford their staple food because of US and European demand raising prices, it’s not an easy or particularly acceptable thing to buy a packet of South American-grown quinoa and simply shrug and ignore this unethical fact.

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But here in Britain we have the perfect solution – Hodmedod’s British quinoa from the fields of Essex. A truly local grain grown in English soil which has only travelled a few miles and hasn’t cheated South American farmers and civilians out of their food – what can be better than that? And, pairing this with Brussel sprouts and a few swirls of carrot, which are both in season, this salad is a local and seasonal bowl of rainbow-coloured goodness. Sprouts receive an unfair nose-wrinkling bad name, but they can be so delicious if cooked in an imaginative way, rather than simply boiling all the taste and nutrients out of them. Infusing this warm winter salad with rosemary and chilli flakes gives both the quinoa and sprouts an aromatic flavour, and topping it off with lightly toasted sunflower seeds adds a crunch which makes every mouthful a protein-packed, plant-filled pleasure.

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Serves 3:

  • 2 cups/310g of Brussel sprouts
  • ½ cup of quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup of sunflower seeds
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 teaspoons of chilli flakes
  • Sea salt

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Preheat your oven to 170°C. Start by chopping the bottom end off the Brussel sprouts and removing the outer leaves. Give them a good wash before cutting them in half. Then place them on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and toss until evenly coated. Roast them in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.

Whilst they’re baking, bring a pan of water to the boil and add the quinoa and apple cider vinegar. Give it a stir and reduce to a simmer, letting it cook for about 15 minutes, or however long your specific quinoa takes.

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At this point, peel the outer skin of the carrots off and then use the peeler to make thin strips, from one end to the other. Strip the rosemary leaves off their stems. Once the sprouts have been in the oven for 10 minutes take them out and sprinkle over the chilli flakes and rosemary leaves. Give them a stir to make sure they’re roasting evenly and return them to the oven for about 10 more minutes, or until they’re starting to go golden brown and slightly crispy.

Using a dry pan, turn it up to a medium heat and gently toast the sunflower seeds, tossing them about a bit to make sure all sides go lightly brown. Once your quinoa’s cooked, drain any excess water and remove the sprouts from the oven. Toss all the elements together and serve – I like mine sprinkled with a few extra chilli flakes for a mildly spicy tang.

Carrot, Ginger & Turmeric Juice

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Carrots are super – they’re probably the vegetable that’s in season for the longest in Britain, growing naturally and happily in our soil from June right the way through to February. That’s a whopping 9 months, over three quarters of the year. You might think they almost don’t have a season, but it’s so good because whenever I crunch on one or press a bit of carrot through my juicer it’s a great feeling because I know they really are local and seasonal, a true English food.

They’re also pretty bloomin’ healthy as far as vegetables go. They’re great for vision because they’re rich in beta-carotene, which also helps slow down aging through acting as an antioxidant to cell damage. Moreover, carrots promote healthier skin through their vitamin A content, this wonderful vitamin helping to protect the skin from sun damage, premature wrinkling, dry skin and pigmentation. In addition to carrots, this juice is bursting with ginger and turmeric, which both add a lightly spicy tang that’s really stimulating. They’re both anti-inflammatory; ginger containing potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which can be beneficial to chronic inflammatory diseases. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.

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I woke up with a pretty bad headache on Christmas Eve so I decided to make a carrot juice with a ton of fresh ginger and turmeric, and you know what? It really worked! My headache didn’t disappear completely but it was 95% gone, which is an amazing result, especially as it all came from plants – no drugs, nothing synthetic, nothing artificial. Things like aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are just so far from anything natural and when we swallow them our bodies have no idea what they are or how to process them. I’d so much rather sip on a juice, knowing that everything I’m putting into my body can only have a positive effect, in both the short term and long term. In simple words, this juice is an easy and great way to flood your system with vegetables, minerals and vitamins, giving it a good alkaline boost, so don’t hold back – especially if you have swollen glands, tonsils, sinuses or are generally feeling under the weather.

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Makes one large glass:

  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 apple
  • 1-2 inch piece of ginger (depending on how gingery you like it!)
  • 2 inch piece of turmeric root
  • Half a yellow bell pepper

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Simply press all the ingredients through your juicer, pour into a glass, give it a little stir and enjoy!

P.S. I like to save the pulp and make raw carrot cake

Spanish-Style Baked Beans

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It hasn’t been an especially cold winter in Britain, but all the same the best thing to do in winter is snuggle down with a warming, filling dish of food, preferably steaming up into your face, wafting a sweet, spicy aroma into your nose. I went to Spain for the first time two summers ago with one of my best friends and adored the food. The flavours so distinctive, the sizzling pans of paella, the array of little tapas dishes you can gorge on, like a tasting session – heaven for me, as I invariably have trouble deciding on something at restaurants and want to try at least three things.

I was barely eating meat in 2013, but at the time I couldn’t resist a bit of chorizo. And, I can’t lie about it – it was delicious. Almost every meat eater I know loves chorizo; my flatmate used to eat it almost daily. Chorizo is one of the tastiest foods out there, but a few months ago I realised this wasn’t really or else wholly due to it being made of pork. The Spanish are a little obsessed with ham (I remember almost every street I walked down had at least four shops exclusively selling ham), so it’s a bit of a refined art for them, but they are also the elusive harbourers of a sneaky cooking secret – pimentón.

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Or, in English, smoked paprika. Now you might think smoked paprika isn’t a secret, we have it in Britain and you can buy it in the supermarket. But the English hardly ever use it in their cooking. And pimentón is the secret ingredient of chorizo. It gives it that smoky, spicy flavour which is so unique. I no longer eat chorizo but I had the idea a while ago to create some kind of tomato bean sauce with pimentón and decided what better thing to make than spicy, Spanish-style, healthy home-made baked beans.

The thick sauce is so hearty and full of flavour, adding a beefiness which is so lacking in watery baked beans you get in a tin, it gives you a great protein boost and it doesn’t have any of the added sugar. Furthermore, this dish is so versatile – you could have it as a stew, or as a soup or spilling out of a baked potato. It really is delicious, pleasantly spicy and when you put a spoon of it in your mouth it’s rather like tasting chorizo, without the chorizo.

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Serves 4-5:

  • 2 cups/240g/2 tins of haricot beans (I prefer to soak mine overnight and then boil for approximately 2½ hours with a few cloves of garlic and a couple of bay leaves – if preparing your own you’ll need about 180g of dried haricot beans)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 4 large tomatoes (tomate de pera ideally)
  • 1 Romano red pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 7 sun-dried tomato pieces
  • 1½ teaspoons pimentón/smoked paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 1 tin of peeled cherry tomatoes
  • 5 teaspoons of tomato purée
  • A small handful of basil
  • A small handful of parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of chilli flakes

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If cooking your own haricot beans, soak and boil them as instructed above. When they’re soft, drain any excess water in a colander and set aside to cool. Next, roughly chop your onion and blitz in a food processor until very fine and resembling a thick paste. Add a splash of olive oil to a large pan and turn to a medium heat. Once the pan’s hot tip in the onion, stirring continuously for about 5 minutes. After this, turn the heat down to low and let the onion cook gently (you want as much moisture as possible to evaporate off).

While the onion’s frying chop the tomatoes and red pepper into large chunks. Peel the garlic cloves and again roughly chop. Add all the pieces to a food processor along with the sun-dried tomatoes, pimentón, cayenne pepper, basil, parsley, the tablespoon of olive oil and a good grinding of salt and pepper. Blend this until well combined and it looks like a thick sauce. Once the onion has softened and mostly dried up, add this tomato sauce to the pan, turn up the heat to medium and stir.

After a couple of minutes, add the tin of cherry tomatoes, tomato purée, ¼ cup of water and chilli flakes to the pan as well. Stir until all mixed together then place the lid on top, leaving it to simmer for 10 minutes. At this point, add the drained haricot beans. Stir once more and replace the lid, letting the mixture simmer gently for a further 30 minutes. Over this time the flavours will all come together to really bring out the tomato, peppers, garlic, basil and smoked paprika. Finally serve (with rice to make a casserole or even with pasta if you fancy) and enjoy!

Heritage Crops: The Brighter Future of Farming

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Genetically modified food is a controversial topic. It’s something which is being endlessly debated, particularly in terms of whether it’s required to feed the ever-increasing population of our planet. It’s tricky for most of us to know whether it’s a good thing or bad thing, but presented with the raw facts by someone such as a small-scale, honest farmer who has genuine hands-on experience with growing food, there’s no doubt that GM crops and seeds are bad – very bad, in fact. For humanity, for the environment and for food security.

John Letts is one such organic farmer in Buckinghamshire who has set out on a mission to grow hundreds of varieties of ancient cereals – heritage grain, as he calls it. He’s also a thatcher, which is significant because it was whilst he was retouching thatched roof houses that he made an amazing discovery. Some thatched houses are hundreds of years old, with the original layer of thatch being laid down in about 1350. Vitally, in some cases, this original layer has never been removed, and this is significant because houses of the 1300s had no chimney, meaning that any smoke simply floated up into the roof, perfectly preserving the grains of straw stitched together to create the thatch.

Mr Letts goes so far as to describe thatched roofs as “archaeological sites”, because of this preserved layer and the subsequent layers replaced over the years, like a record of time from 1300 to now. One of the most important things to be noted about these ancient grains is that they were genetically diverse – people used to grow varieties of wheat, oats, rye and barley in their hundreds, and what’s more, they were land adaptive, meaning they could easily adapt to varying conditions. This genetic diversity meant that wheat and oats were resilient against disease, because if one type of wheat contracted a disease there were hundreds of other varieties still left untouched after the disease had attacked it.

Even in the early 1800s, there were between 200-500 varieties of plant in one field, which is unimaginable when we now walk in monocrop fields with rows and rows of the exact same, genetically-identical wheat, barley or oat plant. Shaking his head, Mr Letts says, “We have a tiny amount of genetic history in the crops we grow. Modern wheat varieties are all the same, and if it weren’t for the layers in thatched roofs then every other variety of wheat ever grown or cultivated would have been lost.”

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Comparing ancient and modern varieties of grain and how their crops grow, there are a few evident differences. First of all, modern crop seeds are grown without husks, whereas heritage seeds have the husk still covering them, as they naturally did before we began fiddling and altering the plants. Husks are important as they help protect the plant and seed against fungi – so, through a fault of our own making, when they’re not protected and fungi starts ruining the crop, conventional farmers decide to spray fungicide all over it.

Before the industrial revolution, crops had large root systems, meaning they could absorb various nutrients rather than simply nitrogen, which is 1 of the 3 minerals modern farming deems plants require, even though there are 52 minerals in nature and it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to think that plants (and humans who are eating those plants) really need all 52 nutrients to thrive. Furthermore, these ancient grains grown as mixed crops – with an assortment of plants which complemented one another – had all sorts of different height roots in their systems, meaning they were far more resilient than modern monocrops. Smiling knowingly, Mr Letts points to one of his fields and says, “Ancient wheat with husks on can stand in the rain for 3 months.”

This sounds entirely unbelievable when we hear constant reports of British farmers’ crops being ruined after the weeks of rain we’ve had in recent years, such as in the summer of 2012. But that’s because today’s farmers are using monocrop wheat with shortened stems, weak root systems and roots which can’t connect with the fungi in the soil. Every plant has root fungi – it is a natural part of soil, along with insects, microorganisms, gases and organic matter, all of which exist in a symbiotic relationship with plants and their roots. Unlike ancient crops, modern varieties are unable to take advantage of the fungi, and so they’re entirely dependent on topsoil and therefore cheap fertilisers which nowadays farmers spray on their fields by the bucket load.

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All of this is very interesting with international corporations like Monsanto claiming that only GM crops can ‘feed the world’ and how, in the context of climate change, these companies are producing ‘climate-ready crops’ which will supposedly be able to withstand changes in our climate over the next 100 years. It seems much more likely that, in fact, it is these ancient varieties of wheat, oat, spelt, corn, rye etc that will be able to grow and adapt to changing conditions, and what’s more, they would be able to grow without the use of artificial chemicals and fertilisers and without the threat of miles of crops being wiped out by a flood, drought or some new strain of disease. Even better, Mr Letts tells me that the yield of medieval crops was almost exactly the same as it is now, so there can be no argument that modern varieties of GM crops produce far higher amounts of grain per hectare.

Another interesting point is that it was in the early 1800s when commercial baking with yeast began – before that, we didn’t use cultivated yeast to make bread. Medieval bread was almost all sourdough – a process which uses only naturally occurring yeasts within the bread and which creates bread which is flatter. Mr Letts, who is a passionate baker and bread eater himself, has a friend called Colin who is opening his own bakery and lives a short distance from his farm. When my friend Eloise and I were helping out on his farm back in the summer, Colin would bring over freshly baked sourdough using Mr Letts’ very own flour every morning. This sourdough was some of the most amazing bread I’ve ever tasted, with a wonderful flavour which surpasses the stale, flabby white bread you find in supermarkets in every single way, and it even got the French seal of approval from Eloise.

Making pizzas one night with some of Colin’s dough, Mr Letts starts talking about rye and the wisdom of medieval farmers, saying, “Ergot fungi is a type of fungi that grows on rye plants and is highly toxic to humans, but the sourdough baking process detoxifies the ergot. Somehow people living in the 1200s, 1300s, 1400s onwards knew how to do this, and worked out a way to eat rye without poisoning themselves.”

There’s another aspect of sourdough bread which is fascinating in the context of the number of people who now have gluten intolerances and celiac disease. Mr Letts describes how there’s current research in Germany into sourdough in relation to gluten. Apparently, when making sourdough bread, long term fermentation of the dough is required with the sourdough culture, which uses naturally occurring lactobacilli. These bacteria produce lactic acid which lowers the pH of the bread to 3, and such a low pH destroys the gluten so those who are sensitive or allergic to gluten can eat it.

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Nowadays, modern wheat flour has various emulsifiers and enzymes added to it so that bread can be made in half an hour. This, Mr Letts believes, is a big part of the problem. “We’re eating raw starch and raw gluten, and our stomachs can’t digest them so they go straight to our guts.” Once in our gut, they cause inflammation which allows food (importantly, raw gluten, but many other foods as well) to leak into our bloodstream via a common disorder called leaky gut syndrome, and once there our body treats the food like a foreign invader and it triggers an immune response. So it’s no wonder so many of us are intolerant to wheat and gluten.

When delving deep into the way our food is grown and produced, it’s often easy to get downhearted. Mr Letts, speaking of his experience with growing food and his first-hand experience of working for American chemical companies producing fungicides, herbicides and pesticides, says that what these multinational companies spew out is a “fake argument about feeding the world.” Moreover, it is companies such as Monsanto who are now patenting seed (because they have modified and created their own types which they supposedly ‘own’) and trying (and often succeeding) to stop farmers saving their own seed as they have done for hundreds of years, as the term ‘heritage’ suggests.

“It’s all about money,” Mr Letts says. “GM crops so easily contaminate non-GM and organic crops, and Monsanto can then claim they own those crops because their GM seeds start growing in them. When this happens, they can sue farmers who try to save their seeds. And even if you’re not up against Monsanto, lots of varieties of wheat and other crops are illegal to plant and grow – if you do want to grow them they have to be approved by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs). But, thankfully, a few people like Mr Letts are pitting themselves against corporations and the governments they’ve bought out by growing these ancient varieties of grain (legally, of course).

Roman Blend White Spelt Flour

Furthermore, the future is looking brighter. “They won’t be able to criminalise the keeping and swapping of seeds because people are catching on all over the world,” Mr Letts says to me, dropping a spelt seed from one of his crops into my hand as he shows me how to work his old fashioned miller, which will turn seeds into flour ready for selling under the brand Lammas Fayre. It’s been a long process over 10 years of his life, but his heritage grain flours are now up on the market available to buy from Bakery Bits. The idea behind them is that each flour reflects the time and type of people who were using a particular mix of grain in their baking. They’re like flours for history, so he offers Medieval Peasant’s Blend Flour, Victorian Blend White Flour and Roman Blend Wholemeal Spelt Flour.

Anglo Saxon Blend Light Rye Flour

But Mr Letts isn’t stopping there. “We need a magna carta for seed,” he says, “so that seeds can be protected by laws which are moral, ethical and environmental, and so they can’t be stolen from the farmers who have saved and cultivated them for us over hundreds of years.” With that in mind, he’s aiming to produce a flour which has thousands of varieties of ancient seeds in it – 1215 to be exact, for the year the Magna Carta was created, to be ready next year in 2015, for its 800th anniversary.

Heritage Blend Artisan Pizza Flour

Roasted Parsnip, Butter Bean & Almond Soup

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I’ve never been much of a soup person. Other people always go on about how great it is, how easy to make and how delicious it can be. Maybe it’s because I used to eat those Covent Garden soups from the supermarket which are bulked out with butter and cream – and that’s all they taste of to me. Soup from the supermarket, especially Tesco own or even Sainsbury’s own, just doesn’t cut it one bit. And they all seem to have funny, artificial, unidentifiable ingredients, just like almost everything else on the shelves. I’m also really not a fan of boiled vegetables or watery soup (keep broth away from me) – for me it has to be thick, creamy and tasty to the max.

And that’s exactly what this parsnip soup is. Roasting the parsnips really brings out their flavour, adding a nuttiness which you don’t get if you simply boil, and then the combination of butter beans, almonds and almond milk gives it a creamy (with not one drop of cream in sight) and hearty dimension. Including butter beans and almonds means this soup is brimming with protein, which again is what I think many vegetarian soups lack. Even better, it’s root vegetable time in Britain and parsnips are 100% in season. As well as being in season, they’re a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, and many minerals and vitamins such as manganese and vitamin K, and they contain many poly-acetylene antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties.

This soup really does taste great, boosted by the garlic and spices – it’s a far cry from watery broth or buttery mush. And, it is super easy to make and is so warming on these ever deepening wintery days, so I really hope you whip it up and tuck in.

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Serves 6:

  • 3 large parsnips
  • 1 cup/240g of butter beans (either 1 can’s worth or soaked overnight and simmered for 2 hours with a couple of garlic cloves and bay leaves)
  • ½ cup/120g of blanched almonds (soaked overnight)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 450ml of unsweetened almond milk
  • 550ml of vegetable stock
  • 1½ teaspoons of turmeric
  • 1½ teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

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Preheat your oven to 190°C. Peel the parsnips and chop into large hunks before placing on a baking tray. Sprinkle over some olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and then stir around to make sure all the pieces are coated before placing in the oven for about 45 minutes, turning them at least twice to make sure they roast evenly.

While the parsnip is roasting, peel and chop the garlic cloves into small discs. Add the tablespoon of olive oil to a pan and place on a medium heat, waiting for the oil to get hot before adding the garlic. Let it cook gently for a minute or so and then add the cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon of turmeric and ½ teaspoon of paprika. Stir in the spices so they have a chance to lightly fry and then remove from the heat.

Drain the blanched almonds then place in a food processor along with a very small amount of water. Blend until they’ve broken down into a smooth paste before adding the butter beans. Blend again until smooth. Once the parsnips are a nice golden brown all over, remove from the oven and place in a blender along with the blended butter beans and blanched almonds, fried garlic and spices, almond milk, vegetable stock, chilli flakes, the remaining 1 teaspoon of turmeric and paprika and a good grinding of salt and pepper and then blend until smooth. If you like your soup nice and thick it should be a good consistency but if you want it a bit thinner then add a little water until you get the thickness you want. If serving straight away pour into bowls, otherwise reheat when ready and enjoy!