Sunday Roast 3rd May 2015 #weeklyfoodnews

Spring is finally here! The sun is thawing peoples’ faces, revealing smiles and bright eyes. Even my Bootcamp instructor seems to be responding to higher levels of Vitamin D: He didn’t hit me with a stick this week, nor make me carry a ‘victim’ round the field. Wins all round, really.

I have truly embraced the new season, filling my week with perfect woodland walks, scrumptious salads and iced coffees galore (I have been working too, promise). I also have this growing love for lambs. They may take over otters as my favourite animal, especially after seeing them energetically prance over gorse bushes and playfully head-butt each other.

Spring lamb woodland
Whytham Woods Oxford
Wandering through Whytham Woods, Oxford

Before I start getting too emotionally attached to lambs and change the name of this weekly food news series to ‘Sunday Vegetarian Salad’, here is your Sunday Roast…

Recipe

Nutty Notella by Abel and Cole 

It’s been 25 years and I have only recently discovered the joy of coconut oil. Oh my, what a delightful thing it is – I can lather my toast, my body and my hair in the stuff. All at the same time if need be. What other food can do that?! (Don’t tell me, please).

I got a bit carried away the other day; far too much coconut oil was applied in a quest to nurture my broken Bootcamp-ed body. It was like the Butter Dance, but thankfully far less public and humiliating.

Now that we’re all listening to the soothing sounds of Adele while watching a curvaceous woman ‘dance’ on butter, let’s get onto the recipe for this week: Nutty Notella.

I was told that my recipes on Sunday Roast were a bit ‘too vegan’. There seems to be this assumption that vegan or vegetarian food is bland, not nutritious and filling. Queue the Notella spread. It’s everything you want in a spread: comforting, chocolatey, thick, spreadable, and actually good for you. If you choose organic ingredients, as Abel & Cole suggest, it’s great for the environment too.

Source: Chocolate-covered Katie

For 4-6 servings, the ingredients are as follows:

  • 100g cashew nuts – soak these overnight, helping them to soften and also increase digestibility. You can also try hazelnuts, pecans…anything goes.  
  • 5 pitted dates
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon – you could also use cardamom or nutmeg.

The steps are:

  1. Place the cashews, dates and salt in a jar. Fill with water until covered. Seal the jar and soak overnight.
  2. Drain the water and place the contents in a food processor or mash them all up in a pestle and mortar.
  3. Blend in the remaining ingredients. Taste and add more cocoa for extra oomph, or more dates for extra sweetness.  

Blog

Breadtopia 

This blog is anything but stale. It successfully rises to the challenge of providing quality information about why and how to bake your own bread. It even tries to prove that the future of humanity depends on baking your own fresh loaf. It’s like a utopia, but built on yeast rather than ideology!

I think we should all roll with it, and check out the wealth of information they provide. This includes bread recipes and videos (including pastries, sourdough, bread and pizza – there is no knead to buy Domino’s again!), articles, reader recipes and a ‘spotlight’ product that just is a crust higher than the rest (okay, so that pun didn’t work…I went too far).

It is the perfect place to learn, interact and build confidence as a baking guru. It is also a fantastic example of how someone’s passion can infuse into writing – this shines through the content and graphics. The blog makes me smile so much, and actually makes me want to bake bread right now (it’s 9pm, so that’s not going to happen). Tomorrow… I can wait until tomorrow…

Baking and laughing
This is how happy I will be when I bake bread tomorrow.

News

I want to use this section to give information about an upcoming festival in Oxfordshire: Tandem Festival. The website states:

Tandem Festival is about bringing eco-friendliness and the arts to new audiences, all whilst celebrating vibrant cultures from across Europe. As a not-for-profit initiative, any surplus made will be re-invested back into local community groups and cultural enterprises focused on sustainability and environmentalism”. 

 
Tandem Festival Oxford
 

A supposed dichotomy between the natural environment and cultural urban landscapes has led to an increased depreciation of the links between the two. Wilderness landscapes and nature has strongly influenced art and culture, food and agricultural systems are intertwined with music and celebration, and as this quote reflects:

Man – despite his artistic pretentions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments – owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact it rains”. 
 

Tandem Festival is a three-day event that marries nature and culture back together again in the purest forms – bringing community together through non-amplified music, local and sustainable food, dancing, writing, eco-building and much more. 

The dates are 19th – 21st June 2015, and the festival is located in Hill End Woods, Oxford. Buy a ticket for as little as £30, bring along a tent and your bicycle and enjoy 🙂

Journal

Fostering Economic Resilience: The Financial Benefits of Ecological Farming in Kenya and Malawi by Greenpeace. 

I suggested the use of organic products in the recipe above, and for good reasons. ‘Organic’ has become a new buzzword, along with ‘local’ and ‘seasonal’. But, what does it actually mean and is it better for us and the planet than conventional food production?

Organic vineyard Tuscany
Organic fields in Tuscany, Italy

Organic agriculture is essentially agriculture without the use of artificial chemicals and inputs, including fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. It can be part of a holistic and symbiotic food and agricultural system (i.e. eco-agriculture), including hand-weeding, the use of leaf litter and mulching, living soil organisms, and lack of heavy machinery and intensive land use.

However, subsidies and government policy still reside with inorganic, conventional agriculture. The focus is on generating as much profit and yield from the crops through intensive, high-input methods rather than nurturing the system from which the crops flourish – water, nitrogen, soils, community and so on. 

With this in mind, Greenpeace set out to prove that organic ‘eco-agriculture’ is actually more profitable and better for our planet than conventional agriculture, with increases in soil fertility, water resources, biodiversity and farmers’ income through a reduction in labour costs and debt from expensive inputs.

For example, farmers in Malawi would earn $209 million extra per annum if they adopted agroforestry (farming plus trees), and Kenyan farmers would earn $2.7billion extra if they used holistic pest management techniques.

While Greenpeace only provide two case studies, results complement wider research on organic versus conventional agriculture, such as The Rodale Institute’s 60 year research review and WorldWatch commentary on organic farming feeding the world.  The combination of broader reviews and local case studies will hopefully shift policy to define ‘profitability’ is not simply in terms of yield but also ecosystems and communities.

Inspiration

Would we starve without bees? BBC iWonder

Bee pollinating flower
Source: The Guardian
You may have been following the news on bee population and neonicotinoids, including evidence of pesticides harming bees or causing them to become addicted to crops laden with inorganic, neonicotinoid insecticides.

As always, I want to talk about food and really hit home that, whether neonicotinoids are harming bee populations or not, their overall population decline is definitely going to harm our food system. This BBC infographic gets the message across, questioning whether we would starve without our bees.

The answer? In short, one third of our food is dependent on pollinators (including bees, flies etc.), so pretty much. In detail, the BBC provides information on bees importance, why they are the perfect pollinator and also whether they could be replaced.

If the infographic still doesn’t make you start valuing these 15mm insects more, then just take a look at this…

Supermarket without bees
Adapted from Huffington Post article

Basically, unless we want to survive on a diet of chocolate, we should start prioritising conserving bee populations ASAP. Check out these further websites for how you can play a role in this:

Until next week… x

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