Learning from the Past

Simone, our fantastic photographer, doing daily rounds on the farm snapped this lovely robin on our kale this week.

So much has changed in one generation.

I had the good fortune during the week to be brought on a trip back in time, back 80 years! A while back a very kind customer took the time to send me a paper clipping from 1939 featuring an article on seasonal vegetables.

Imagine food produced without artificial fertilisers, without toxic chemicals, not wrapped in plastic, produced locally. Our ancestors did not contribute to the mass of plastic pollution choking our planet. Plastic didn’t exist. My grand dad would have grown his own veggies, and if he didn’t grow it, he would have bought them in the local market or in a green grocer. Supermarkets didn’t exist back then. There was no such thing as Roundup the food was clean. Fresh produce was highly valued, it was not discounted, loss leading was not a thing.

Today we live in a world of, ‘everything and anything all the time’. It is amazing to have such choice, but there is a cost, a cost hidden behind the plastic: the chemicals, the exploitation of workers, the clearing of rainforests, the destruction of habitats, the pollution of our oceans. The list goes on. Supermarkets have played a massive part in this, but they are serving a need driven by us their customers.

Life seemed much simpler in my grandad’s day, life was certainly tougher, food was scarce at times, but the food was clean, healthy and did not leave a trail of pollution and destruction behind. We don’t need to return to a land of scarcity, but maybe a mindset change to see value in fresh food is required it is after all the building blocks that we put into our bodies every single day.

A particularly good quote that I enjoyed :

“The majority of people, unfortunately, are much too disinterested in their need for vegetables and salads to take serious steps to obtain the best value for money” “Fresh green or root vegetables….should be the staple part of every family dinner”

Being out in the rain and wind, harvesting leeks and pulling parsnips, is no fun, and it takes a certain calibre of person to persist with this work well into the winter. But this is seasonal food, this is the reality of local food production. The smell of freshly harvested parsnips, is quite frankly amazing, covered in muck they feel alive and real and you get the feeling that just by holding them in your hand you are doing something positive for the planet!

Producing good clean food, while respecting the ground beneath our feet that gives us so much deserves to be valued. Because if we don’t value and respect the earth, then there will not be much left for the next generation to enjoy. I think food production has such potential to change our lives, to change the way we eat, to change how we work, to change our world.

Here’s to learning from the past!

Kenneth

PS All our fixed boxes are plastic free and that includes our Christmas boxes * and have been since 2018!

*The Mossfield IRISH organic cheese in the bumper box is wrapped in a plastic film.

Leek & Thyme Tarte Tatin

I love a tarte tatin. It’s one of those deceptively simple dishes. One that wows your guests but is actually really very easy to make. A traditional tarte tatin is a French dessert made with caramelised apples and puff pastry. But you can take the concept and run with it in any direction. I love making savoury versions as a light lunch or fancy looking starter with beautiful, bitter salad leaves. Balsamic beetroot? Parsnip and apple? Red onion? Brussels sprout and chestnut? The list goes on. But my favourite by far has to be this luscious leek version.

Leek might be one of the most underrated vegetables. When highlighted like this and showcased as the main event, leeks really stand out as the beautiful, sweet, soft vegetables that they are. Mellow and silky, leeks go incredibly well with vinegar and thyme. If you want to take it up a notch you could add a slick of Dijon mustard to the pastry before tucking it over the leeks too. Another variation I make sometimes is with a sprinkle of capers in the base of the pan. That combination of sweet, sharp and fragrant is so incredibly good. I hope you enjoy it!

Did you try this recipe? Don’t forget to share it with your friends, tag us @greenearthorganics1 in any photos on Instagram and let us know how it went in the comments. Liz x

Ingredients (serves 8 as a starter)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200C. Get an oven and hob safe pan ready. If you don’t have one you can use a baking dish and do the entire process in steps in the oven instead.

Start by cleaning the leeks. The easiest way to do this is to split them down the middle, keeping the root end intact, then run them under a tap to quickly clean the mud out of each layer.

In an oven and hob safe pan, melt the butter then add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle over the sugar and half the thyme leaves. (If you want to add capers to the dish, do it now. Sprinkle a tbsp or two evenly into the pan for the odd little salty flavour bomb.)

Then measure the leeks against the pan and cut them in long slices to snugly fit, cut side down, the entire base of the pan. Try and keep the slices intact, don’t move them around once they are in place.

Add the vinegar to the leeks and then season them well with a big pinch of salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Add a few more fresh thyme leaves – reserve some for decorating the dish at the end. Allow the leeks to par cook on the hob so that they start to caramelise with the sugar and fat before adding the pastry.

Turn the heat off then, working quickly, cover the leeks with the puff pastry. Trim it to size and use the off cuts to fill any gaps. This will be the bottom of the tart so no need to be too neat. (If you’d like to add Dijon mustard, brush it over the pastry before popping it on the leeks, mustard side down.)

Tuck the pastry gently in around the edges then pop the dish into the oven to bake. It should only take around 20 minutes or so but just keep an eye on it. It’s ready when the pastry is risen and golden.

Then take the pan out of the oven and let it settle for a couple of minutes. Put a large platter or wooden chopping board over the pan, then in one swift, confident movement, turn the dish upside down (don’t forget to use oven gloves as the pan will still be hot!)

Carefully pick up the upside down pan and you should have a gorgeous dish! Sprinkle over some more fresh thyme leaves, slice with a large, very sharp knife and serve with a simple salad.

Here’s a quick video of the recipe. Hope you find it helpful!

This would be fantastic with a chilled glass of white wine. Check out our organic selection here.


Parsnip & Pear Soup

Parsnip & Pear Soup with Hazelnut Dukka

This soup is very simple, but delicately sophisticated. I would say it’s even good enough for the festive table! Parsnips and pears are a match made in heaven and I think you’ll agree that my hazelnut dukka really makes the dish sing. The spiced, toasty crunch of dukka offsets the sweetness of the parsnips and pears, and a little drizzle of peppery extra virgin oil rounds off the bowl.


Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
  • 1 knob of butter
  • the white part of a leek – rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1 scrubbed and trimmed parsnip – roughly chopped
  • 2 small pears – quartered and cored
  • salt to taste
  • pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
  • hazelnut dukka (see recipe below)

Method

In a pot, gently soften the leeks, parsnip and pear with the olive oil, butter and a pinch of salt. Once the vegetables start to soften and wilt down, just cover them with water and simmer until the parsnips are cooked through. Then blend the soup until very smooth with a handheld stick blender (or let it cool down and blend in a food processor). Taste for seasoning and add more salt and a fragrant pinch of nutmeg if you like (this just makes it extra festive). Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of hazelnut dukka.

Hazelnut Dukka

Dukka is an Egyptian nut and spice blend which is absolutely delicious. You’ll be hooked once you try it so it’s worth learning to make your own. My version is fairly simple to make.

I find an empty jar that I want to store it in and half fill it with hazelnuts. Walnuts or mixed nuts are great too. Then toast the nuts (for hazelnuts, I do this in a tray in a hot oven – just keep an eye on them and give the tray a shake every now and then so that they toast evenly – it should only take around 10 minutes).

Then tip the hazelnuts onto a clean tea towel on your work surface, place another tea towel on top and rub your hands quite firmly on the tea towel and the skins will just flake off. Then pick out the skinned and toasted hazelnuts and chop them with a large, sharp knife and put them in the jar.

The rest of the jar space should be taken up with toasted sesame, cumin and coriander seeds in fairly equal proportions. I just eyeball it and toast these one at a time in a dry frying pan, or altogether in the oven. I like to bash up the toasted coriander seeds a bit with a pestle and mortar first.

Then give the jar a shake to mix up the ingredients, let it cool completely with the lid off before popping the jar on your shelf to use on lots of different dishes. Your dukka should stay fresh for at least a month.

Did you make this soup? Let us know how it went in the comments and feel free to share the recipe with your friends and family. Share photos of our recipes on the Green Earth Organics Healthy Eating Facebook page or tag us @greenearthorganics1 over on Instagram. We love to see our recipes leave the page! Liz x