Slow Food London set a challenge: could regular Londoners go slow for an entire year? Would it be easy? Would it be hard? Would there be times when it would (slowly) start to go wrong?
Here, Susan Paul talks us through her thirty-eighth week:
I have to start with a confession. Our youngest son has been home from University this week. He is an athlete and consequently keen on cooking and eating good healthy food. Always interested in new recipes and ideas we spent lots of time making good things: carrot, lentil and cumin soup; roasted kale; beef casserole laced with horseradish vinegar; lamb with lentils; hummus; beetroot dip; roast cauliflower; porridge with ground cinnamon – I really loved the time we spent together and I am delighted that he has turned into such a good cook.
We ran out of vegetables so unusually I had to buy more in the middle of the week and headed to a small (but expensive) shop in Wimbledon which sells lots of organic fruit and vegetables. He had mentioned that he would like to try a recipe he had found for a smoothie made with, amongst other things, kale, pears, bananas and blueberries. Oh that’s fine I had said except I can’t do the blueberries – sorry but there are too many unnecessary air miles involved so we will have to use apples instead and wait until the Summer for the blueberries. I found the kale, pears and fair trade bananas and loaded up the shopping basket. Then I saw them and without a second thought picked up not one but two packs of organic blueberries, flown all the way from I don’t know where! As if that act alone was not bad enough I then tossed not one but two avocados (he loves avocados) into the basket, headed to the till, paid and returned home with the bulging bag.
Our children have all bought into the slow food ideal even though they tease me about it, so of course they found my misdemeanor very amusing. My stepdaughter even feigned shock and horror and told me she had been to a supermarket recently for the first time in ages and had found the whole process so overwhelming and unpleasant that she had left with an empty shopping bag. Anyway, he ate the avocados and enjoyed them and he made the smoothie, which was delicious, but I am not going to buy any more blueberries until the Summer when they are in season here.
I have been thinking that if there was going to be a low point in this challenge it would probably be around this time of year but to my surprise I found two new things at the Farmers market this week. Rhubarb, which I have stewed with some brown sugar and ginger to eat for breakfast with yoghurt; and flower sprouts – a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts - a mongrel of the vegetable world. I used them, well washed and tossed in a dressing of sweet blackberry vinegar, mustard and oil and baked in the oven (200c) for 5 minutes. They are delicious.
I bought loads of other vegetables too. Winter purslane, which has become a favourite of ours, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, leeks, onions, mushrooms, purple sprouting broccoli, swede and another new thing, rainbow chard leaves. So contrary to my fears of a lack of good vegetables at this time of year we have lots of lovely things and all for around £20.
I buy most other food at our local Barnes shops as I am a keen supporter of them – I like the shops and the people in them so I only buy foods at the Farmers market, which are not available in these shops. This week it was some Aylesbury duck legs and some beef marrow bones. I am thinking of roasting the duck legs with some beans. Having tried and failed to find a recipe for the marrow bones in my collection of cookery books, I have resorted to Google and found what looks to be a good idea from a collection of St. John’s restaurant recipes.
The dried figs I bought last week in Italy have been chopped quite small, covered in dessert wine and sealed up in a sterilized jar. I have done this before and I am confident that the figs will soften in time and soak up the wine to make a kind of chutney, which is particularly good to eat with cheese.
The British cheese we are trying this week is Bosworth Ash a goat’s cheese. I used it to make a tart with some dried figs, which was very good and easy as I had made the pastry base and frozen it several weeks ago.
I completely forgot about Shrove Tuesday but if I had remembered I would have made my pancakes very simply with sugar and lemon. I have allowed myself lemons all through the challenge – they can’t be grown successfully in the UK and they travel well and so do not need to be rushed by air.