BLOG Archive for January, 2021

Test Kitchen | Deep Fried Lights

January 19, 2021

As part of our current research project Brexit Banquet, the Center is exploring how farmers, chefs, policy-makers and eaters will adapt to changing realities and flavours of a disrupted food system post-Brexit.

In order to pre-enact a disrupted food system and preemptively—explore, experience and taste—these changes, we have devised 5 dishes that start to sample a future where every aspect of food culture, soil health and agricultural biodiversity will need to be reconsidered, and will be contested in real time.

An offal tale.

During October 2020 Eileen Reiner (Brexit Banquet lead researcher) has been hands-deep in lamb lung, and knee-deep in farmland exploring the boundaries of her own personal culinary norms, getting over some squeamishness, and getting in touch with the current and future food system of Great Britain.

Farm visits, test kitchens and ingredient procurement at local retail outlets have each been opportunities to explore culinary biodiversity – the abundance and distribution of ingredients in and around where I live.

Brexit Banquet: Deep Fried Lights with wendeez hot sauce & white vinegar
Cleaning Lambs’ lungs

FROM EILEEN’S KITCHEN : DEEP FRIED LIGHTS

I would like to invite you into my Test kitchen on the South coast of the English Lowlands beech forests ecoregion— to get a sneak peek into the experiments and process of realising these speculative dishes, using what is currently available to me in my local area. The following is the first dish that was prototyped in our research, which may see further refinements in the following months. The second dish on the Brexit Banquet test kitchen menu is Deep Fried Lights.

The motive:

This dish is an internationally inspired nose-to-tail meal kit. An opportunity to help us rediscover the delicacies of local meat whilst reducing waste and supporting our local farmers…

How will farmers fare if new trade deals mean that it will be harder to export certain cuts of meat that are not that popular anymore in the UK, but are in other European countries? From drob de miel to Foie gras, offal and dark meats are enjoyed in various dishes over the borders. Apart from the famous Scottish Haggis, they don’t seem to make such a regular appearance in our local restaurants or dinner tables anymore. Selling all cuts of the animal locally and directly may help on these potential issues. Schemes like Farm shop box schemes, farmers market and food assemblies are currently being explored. Customers order the exact products they want online to pick up weekly. This helps farms to minimise their waste, sell a wide range of cuts and to meet and get feedback from their customers.

This dish serves as an inspiration for cooking with offal. An example from other cultures that savour those giblets! It is a take on the popular Malaysian street food dish ‘Paru Goreng’ Beef lungs (Lights) sauteed in a stew or coated in flour and turmeric powder and deep-fried. Often served with vinegar and/or hot sauce.

The procurement:

Although the UK farms plenty of beef, the prospect of acquiring beef lung was pretty daunting. After calling around a few of the butchers in my local area, I became quite self-conscious in my request…one of the butchers had to pass me over to another colleague as they simply couldn’t fathom what I was asking for. Feeling like a fervent carnivore, I was confronted with my own cultural aversion to the concept of eating lungs. The British beef industry has been said to be part of our national heritage, why do we currently seem so put off by offal?

After doing a bit of a google to see where I might find Beef lung in my area, I found out that animal lung is actually illegal in the US. This is based on the grounds that there is a risk that gastrointestinal fluid might leak into them during the slaughtering process, raising the likelihood of food-borne illness. Surely it can’t be illegal in the UK? Not with Scotland’s love for Haggis?

Finally, I found some Lambs lungs in the meat section of the local multicultural grocery store. I decided to give the dish a go with lamb instead. As a specialist food shop with ‘The very best ingredients, the world has to offer,’ I began to find this particular store essential for the ingredients for most of my Test Kitchen. I found the rest of my ingredients here too, along with Galangal. I hadn’t used this vegetable—closely related to ginger and popular in traditional Southeast Asian cuisine—before.

The cook:

I am not a vegetarian, but cooking the fresh pair of lungs in my kitchen was quite a confronting experience. In fact, I had to evacuate for a little outside stroll, when all was cleaned up. Am I that out of touch with the sources of my food? Having grown up with a mother who has now opened a vegan restaurant, and being a bit of a seafood junkie as an adult, I didn’t have much cultural experience with raw meat in the kitchen.

Cleaning the lungs felt like a biology lesson. Once I had gotten over the gore of it all, I spent about ten minutes methodically filling the bronchi from the tap, watching the lobes inflate to almost three times the size and then squashing the water out, as though I was deflating a beach ball.

Cleaning lungs
Cooked lambs’ lungs with lemongrass, garlic and ginger

After the clean I sliced it into 2 cm slices, and boiled it together with some lemongrass and garlic and ginger, to help clean the meat and neutralize the smell. The boil gave me plenty of time to turn my attention to the Rempah.

Rempah with candlenuts, coriander and galangal and tumeric
Cooking the rempah with lemongrass and bayleaves

There was lots of different advice about how long to boil the lungs online from 20 minutes to 3 hours for Beef lung. I ended up leaving them to boil for 45 minutes which was perhaps slightly longer than needed. Now time for the deep fry! I filled a pot with oil, brought it to the boil and plopped 5 pieces in at a time for a few minutes each, lifting them out onto kitchen paper to drain.

Deep fried lungs

The outcome:

Rubbery in texture with the oily flavour of lamb and the crisp of deep-fried treats, it was a totally novel tasting experience. The sharp condiments definitely helped to cut through the fat and I can imagine that the Malaysian fried Beef lung is actually pretty tasty! I was, however, reluctant to eat the full dish that I had spent all day preparing. Perhaps it was the experience of squeezing bloody water out of bronchi, or maybe beef lung tastes better than lambs lung in this context. The Rempah smelled delicious and I could imagine that it may well have been, but mine was a little too bitter. I think I had used too much turmeric. Overall the cook was an adventurous and insightful experience. A step in the direction of exploring my pallet to adapt to a changing food system. I could see through all the other recipes that I had discovered whilst cooking this dish that the lungs as an ingredient certainly had potential although I feel that one needs to discover their own personal favourite recipe. I have not found mine yet, but perhaps I will.

Deep Fried Lights with rempah

I mixed half of the fried lung with the rempah and served the other half up street food style with white vinegar, and ‘wendeez’ hot sauce.

Deep Fried Lights with wendeez hot sauce & white vinegar

I wonder if my enjoyment of this dish along with other offal dishes might change if I became accustomed to handling it in my kitchen and experienced a wide range of tasty, well-prepared offal dishes as a regular option on the menus of local restaurants, or on friends dinner tables. What if offal was once again widely celebrated as a regular ingredient in our current national cuisine? I am certainly behind the idea of nose-to-tail eating if we are to eat meat at all.

A sample of a future where the popularity of offal grows beyond Haggis and gets re-introduced as a staple ingredient in the British national cuisine in order to support local farmers and reduce food waste post-Brexit.

Test Kitchen | Chlorination Chicken

January 11, 2021

As part of our current research project Brexit Banquet, the Center is exploring how farmers, chefs, policy-makers and eaters will adapt to changing realities and flavours of a disrupted food system post-Brexit. 

In order to pre-enact a disrupted food system and preemptively—explore, experience and taste—these changes, we have devised 5 dishes that start to sample a future where every aspect of food culture, soil health and agricultural biodiversity will need to be reconsidered, and will be contested in real time. 

How the US cleans up.

During October 2020 Eileen Reiner (Brexit Banquet lead researcher) has been hands-deep in lamb lung, and knee-deep in farmland exploring the boundaries of her own personal culinary norms, getting over some squeamishness, and getting in touch with the current and future food system of Great Britain.

Farm visits, test kitchens and ingredient procurement at local retail outlets have each been opportunities to explore culinary biodiversity – the abundance and distribution of ingredients in and around where I live.


FROM EILEEN’S KITCHEN: CHLORINATION CHICKEN

The fourth dish on the Brexit Banquet test kitchen menu is Chlorination Chicken. The US cleans up in a future where coronation becomes chlorination chicken. UK farmers compete with cheaper chlorine washed US Chicken that chill in the fridges of British supermarkets as part of a US/UK trade deal. 

Speculating on food futures as they simultaneously unfold is a somewhat untidy and ironically unpredictable endeavor. As I gather the photographs and reflect on my experience of this week’s Test Kitchen cook, I realise that the chlorinated chicken is another perfect example of this.

With the new move to put food standards into primary legislation and media headlines such as  ‘UK will not import chlorinated chicken from US, or negotiate to remove ban on hormone-fed beef’ it seems that the values of a Farm to Fork, safety first and an animal welfare approach to agriculture has prevailed over ‘cheap and cheerful’ so far. There is a reported move to make the government’s new trade and agriculture commission a statutory body, advising on future trade deals. 

The following is a documentation of a possible future dish at a time where the prospect of chlorination chicken was very much on the table…

The motive: 

For decades coronation chicken was glorified in Britain as our Sovereign’s dish. Coronation chicken symbolised the taste of place for the British Empire and Commonwealth. How ironic it seems that this very dish may be directly compromised by imported chlorinated chicken post Brexit. With its mix of flavours and mild British take on Indian spices, it was originally created as an answer to what to serve 350 foreign dignitaries attending a banquet following the Queen’s coronation in 1953. At the time, it could also have been speculated to reflect Britain’s stiff upper lip, as it was still living with post-war rations and the ingredients were not easy to come by. Likewise as post-brexit chicken prices from the UK and the rest of Europe may seem less alluring in comparison, will we turn to the cheaper alternative: chicken from the US, bathed in chlorine to kill potentially harmful bacteria? In a future where US chickens chill in between EU chicken and British chickens, will it be up to the consumer to ultimately decide? Food standards, animal welfare, or price? The battle of the values may commence as Coronation Chicken is still served in traditional cafes and found in the occasional sandwich on our convenience store shelves, but will it be as popular as it once was? Will the British public be forced to reflect on the dismantling of previous laws and farming standards as they stomach a cold, chlorinated serving of our compromising times? 

The procurement:

Although arguably an acquired taste, I am guessing that the practicality of this dish has played a part in enabling its long lived popularity Since the 50s. Found in all sorts of forms from sandwich filler to salad topper and even starring on buffet spreads, this usually cold dish is quick to prepare and can easily transform last night’s chicken leftovers. Timed accordingly, this dish’s chicken was portioned off from the chicken satay I had cooked the night before.

I found a British chicken in my local supermarket – Sainsbury’s (the second largest British supermarket chain) and the herbs, nuts and spices came from my a store called Taaj with the tagline: ‘the very best ingredients the world has to offer’.

(Of Course the true procurement for this dish would involve me reaching for the chicken branding a US flag and pre-bathed in chlorine. Most probably found laying side by side with British-produced, although cheaper in price. Given my current circumstances however, the chicken I purchased was labelled British free range – ‘Our free range chickens are slow growing & free to roam in fields’. This gave me some indication that it was also raised adhering to certain living standards currently set by EU law on issues such as space, ammonia levels, and even lighting. The fear of the prospect of a chlorine wash does not seem to concern the chlorine itself, but rather its ability to cover up other poor agricultural practices.)

The cook

Deciding to fry two different versions of the chicken as a taste experiment, I marinated one portion of raw chicken with olive oil, lemon zest and a mix of paprika, turmeric and cumin and the other with olive oil and lemon zest, salt and pepper before setting it aside. 

I then turned my attention to the highlight of the coronation sauce – the curry dressing. I simply sauteed shallots, chillies, curry powder, tomato puree, white wine, jam and chicken stock in a pan. Once cooled I mixed the curry dressing in with a bowl of mayonnaise and creme fresh, folding in lemon juice, spring onions and coriander as I mixed. Voila, the coronation sauce.

Time to fry the chicken! After the chicken was fried I simply mixed it into the bowl of sauce, topping the cold curry with sprinkled almonds and apricots and served it on a bed of lettuce leaves. 

The outcome

Coronation becomes chlorination chicken in a future where we are forced to reflect on our agricultural values as we accept chlorine washed chicken from the US as a condition of a UK US trade agreement, and stomach a cold serving of our compromising times. 

Test Kitchen | Lamb and Four Clover

January 7, 2021

As part of our current research project Brexit Banquet, the Center is exploring how farmers, chefs, policy-makers and eaters will adapt to changing realities and flavours of a disrupted food system post-Brexit. 

In order to pre-enact a disrupted food system and preemptively—explore, experience and taste—these changes, we have devised 5 dishes that start to sample a future where every aspect of food culture, soil health and agricultural biodiversity will need to be reconsidered, and will be contested in real time. 

Lamb for breakfast, lamb for lunch,
lamb for tea, lamb for brunch

During October 2020 Eileen Reiner (Brexit Banquet lead researcher) has been hands-deep in lamb lung, and knee-deep in farmland exploring the boundaries of her own personal culinary norms, getting over some squeamishness, and getting in touch with the current and future food system of Great Britain.

Farm visits, test kitchens and ingredient procurement at local retail outlets have each been opportunities to explore culinary biodiversity – the abundance and distribution of ingredients in and around where I live.

Foraged clovers
Lamb and Four Clover

FROM EILEEN’S KITCHEN : LAMB AND FOUR CLOVER

I would like to invite you into my Test kitchen on the South coast of the English Lowlands beech forests ecoregion— to get a sneak peek into the experiments and process of realising these speculative dishes, using what is currently available to me in my local area. The following is the first dish that was prototyped in our research, which may see further refinements in the following months. The third dish on the Brexit Banquet test kitchen menu is Lamb and Four Clover.

The motive: 

This dish showcases clover flowers as an exciting new herb as we ‘eat what we eat eats’ in an attempt to get through £500m pounds worth of lamb!

Are we to have lamb for breakfast, lamb for lunch, lamb for dinner, and lamb for dessert in a post Brexit no deal scenario? The UK’s main market for lamb exports continues to be the EU, with over 90% of total UK sheep meat exports going there during 2019. In Fact, many British farmers are reported to be so heavily reliant on trade with the EU that last year it was speculated that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Boris Johnson was planning to buy almost the entirety of Wales’s slaughtered lambs in an attempt to settle the potential civil unrest in rural areas if farmers were to be faced with expensive new tariffs. £500m worth of lambs to be exact! It seems there may be pressure to up the ante on our consumption! Bucket of fried lamb anyone?

Could a traditional Sunday roast become a daily meal, accompanied by some exciting new herbs and sides to diversify the dish? The very herbs that the lambs graze on themselves…

Clover and other Ley pastures such as Chicory, Ribgrass, Legumes, sainfoin, birdsfoot, trefoil, Clover Peas and beans are increasingly grown up and down the country in Biodynamic farms for livestock to graze on. Could they make their way into our cuisine as foodies and farmers alike turn to these tasty greens, which are key to new farming techniques that replenish our depleted soils and ecosystems that are much needed for an independent Britain? 

The procurement:

The first question was where was I going to find fresh clover and what season do they grow? I was invited by a friend to come and visit her at the Biodynamic Botanic Garden at Emerson College and forage some clover from the Biodynamic community farm next to the plot. They had been planted as herbal Leys in their masses. In biodynamics ‘The whole farm, including the garden, is treated as a single organism. Activities are connected and dependant on a symbiotic relationship with the environment.’ Hence the plantation of nitrogen-fixing clovers that aid the animals, the soil, and the insects – especially bees!

Fields of clover

I came across a rack of Welsh Lamb in my local supermarket along with the rest of the ingredients. 

The plan 

Once I got the clover home I started to brainstorm, what I was going to do with them? There are so many ways that one could eat clover. Teas, puddings, sauces, pestos, jams, salads…The original dish idea exemplifies 4 possible ways. For this particular cook I will experiment with two.

My stock was limited as I did not want to take too many flowers. I therefore landed on 2 condiments for now. Swayed by the sweet taste of the clover I decided to make Mint and clover sauce, and clover jelly. Inspired by the classic cranberry jelly and mint sauce enjoyed alongside traditional Sunday roasts…

The cook

Finished jelly to the left, mint and clover sauce to the right

The Mint & Clover Sauce:

Mint & clover
Ingredients for Mint & clover sauce

Making Mint & Clover Sauce:

Process: Mint & clover sauce

I started by stripping the mint leaves and flower heads from their stalks and washed them. I lightly steamed the clover flowers in a pot, and steeped the finely chopped mint leaves in boiling water for a few minutes to release the flavour. I then added malt vinegar and sugar to a small bowl and stirred to dissolve the sugar. I then added the drained chopped mint and clover flowers and put the whole concoction in the fridge to let the flavour develop.

Finished mint & clover sauce

The Clover Jelly: 

Ingredients for clover-jelly

Clover Jelly Process:

The Jelly was pretty easy! I began heating up 2 cups of clover infusion that I had made the night before. I added 4 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice, stirring as it heated. Using my jam thermometer I waited for that infusion to heat to 220 degrees. It was at that point that I added a packet of pectin and stirred letting it boil for two more minutes. 

Process: Clover-Jelly

With the condiments prepared and maturing it was time to cook the roast!

The outcome

This turned out to be my favourite dish yet! Being a long time fan of a good Sunday roast, however I may be slightly biased. The lamb chops were cooked to a medium-well done. Succulent and full of flavour, they were a perfect stage to the new sweet accompanying flavour of the clover flower. Together with the mint and herbs the diverse flavours created a fresh sweet and savoury balance.

Whilst ploughing through this dish, I started thinking about all the other edible Leys pastures and what else you could do with them. From chicory to the classic pea there was surely a new recipe book waiting to be written…

In a future where there is an abundance of lambs all over the UK that graze on these mixtures of legumes and grasses, will we support our farmers whilst becoming more aware of food security, healthy livestock and natural capital as we say, ‘Eat what you eat eats!’.

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