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What Can I Make With This Smoke-Tainted Wheat?

April 9, 2021

How do wildfires affect the smell, taste and texture of bread? Wildfire Loaf is a multi-year research project to taste-test and genetically sequence sourdough starters made from smoke-tainted wheat. Climate change is increasing the number and severity of wildfires and this has direct implications for the ways that food products are farmed, assessed, processed and eaten. As we make connections across scales—from the microbial to the planetary—we are asking: what is the future of this iconic and commodified ingredient?

There are many varieties of wheat: hard, soft, red, white, and durum. As we search for wheat affected by wildfires, the one of the first questions we ask is ‘What can I make with this smoke-tainted wheat?’ Our aim is to experiment with making bread, using traditional leavening processes, from this abnormal/new-normal/smoke-tainted wheat. Here’s the reference guide we made for ourselves.

WHEAT GLOSSARY

For the glossary below we’ve focused on wheat classifications common in the United States and in trade terminology. The broader concepts we outline (Winter, Spring, Hard, Soft, White, and Red) are used around the world, but of course there are many other varieties and sub-varieties. “Winter” and “Spring” refer to both the season (and relatedly) the distinct cultivar or variety of the crop that is planted. “Hard” and “Soft” refer to the ease of milling and protein content, hard is protein-rich and more difficult to mill while soft has less protein and is easier to grind into a smooth texture. “White” and “Red” refer to the color, protein and flavors; red typically contains more protein, meaning stronger gluten and has a nuttier, almost bitter flavor, and white varieties are known to have less gluten and feature milder flavors.

This interactive map by US Wheat Associates shows where varieties are grown. 

If you want to bake bread, it’s best to reach for the hard stuff. Hard wheats are high in gluten and offer impressive stretchiness.

Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Hard White

HARD RED WINTER (THE VERSATILE WHEAT)

EXCELLENT FOR: rustic breads, hard rolls, croissants, flatbreads, some Asian noodles and general purpose flours

TEXTURE: elastic, chewy

EXAMPLE OF A LOCATION WHERE IT IS FARMED: The Great Plains and Northern parts of the United States, with pockets in the Pacific Northwest and Central California


HARD RED SPRING (THE FANCIEST WHEAT) 

EXCELLENT FOR: hearth breads, rolls, croissants, bagels and pizza dough, and flour blends

TEXTURE: tensile, stretchy

EXAMPLE OF A LOCATION WHERE IT IS FARMED: Upper central region of the United States and lower central region of Canada


HARD WHITE (THE SMOOTH WHEAT)

EXCELLENT FOR: tortillas, pan loafs, flatbreads, and some noodles

TEXTURE:  fine, smooth

EXAMPLE OF A LOCATION WHERE IT IS FARMED: Central California and The Great Plains in the United States

And then there’s durum, the hardest of all wheats with the highest gluten content.

Durum

DURUM (THE HARDEST WHEAT, A.K.A. THE PASTA WHEAT) 

EXCELLENT FOR: Excellent for: premium pastas, couscous, and Mediterranean-style breads

TEXTURE: snappy

EXAMPLE OF A LOCATION WHERE IT IS FARMED: Specifically, North Dakota and Central California in the United States

If you want to bake cakes, crackers, or some Asian style noodles, it’s best to reach for the soft stuff. Soft wheats are lower in gluten and have reduced stretchiness.

Soft Red Winter, Soft White

SOFT RED WINTER (THE LOW-COST WHEAT) 

EXCELLENT FOR: cookies, crackers, cakes, blends for baguettes and other bread products

TEXTURE: fine, soft

EXAMPLE OF A LOCATION WHERE IT IS FARMED: Midwest and eastern regions of the United States


SOFT WHITE (THE LOW-MOISTURE WHEAT) 

EXCELLENT FOR: Asian-style noodles, cakes, pastries, and snacks

TEXTURE: crumbly, meltaway

EXAMPLE OF A LOCATION WHERE IT IS FARMED: Pacific Northwest region of the United States


SOURCES

US Wheat Associates: Wheat Classes

Master Class: Essential Guide To Wheat

Wildfire vs. Wheat

How do wildfires affect the smell, taste and texture of bread? Wildfire Loaf is an ongoing research project to taste-test and genetically sequence sourdough starters made from smoke-tainted wheat. Climate change is increasing the number and severity of wildfires and this has direct implications for the ways that food products are farmed, assessed, processed and eaten. As we make connections across scales—from the microbial to the planetary—we are asking: what is the future of this iconic and commodified ingredient?

Wildfires impact many landscapes including the agricultural lands that are used to grow wheat. For the WILDFIRE LOAF project we are particularly interested in locations and moments where wildfires on or near wheat fields have impacted the crop, either by direct burning or through smoke taint. Wheat is graded before it is sold based on a number of factors, smoke taint being one of them. If increased fires will increase the number of crops with smoke taint, then value will decrease.

We have recently contacted the USDA to start the process of locating samples of smoke-tainted wheat to begin our testing and research into sequencing their microbial communities.

What is the ecology of fire? There are many types of fire that affect agricultural lands. The delineation is simple: a wildfire or brush fire is unplanned, unwanted, and uncontrolled. An agricultural burn is planned, wanted, and controlled.

Where are there wildfires? We are using this NASA Fire Map to track wildfires around the globe over time. 

FIRMS Map for March 7th 2021; NASA

Where is wheat grown? We are using a variety of resources to track wheat production in different regions of the world. As new wildfires arise on agricultural land, we look for local tools to aid our research.

—In the US, we are using this interactive map

—For the European Union, we are using this data browser

—For global production we are referring to this export map and this international trade database.

Global Wheat Cultivation. Darker colors indicate areas where more wheat is grown. Map based on You, L., U. Wood-Sichra, S. Fritz, Z. Guo, L. See, and J. Koo. 2014. Spatial Production Allocation Model  (SPAM), 2005 Beta Version, from IFPRI (Harvest Choice).

Obtaining smoke tainted wheat will likely be a difficult task considering that most smoke tainted crops are considered waste. For this logistical reason, our investigation will start in locations where wheat and fire overlap with places that we live or where we have an established network of contacts. As we progress we may try to learn more about and include sites that we are less familiar with.

RECENT WILDFIRES

We need to find wheat affected by wildfires to conduct our experiments. We’re looking into these three recent wildfires that have impacted the harvest of wheat starting in 2018: 

A. Oregon, United States: The 2018 Substation Fire

Over 50,000 acres were charred, destroying an estimated $5 million worth of soft white wheat just a few weeks into harvest season. Ripe wheat burns hot and fast because it’s dried out to less than 10% moisture this time of year before it’s harvested. Each crop takes two years to grow. This damaged 3% of Oregon’s $186 million wheat crop in 2018. 

  1. CAUSE OF FIRE: this fire was man made
  2. WHEAT VARIETY AFFECTED: Soft White Winter
  3. USE: This variety used to make ramen noodles, steamed breads and flatbreads. 
  4. MAP: Wheat Map
  5. REGIONAL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: Oregon Wheat Industry

Wildfire affected wheat. KGW News

B. Oise, France: The July 2019 Fire

More than 500 acres of wheat burned in this wildfire in the midst of harvest season. France is the European Union’s largest grain producer and exporter. Oise is the fifth largest producing department of soft wheat in France. The 2019/20 harvest of soft wheat fell 21% due to weather woes due to heavy rains in autumn and a drought in spring that caused sowing difficulties.

  1. CAUSE OF FIRE: a heatwave started this fire
  2. WHEAT VARIETY AFFECTED: Soft White
  3. USE: This variety is mostly used to make breads and crackers.
  4. MAP: Wheat Map
  5. REGIONAL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: French Wheat Industry

French firemen extinguish a fire in a burning field of wheat during harvest season in Anneux, France, July 22,2019. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

C. Perth, Australia: The February 2021 Wooroloo Fire

In early February, over 26,000 acres burned north east of the Perth central business district in the Wooroloo bushfire. It spread to several Shires in the wheatbelt including: Mundaring, Chittering, Northam and the City of Swan. Scientists have recently started researching the vast diversity of microbes, bacteria and fungi that are present in smoke plumes. This is difficult research to conduct as you need to know everything that fueled the fire, how long it burned, how severely it burned, and then find a way to capture samples. We’re just beginning to understand how smoke taint may be touchable and tastable.

  1. CAUSE OF FIRE: extreme heat started this brushfire
  2. WHEAT VARIETY AFFECTED: This region grows Australian Hard, Australian Premium White, Australian Standard Noodle, and Australian Standard White wheats.
  3. USE: These varieties are used to make breads, noodles, steamed and flat breads.
  4. MAP: Wheat Map
  5. REGIONAL INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION: Australian Wheat Industry

Fire crews control bushfires as they approach properties in Perth, Australia, on February 2nd. Photograph: Paul Kane/Getty

OPEN INQUIRIES

Often our research turns up more questions than answers. Here are a few we are starting to look into:

1. What happens to wheat that has been smoke tainted or worse yet burned? How is it analyzed and graded?

2. Can smoke-tainted wheat still be used to make bread that is safe to eat?

3. What happens to agricultural lands ravaged by wildfire and how are they restored for farming? How long does this process take?

4. How far away are affected agricultural lands? How far from a fire does wheat need to be grown to not be smoke tainted?

Culinary Forensics Kitchen | RCA Sculpture Department

February 18, 2021

In February we ran a workshop at the RCA Sculpture department called Culinary Forensics Kitchen (CFK). Students from the Royal College of Art, Sculpture Department participated and with their permission we share some of their explorations and sketches here.

We asked: What interesting and unexpected stories about the food system await us in the kitchen? The CFK will be a chance for you to acquire, cook with and understand ingredients you can access in a new way.

The students developed research themes, prototyped a recipe and recorded it by shooting and editing short video clips, taking photographs and/or writing out a recipe.

A. HAVE BERRY NICE MEAL / Lea Rose Kara

Researching into the tomato’s impressive history revealed how its name and shape changed throughout its travels around the world.  From being named ‘tomatl’ by the Aztec’s to ‘tomate’ by the Spanish and finally becoming our British ‘tomato’ the fruit evolved from being pea sized to big ‘meaty’ forms. 

Questioning why we have become fascinated with naming things with other things such as cherry tomato, plum tomato, and my favourite, beefsteak tomato. I experimented with creating a more visually accurate representation of the later by playing with the fruit’s materiality. Using tinned tomatoes, I cut very thin slices and allowed the soft mushy texture to dehydrate in the oven. The outcome was a carpaccio look-alike! (very fitting since the tined tomatoes came from Italy). The images are a playful visual illusion, a suggestion of something being other than itself, not dissimilar to the way we use words to classify, identify and represent.

Funny how we name food with other food. Maybe this is what Beefsteak tomato should really look like.

HAVE A BERRY NICE MEAL

B. MISANCA / LUCIJA KRIZMAN

The ingredients used in this animation are locally sourced/collected while filming the latest video for my installation in the Zadar region of Croatia. Misanca and Sipa represent Dalmatian history since generations survived living of the land during the difficult times. Today we are facing different challenges but maybe more than ever the question can we survive if being left somewhere in the unknown without the internet and access to a supermarket is relevant.

“Could you source your ingredients if left without internet and access to a supermarket?”

C. PACIFIC SOIL / Samuel Domínguez

This recipe was inspired by the North of Chile and the amazing geography that confronts the Pacific Ocean with dry mountains and the desert. The main ingredient is the chilean papa (potato in Quechua). The potatoes are injected with sea water before cooking. The cooking method is based on the idea of employing the soil, referencing the indigenous cultures in South America. By simply using the clay from the soil, the potatoes are covered with a one centimetre layer and placed directly into the fire. After cooking for an hour or two, the crust needs to be opened with a small hammer, cracking the hard clay. For serving, ocean foam is added, which is made using sea water and a high-speed processing machine. Rosemary can be optionally added. The result is about geography, texture, smells and flavour.

Inspired by the geography in the north of Chile, Pacific Soil is a confrontation between the dryness of the mountains represented by the papa (potato in Quechua) and the salinity of the Pacific Ocean using foam.

PACIFIC SOIL
(Photo: Max Donoso)

D. BREAKFAST EVENT: STILL LIFE WITH RED STAR / PATRICK JONES

Where have all the yellow grapefruits gone? In the monstrous search for the optimal variety of grapefruit, Red Star was born. The almost seedless bright red neutron generated mutation takes us one step closer to the…

“Breakfast with a genetically modified grapefruit”

E. LOST AT SEA RISOTTO / KATHRYN MAGUIRE

In the time of the great pandemic, the people were locked into their homes, boats and sheds. The travellers and seafarers were landed. This recipe is for any Earthly and Sea Faring Folks, it takes inspiration from the various folk traditions of using what is close by, and the ancient tradition of foraging and kelping. The primary ingredients are full of antidepressants and antioxidants, and have a feel good effect in these dark days. The smell of the sea is a powerful healing smell. In these days where Covid can destroy the power of the sense of smell, this is a good exercise for the nose. Smell training should perhaps be a daily habit. Eat with the nose. Get those receptors and pathways working.

“Smell the Atlantic with this seakelp risotto, fit for a pirate.”

LOST AT SEA RISOTTO

F. LITTLE APPLE BOATS / CONGCONG WU

I wanted to use the Chinese apple and British chips to make some interesting sculpture things and the final work looks like the apple boat. And I draw and blur the background to make the image look more cartoonish–like the apple boats are sailing on the apple juice sea in an imagined world. And I experimented with the interaction between the cultures, between the natural food and junk food and between the crispy and mushy food.

“Some funny interaction between the cultures, between the natural food and junk food and between the crispy and mushy food.”

LITTLE APPLE BOATS

G. HOW TO: DIY ATLANTIC OCEAN WATER / Inês Coelho da Silva

H. HIMALAYAN ROCK SALT RECIPE CARD / SHIRLEY RENWICK

Ingredients:
Salt (not from Himalayan mountains)
Underpaid worker to mine,  home carer would do
Explosives, hand tools, do not use machines
Rock (local stone)
Water (local tap)

Method:
Mix salt in water until it does not dilute any more.
If rock is too large to carry, place explosive in a drilled hole first.
Pour mixture over rock ( mimic rock in sea)
Wait a few days (for human-made sea water to dehydrate away)
Chip away crystals and ship around the world, preferably in plastic, before consuming.
You may need to prevent local animal from licking stone

 “Make your own fake food: Himalayan rock salt”

HIMALAYAN ROCK SALT RECIPE CARD

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!’.

Fermentation Workshop: Lab Notes + Results

November 13, 2020

In September & October 2020, our studio conducted an internal master-class with Dr. Johnny Drain, guiding us through ways to further explore fermentation. We have been running separate experiments in our homes and our studios and below we will share the basic results here with you. Having members 6+ members of the Center for Genomic Gastronomy across the globe attending these workshops, we have been able to work with a wide variety of different raw materials for our fermentation experiments.

BITTER GOURDS, CHAYOTE & DRIED ANCHOVIES

Akash’s fermentation experiments

Akash’s experimented with the local produce of Chennai had some exiting colors coming forth from the button mushrooms. After a few days the liquid turned a bright yellow color from the mushroom spores.

Lacto-ferment with bitter gourd, challots, chayote and cluster beans

FIGS, PETINGA & LACINATO KALE

Working with different resources in our different parts of the world, we were keeping our eye out for what food resources were in abundance in the early autumn. Emma in Portugal experimented with figs, lacinato kale and brown button mushrooms that ended up in lacto-ferments and a surf & turf kimchi.

Experimenting with fermenting fish to garum, a months-long process, is not yet finished. In Portugal, you can go to streetmarkets where fresh ‘patinga’ (small fish) are auctioned off early in the morning among other resources. In ancient Greece and Rome, garum was a popular and widely used condiment, also referred to as liquamen.

Emmas fermentation experiments
Emmas road to locally sourced seaweed
Buying petinga (small fish) in the early morning

Emmas fermented figs have been tasted and tried out as topping on pancakes with a dollop of yoghurt, and her mushroom fluids was turned into a tasty mayonnaise with recipe below.

Emmas pancakes with youghurt & fermented fig-topping

Emmas’ Mushroom Mayonnaise:

  • 1 egg (vegan: switch it out for ~45ml of aquafaba)
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tbs fluids of fermented mushrooms
  • a splash of vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp mustard (optional)
  • salt/pepper to taste

— blitz all and slowly add:

  • ~3/4 cup olive oil (or until it reaches desired creamy consistency)

ROOTS, PLUMS & FORAGED MUSHROOMS

Fermentation experiments from studio members in Norway, Bergen

In Bergen, our studio members Cat and Zack, Pauliina and Eirin worked collectively and separately with fermenting abundance. They also experimented with making garum from locally sourced mackerel. Having an abundance in root-vegetables, they also worked with making vegan charcuterie, both with and without koji (Aspergillus oryzae).

Considering the cooking aspects of microbial experimenting, thinking and working with the texture and thickness of the different foods, we experienced how they reacted over time to the solutions we helped cook them in. The plums created a tasty liquid, but the flesh of the fruit broke down quite quickly, so we could consider how to texturally bring them to another level, maybe through dehydration, or simply as a purée.

Fermenting abundance process in Norway, Bergen
Lacto-ferment with Norwegian red-onions, carrots, kohl-rabi and aromatics
Drying of vegan charcuterie root-vegetables

We turned our vegan charcuterie drying process into a vegetable mobile twirling over our heads as we worked on our other projects, always reminding us of our microbial cooking to be eaten later.

Experiments with koji-fermented carrots

Studio-member Eirin experimented with vegan charcuterie with carrots inoculated with koji-spores, a friendly fungi developed over centuries in cooking culture in Japan. Keeping the good development of the inoculation was a challenge in a hacked breeding environment, and the koji ended up sporulating earlier than anticipated. However, the carrots turned out to a tasty treat — the carrots texture could be described as that of a dried apricot, but not as sticky, salty and with striking licorice notes in both texture and taste.

NEXT STEPS

Each member of the Center will likely continue to experiment with fermentation in their home kitchens, and the one technique that is likely to be revisited in a more rigorous way is the vegan charcuterie (with Koji spores) that we will likely use for either our Pantry of Protein Futures research or the Meatigation project we are a part of in Norway.

Test Kitchen | fish in chicks

October 29, 2020

Part 1 of BREXIT BANQUET: A Historical Pre-Enactment.

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. 

New needs, new breeds.

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, overcoming 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 the methods used to explore culinary biodiversity: the abundance and distribution of ingredients available nearby, for use in the kitchen.

DISH 1: Fish in Chicks

FROM EILEEN’S KITCHEN: FISH IN CHICKS

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 be further refined in the following months.

Fish in Chicks Recipe

The motive:

The first dish on the Brexit Banquet test kitchen menu is Fish in Chicks.
This intercontinental take on the traditional Fish and Chips looks at the recent history of imported ingredients from abroad that have become British culinary staples, in this case: chickpeas (often processed into hummus). Chickpeas eaten in Britain are usually imported from Asian countries. In 2017, India produced 67% of the global total. Climate change has been reported to have disrupted this flow with the 2018 droughts in India affecting international chickpea supplies. 

Post Brexit there is likely to be a focus on British-grown crops, self-dependency and a new framing of what “food security” means, due to import/export disruptions, trade deal negotiations and generally chaotic transitions. It seems likely that there will be a conversation and action on stimulating the production of crops that are eaten but not grown in Britain.

Will changes in climate, and trade disruption necessitate or enable previously imported chickpeas to be grown on British soil? Will there be an era of seed breeding to satisfy our diverse tastes post Brexit? 

Hodmedods have been experimenting and have succeeded in growing the first lentils, chia seeds and chickpeas on British soil in Norfolk.

The chickpea water (Aquafaba) has been growing in popularity as an egg alternative, and chickpea flour is on the uptake. I have seen this versatile pulse use in both sweet and savoury dishes such as chickpea nuggets, brownies, cakes, not to mention in falafels and dips.

Could chickpea even make it into some of the UK’s traditional dishes as a substitute for wheat flour in chip shop batter? As for the chips themselves, the UK has plenty of fresh potatoes, but most of their frozen potatoes—mainly used for chips—comes from the EU. I found the following recipe for the chickpea fish batter online, which means there are people out there already experimenting with chickpea battered fish!

The Dish:

Fish in Chicks plated

The Shopping:

The thought that I should have prepped this shop earlier started to loom as I scanned down the diverse list in front of me and flicked through the local supermarket stocklist (my Amazon account waiting as a backup in the next tab). I then remembered that I am lucky enough to have Taj, a specialist food shop with ‘The very best ingredients the world has to offer’ right at the bottom of my road! 

A spice trail: 

The chickpea batter wouldn’t be half the sensorial surprise without a mix of spices. I must admit I felt pretty bewildered and a tad embarrassed about being so lost in the powdered spice section of Taj. I have always been aware that the spices I commonly use in my kitchen are only the tip of the Iceberg (if that) but the choice in front of me now spanned the entirety of an isle. I spent what felt like half an hour reading every small package label, until I found the four ingredients on my list: Garam masala powder, Madaras Curry powder, Tumeric powder and Red chilli. 

Shopping
Ingredients measured & ready

A desperate seaweed resurrection:

What inspires me about this dish is the combination of traditional foods and ingredients across internal and external cultures. Laver cake is a simple traditional Welsh seaweed pattie often enjoyed by fishermen or on the side of fried Breakfasts. It looked right up my street, and I thought it might be an exciting replacement for the chips, although I have to say I had never tasted or heard of it before! Surprisingly, the main ingredient laverbread (a popular welsh product of canned seaweed) was nowhere to be found here in Brighton. 

Laverbread — nowhere to be found in Brighton

No laverbread = no lavercake? I remembered that my mum uses seaweed as an additive in her humous and that you can, of course, bring dried seaweed back to life if you soak it! So I found myself in the local chinese food store buying two packets of dried Kombu seaweed for the blender. Let’s see how this goes! 

Taj also stocked chickpea flour, and the rest of the ingredients were pretty easy to find in my local supermarket.

Lavercake process
Lavercakes

The Cook:

Highlights of the cook included…

Prepping the seaweed for the Lavercake: I Soaked the dried Kombu overnight, diced it and put it in the blender to see if I could re-create laverbread. Any readers familiar with lavercake may be cringing…but I am always up for an experiment! For the Lavercake mixture, I mixed the blended seaweed with the oat mill and added a bit of salt for good measure then put it to one side. This mixture would later be rolled into balls and squished into satisfyingly round little patties for frying.

Seaweed prepping

The Chickpea batter prep: Mixing all the herbs and spices along with the chickpea flour and sparkling water in a big mixing bowl had all the familiarity of batter but looked vibrantly unknown and exciting….! As I mixed the batter I started to fantasise about what the combination of cod, batter and Indian spice might taste like.

Spices for batter

The Cod: The cod was fresh from Sainsbury’s fish counter. I wonder where the Cod was caught? They promote themselves to be ‘the UK’s largest retailer of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)’ and ‘responsibly sourced’ fish. On their website I noticed that they also sell coley. Coley is part of the cod family and inhabits coastal water of the UK. ‘Lots of British fish is exported because we’re less familiar with it, so why not try something new? Choosing succulent coley will help us prevent overfishing, reduce discards and you’ll save money, too.’

The Cod had a beautiful side of mottled scales that in the right light had an almost fluorescent pinky-purple sheen to them. Something that you don’t really get to see once disguised in its batter casing in the local fish and chip fish shop. 

Beautiful codskins

The outcome:

The chickpea battered cod itself was every bit of the discovery I’d hoped it would be! I could definitely taste the chickpea and a blend of all the Indian spices that accompanied it nicely, but with the comforting familiar grease of chip shop batter, and light fluffy cod to balance it all out. 

As for the Welsh Lavercakes, I could definitely see the potential but am sure that somewhere between choosing lard over bacon fat, and dried seaweed over traditional laverbread I had done it an injustice! I have since found a few more recipes and ordered some proper laverbread, that arrived a few days ago, and am ready to give it another bash! I will use bacon this time too…and perhaps trial some of the recipes written on the back of the tin…

For this dish, I would also suggest making your own fresh tartar sauce rather than a commercial one. There are some great recipes out there with a real pickley kick that I think will cut through a lot of the flavours and fats in this dish. 

Overall I found Fish in Chicks to be a full flavoured success! The lavercakes (properly prepared) worked nicely as a chip substitute, anchoring the dish to a coastal association;  bringing the fresh salty taste of the sea to the side of the chickpea fish.

Could this be a preview of a future where chickpeas are sewn across the British Isles, and start being snuck into all manner of recipes?

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