Cheese, leek and potato pies and pasties

Even the fussiest veggies will resign themselves to a shitty cheese and onion pasty from anywhere. Well, for years I’ve searched for the perfect cheese and onion pasty filling, and today, having paid almost £2 for a fairly substandard effort from a chain bakery, I finally cracked.

Here’s my version of an almost entirely homemade cheese, leek and potato pie and pasty …

Continue reading “Cheese, leek and potato pies and pasties”


David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop, Penrith: a farm shop with its feet on the ground

David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop, Penrith is everything you’d expect from a farm shop—actually, scrub that! You won’t find something quite as singular anywhere else in the area. And yes, we’re inundated with some quite good farm shops in the area, but when they’re ‘good’ they’re usually also costly, and mainly out of my economic range—with the great quality, lovely customer service and food I can actually afford, for me, David Dickinson wins hands down … Read on for unadulterated enthusiasm!

What’s it got?

Look, what hits you when you walk in is how clean the place is. It’s immaculate. The shelving is unique and painted the same colour blue—everything’s on brand and smart.

There’s loads of room, so you can easily get a wheelchair or a child’s buggy in there without ramming the other customers, and if you can’t reach or you’re not sure what something is, David’s happy to help.

If you’ve got a child who has sensory issues, or if you don’t like fighting through crowds, the spaciousness here is something worth considering. It’s a far better experience than a stressful supermarket.

Properly local meat

First up is the local meat. Last week I got myself a free range chicken (1.26kg) for the tiny sum of £3.25. It’s a trade secret where David gets it from, but let’s just say it’s from no further than 10 miles away and it’s definitely free range. I know because I grilled him about it before I bought it and when I tasted it at home, I knew he spoke truth.

I took it home, jointed it, converted one of the breasts into chicken nuggets and made the tastiest chicken stock from the fresh carcass that I’ve had in a seriously long time. The rest is in the freezer waiting for the next flash of greedy inspiration. The chicken nuggets were chickeny and succulent. You can’t really say better than that.

He gets the majority of his meat from a butcher from Melmerby who makes his own black pudding (tastes great), his own haggis (variety of sizes available from very small to very large), his own bacon and sausages, and sources the majority of his meat locally. The furthest he goes is Scotland, for some of his beef.

Check out the display: the prices aren’t ridiculously cheap, but they won’t break the bank either. Beef and lamb costs what it does. The haggis you can see is under £5 for the large one and £3.45ish for the small one. Sensible prices, nice meat, good quality, and local.

Local meats at sensible prices

And goat sausages. GOAT SAUSAGES. Mediterranean style. From Capra Meats at Ravenstonedale, near Kirkby Stephen. Literally six minutes drive from where I live. I’ve got a packet in the freezer awaiting a lentil and sausage stew. No doubt a recipe will appear on this blog in due course.

The availability is variable, which is natural when you think about the season and locality, but the range is always great. It’s a small display fridge, but continually topped up.

Good range of local, British and foreign fruit and veg

If you want to eat seasonally, you can get a fair variety of British veg without the air miles from David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop. Off the top of my head there’s spring cabbage, cauliflower, pea pods, carrots, English strawberries, swedes, local new spuds from just down the road, and the availability changes by the week (seasonality and so on, British summers being what they are), which makes it a bit more interesting.

Don’t be fooled by the emptiness of some of these baskets, they’re refilled as necessary.

If you’re just after a strong range of fruit and veg from around the world, David sells everything you’d expect, from sweet potatoes to butternut squash, bananas, cherries, peppers, Costa Rican pineapple at a price far better than anywhere else I’ve been recently, and fabulous Chilean grapes.

Chilean grapes are a bit of a find for me as all I’ve been able to find locally for the last few years have been Thompson grapes from India and South Africa. Those have slightly sour, tough skins, not the greatest when you’ve got a sweet tooth. Chilean grapes, however, are the best in the world. Thin-skinned, succulent bursts of sweetness.

Fresh peapods, from basket to paper bag, to bag for life, to gob.

It’s great to find somewhere that doesn’t stock mainly Spanish and Dutch produce (the former: undemocratic; the latter full of water) and although you might suspect that some of the more unusual veg is missing (I can only think of fennel right now), we’ve certainly been able to fill our boots baskets with a week’s worth of goodies.

And it’s fresh. David’s deliveries are as often as 6 days a week, so you’re not sorting through old stock hanging around. Cherries and strawberries are sold in punnets, rather than leaving them loose in boxes to be mauled by the customers, and the prices are seriously competitive at the moment.

Spring greens are the secret of Chinese-style deep-fried ‘seaweed’. Shred, deep fry, and toss with sugar and salt.

Local and gluten-free baked goods

David’s contacts include Jane Hurd at Fiend’s Fell bakery, delicious cakes and bakes, including a Bakewell tart with—to my rather cynical surprise—melt-in-the-mouth pastry. I never enjoyed gluten-free pastry before. The Bakewell tart is made with what seems to be a metric tonne of ground almonds, nubbly and damp and it didn’t go stale in the few days it was in my biscuit tin. Price? Far more reasonable than what I could have made it for.

There’s also Kath Earl’s Bakery products (from Long Marten near Appleby-in-Westmorland) with homemade delicious peppermint crunch (you know, the type we used to get at school in the 1990s with coconut chocolate base, topped with peppermint ice and real milk chocolate) and other traditional tray bakes that take you back to other times.

Cheese: great prices, more localness to come

As a cheese freak, I like to keep my eye out for more cost effective ways to get the melty goodness. If you’re after the everyday cheeses to grate over chilli, blanket your toast, or fill up your sandwiches, you’ll currently catch blocks of 200g from £1.75. Red Leicester, cheddar, brie, Lancashire, and last week we picked up one of those wax covered rounds of Red Hot Dutch which just about finished off our taste buds permanently.

David’s on the look out for local cheeses, so if you’ve got any tips, you know where to take them. If there’s one thing Cumbria and the surrounding counties do well, it’s quality food products.

Milk: however you want it

Want ‘normal’ homogenized milk in plastic bottles? No problem.

Want non-homogenized silver or green tops in glass bottles? (The ‘milk man’ kind with top of hte milk). David can get those for you.

Want local goats milk? It’s right there on the top shelf of the fridge in cartons.

Want to go get your own cows milk from a farm tank? There’s a place just outside of Penrith at Bunker’s Hill with their own dispenser. Take your own bottle or get 1-2L bottles while you’re there. You can get the details from David if you’re not sure where to go.

There were also cherries and pineapples, but stupidly I took the pictures AFTER I’d been through the shop, and David hadn’t the time yet to refill everything.

Why is it good?

David’s not trying to be posh, but he is smart. You won’t find a range of fancy olives, sundried tomatoes in open bowls or a massive deli counter. This isn’t the place for designer napkins in carved ring holders, fancy kitchenware or every type of boxed cracker you can think of. Plenty of farm shops in the local area offer that stuff, so why do what everyone else does?

What he does is provide what people are looking for: good—often local—fresh fruit, veg, free range eggs and meat, and everything at a price that walks a line between supermarket prices and what you’d expect for an independent shop that doesn’t have the economy of scale to rely on.

See, one of my bug bears these days is the classism of good food. It’s fair enough to state that food production has costs and this should be reflected in the price. It’s fair enough to raise prices when the costs of delivery and production and wages go up. But what I object to is this idea that cheaper food should also be crap. That it can only be bulked out with fillers and poor quality ingredients. If you get the chance to source better—or good—quality food for a bit less, please support those places, even if they’re a little more out of your way, because all small and independent shops have to fight the supermarkets for customers.

This is what I call honest, feet-on-the-ground product. If you ask him, David will tell you. I asked about the pork pies last week, and he admitted those particular ones didn’t have the stock jelly. I didn’t buy them, and that was okay. This guy doesn’t pretend he’s something he isn’t, and neither does he force the shop to be something it’s not. That’s why me and my family will be going back. Repeatedly.

Most of what David sells is fruit, veg, eggs and meat: basic ingredients, at sensible prices that won’t bust your wallet. You can make great quality home made food with his produce and you don’t have to use scary ‘mystery meat’ masquerading as ‘ham’.

He tops up the shelves with essential and less essential (but nice) provisions that are mainly well-known brands, because it makes it easier on his customers. We’re talking pickled chillies and peppers, pickles, sauces and jams, sugar, a brand of dry complete dog food and so on. There isn’t a wide range of different brands of the same product—where’s the need for that?

A small range of ‘posh’ provisions (and essential spices) for the more adventurous.

And by the way. I’m writing this while stuffing fresh pea pods, cherries, strawberries, grapes, and half a kilo of licorice allsorts. I may be a little biased.

Who manages Carleton Farm Shop these days?

Okay, so David’s only been open since 16th May this year, and this initially surprised me, as he seems to have a better grip of the concept of local Cumbrian produce than many food shop proprietors in the area, and he’s actually a Yorkshireman.

I interrogated him for more information. Most recently the manager of Ullswater Yacht Club, David’s been in hospitality and catering for over 40 years. His background ranges from working in a pie factory to running a bar in Majorca for 6 years, and he’s been in the Penrith area a long time.

Retiring a bit back from the yacht club, he’d always wanted to run a shop, so when Carleton Farm Shop came up, he thought he’d have a go. Much to his wife’s surprise (although to be fair, she’s probably used to this). Margaret went off on holiday for three days, and when she came back, he’d bought a shop.

Understanding what people want, how food is produced, the difference between styles of food and why customers come back is all important, and it’s largely information that can only be learned through experience. David’s got decades of experience to bring to the business, so hopefully he’s going to be around here a good while longer.

The more customers and local producers realise the value of David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop, Penrith, the better.

Friendly proprietor, David Dickinson, will put up with all kinds of requests and interrogations.

Opening times and contact for David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop

Monday-Sat: 10:00am till 6:00pm

Sunday: 10:00am till 2:00pm.

Telephone: 07837 005115

*Prices are more or less correct at the time of publishing, but they’ll be subject to change depending on the usual issues of weather, availability, cost of product and so on.

Malfouf: lamb and rice rollies, Palestinian style

Fancy something different today? A new way to get the kids to eat cabbage, perhaps? Something delicious but not too heavy on the meat?

The cabbage was sweet, fresh, and still had bite despite being cooked twice, and the flavours were warm, not at all hot spice, with the hint of braised lamb.

Because i don’t buy supermarket meat at all any more, I don’t have access to lamb mince, so instead I stripped two pieces of scrag end of neck that had come from a box of lamb obtained from my mum, a Lake District smallholder. It was laborious and time consuming, especially mincing it with a knife, but totally totally worth the ridiculous effort. You may prefer to get lamb mince from the butcher. Most sensible people would! Scrag end isn’t the easiest cut of meat to use, so this was a decent option in many ways and I got 200g of meat from two pieces, testament to the excellent lamb my mum produces.

Welcome to malfouf. This recipe came out of a gorgeous cookbook called Palestine on a Plate, by the lovely Joudie Kalla:

Malfouf: rice and lamb mince wrapped in cabbage leaves

I used slightly smaller quantities than listed in the book.
You’ll need:

  • 1-2 hispi cabbages
  • 200g lamb mince
  • 300g white rice (pudding rice is listed in the book, but i used a mix of that and basmati)
  • 1 tbsp carraway seeds (I substituted fennel seeds)
  • 1-2 garlic bulbs
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 400ml water
  • a large frying pan
  • a large saucepan

1. Leave your cabbage whole, but just strip off a few outer leaves if they look a bit tough or manky.

2. Pop it into your saucepan, fill halfway with water, and bring to the boil.

3. Boil till you can smell cabbage. Drain. Let cool.

4. Mix uncooked rice, raw mince, salt, pepper and cinnamon. It doesn’t mix willingly, so use your fingers, a spoon, whatever does the job.

5. Get your frying pan out (no frying required).

6. Sprinkle 1 tblsp fennel/carraway seeds on the bottom.

7. Carefully peel away the first cabbage leaf without tearing it and lay it in the palm of your hand.

8. Get a large teaspoon of rice and mince mixture into the bottom of the cabbage leaf, and start to roll the base of the leaf over the mix.

9. Fold both sides of the leaf over the ends of the cigar shape you’re forming and roll the whole thing up tightly.

10. Pop it into the pan and carry on making cigars until you get to the heart of the cabbage.

11. Nestle the rolled cigars tightly together in the pan (see photo).

 Malfouf before cooking
Before cooking …

12. Half the garlic cloves should be left whole and still clothed in their skins. These ought to be placed in the frying pan on the fennel seeds, with the cabbage cigars laid on top, but i found that pushed them out of formation, so I squeezed them in between the rolls.

13. The other half of the garlic cloves should be stripped and smashed. I used a handy hammer, but this may have been overkill. I was hungry, wasting no time.

14. When the pan is full (if you need a second cabbage like I did, go ahead and boil it when you decide. You may not need it, depends how generous your rolls), top the rolls with the smashed garlic cloves.

15. Pour the water over the rolls. 400ml should cover them.

16. Pop an upside down plate on top of your rolls to keep the leaves pressed down, and put your pan lid on top. I needed to partly remove my lid at the end of cooking because the water failed to evaporate in 45 minutes.

17. Bring to the boil, cook for 10 mins, then turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes. When the water is gone, the rice and mince will be tender and the delicious smells will fill your kitchen. If the water doesn’t disappear, remove or partially remove the pan lid.

18. Squirt with lemon juice (I forgot this bit).

After cooking … plenty of steam

Joudie states that she freezes the left overs so that she can eat them whenever she feels like it, so that’s what I’m going to do with mine!

I ate mine with a roasted cauliflower salad and a tahini, yoghurt, and lemon dip/dressing.

Veggie version:
I live with a veggie and he was sorry not to be able to eat this mildly spiced, comforting food. Next time, I will use a can of green or beluga lentils in place of meat and make him some too. This may not work and won’t have the comforting smell of lamb, but with a bit more cinnamon, a bit more salt, carraway/fennel in the actual mix, and all that garlic, it should be satisfying and tasty.

Food Choices film by Michal Siewierski: a dishonest argument for veganism

Food Choices by Michal Siewierski is not a documentary. Its first dishonest point is that it calls itself one when it isn’t.

What is it?

It’s an extreme right-wing and privilege-based argument for veganism that draws false conclusions, ignoring moderate thinking and the choices ordinary people have to make within a social context.

Let’s be clear. To write up the ten pages of notes I took while watching this “documentary” would be to bore the living daylights out of you. So we’re not going to do that. It’s going to be a long enough read as it is.

Some points to start with:

Regarding food:

  1. I am a meat eater.
  2. I eat a small amount of meat less than three times per week (usually once), sourced from local suppliers and smallholders in most cases and never from supermarkets.
  3. I eat a small amount of animal products (e.g. milk and eggs) most days per week, but I try to source them well. That is, I support local businesses in my sourcing.
  4. About 85% of my diet is vegetable based.
  5. I make most of my meals from scratch.
  6. I have considered veganism and vegetarianism for many years, but for reasons detailed below, including poverty, availability, health, and access, have not gone for it.
  7. I am a farmer’s daughter and I support small farmers and small holders.
  8. I am not a scientist.
  9. I understand food groups, am able to bulk up or lose weight as desired, and I manipulate my diet to suit.
  10. I believe in the good of the balanced diet for humans.
  11. My long-term partner is a veggie, and has been for over 15 years.
  12. I have no personal issue or problem with anyone who chooses to eat any kind of diet. Some people need to eat vegan because they have health issues that require this. Others have culture behind them. Others choose to do it for ideological reasons.

Regarding film analysis:

  1. I am a media graduate, well used to analysing media programmes and films.
  2. I write for a living.
  3. I understand how language is used to persuade and cajole and influence.
  4. I understand how the language of pictures are used for same.

So, why do I believe Michal Siewierski’s film “Food Choices” is dishonest?

Food Choices film: language

Weasel words

Do not be fooled. This film does not ‘explore the impact people’s food choices have on the world’, despite what some reviewers would have you think. It uses the phrase ‘food choices’ to imply that what we eat is entirely down to our own personal choices.

Sure, we think they are. But if you really consider how you got to your current diet, there are a number of factors that come into play:

  • Your income.
  • Availability and access to a wide variety of food.
  • Your knowledge and understanding of what is good, what you like, and why you eat what you eat.
  • Your cultural background.
  • Your time.
  • Your health.
  • Who else is eating the food you prepare?

This film chooses to blame the individual as though we make our choices in some kind of social vacuum, but if you don’t have a decent income, or you work full time and you have a family, or if you just don’t really understand food groups and food in general, it is much more complicated than that.

Mr Siewierski is a gentleman who admits at the start that he has spent his whole adult life playing with [fad] diets. If you do not do fad diets; if you are a healthy eater; or if you believe in the power of a balanced diet, this is the first sign that the rest of this film will be filled with thinly disguised bullcrap.

Dodgy quotations

Right at the start of this film, an interesting ‘quotation’ comes up. It highlights and connects the words ‘ignorance’ and ‘illusion of knowledge’, deliberately setting out to tell you that what you already know is wrong. It’s a set up, laying the foundations for the bullshit arguments to follow.

Avoids the word ‘veganism’

Siewierski talks continually about ‘plant-based diet’. This is because ‘veganism’ and ‘vegans’ have such a terrible reputation for extreme political behaviour and personal attitudes that a stigma has been created around the whole movement.

Plant-based diet, of course, is what most of us eat. This is using words in a way that takes the meaningful and turns it into something less meaningful. I.e. they really mean the removal of all animal-based products. But it sounds like something we could easily manage because obviously we all eat a plant-based diet.

Talking about veganism without using the term veganism is dishonest.

Use of the words genocide and holocaust

This is totally unacceptable language. I shouldn’t have to parse it for you, but just in case, here goes:

“Genocide (noun): the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.”

“Holocaust (noun): the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II”

Farm animals are not deliberately or systematically exterminated. In fact effort, skill, knowledge and experience is combined to ensure that the lines continue for the benefit of the human race. This is not extermination. Farm animals are not people. They are systematically slaughtered for food, but it is not for some ideological reason, and not in order to be wiped out.

This kind of disgusting right-wing comparison of the incomparable is a big no-no. I hope, for your sake, for obvious reasons.

Blatant plug for the book of one of the film’s contributors

Slipped into a comment about how people find information hard to work out is a blatant plug for The China Study, a pseudo-scientific tome by ‘Dr’ T. Colin Campbell PhD (so not a medical doctor then). He’s the one in this film who claims that the more milk you drink, the higher the risk of osteoporosis, thus putting many women who watch the film at risk of osteoporosis by trying to convince them not to drink milk—for many, milk is one of the few sources of accessible calcium.

Food Choices film: arguments and claims

Dose dependent

Two contributors in particular talked about how human consumption of protein—particularly animal protein—is dose dependent, i.e. the more you eat, the worse it is for you. One contributor I respected: Pam Popper—she talked a lot of good sense, but I was baffled by the extreme conclusions that were drawn from what she said. The other contributor, Dr Michael Greger (at least he is a real doctor), used triggering language in almost every segment.

They are essentially right. Society as a whole, and individuals across the western world eat far too much meat product, a result of the onslaught of marketing by huge capitalist corporations.

What makes the Food Choices argument fallacious is the assertion that we must eradicate meat production altogether to solve this problem. There is no need for such an extreme angle. If we supported smaller producers in our countries, knowing that they are bound by the law in terms of animal welfare, we would still achieve a much better situation for the world.

This isn’t possible for everyone, but a reasonable aim would be to eat less meat altogether.

Save the world

One of the Food Choices film’s biggest claims is that you can save the world if you ‘change your diet’. But it isn’t necessary to remove all animal products from your diet to do this.

The film states that Big Agriculture is destroying the world and its environment. This is more or less true—it is certainly contributing to the overall environmental burden in a truly massive way—and has added to the misery of incarcerated farm animals on factory farms.

This is how it goes: corporatism and capitalism have led us to the over production of meat products. These can only be sustained through factory farming. Massive numbers of animals are kept unnaturally in crowded quarters indoors and instead of feeding them on grass alone—or in the case of pigs, feeding them on food waste—they feed them on grains.

What’s the problem? Well, apart from the over production of the pernicious greenhouse gas methane, due to farting cows …

First point: indoors is an unnatural, crowded environment for animals. This makes them prone to illness and infection, hence the overuse of antibiotics which may eventually lead to the decimation of humans. We are going to be almost wiped out by a common illness if we don’t sort this shit out.

Second point: a third of our cereal crops feed livestock. Massive arable farms have helped to destroy ancient forests (of which only 7% remain) and other land that was used for other purposes, for the sake of producing unimaginable quantities of grain to feed to indoor-bred farm animals.This is a far cry from the efficient use of land of old, where arable land was used to produce crops and grassland that didn’t grow much else was used to produce meat.

But again, this doesn’t mean we need to stop eating meat and using animal products. Humans do not need to eat meat three times per day, seven days per week. We don’t have to eat just over our own body weight in meat every year.

Hunter-gatherer ‘proof’

However, we do largely need to eat meat. The film points out that certain groups of indigenous peoples traditionally were hunter-gatherers. It uses the word ‘primitive’ to describe those peoples, a hint at racist tendencies. It states that they gathered more than they hunted. Of course they did. Large amounts of meat were rare and required luck, opportunity and skill to acquire in this manner.

But according to Siewierski’s film, this is proof that we don’t need the meat. I call bullshit. Most of us do. It depends how crap you don’t mind feeling.

The film claims: it is natural to consider a plant-only diet, because most of the time people didn’t get the meat anyway. In fact, those groups did eat meat, much less often. They did this because meat provides humans with an efficient way of consuming a large amount of protein, minerals and vitamins in a form that our bodies most efficiently process.

For example, you may believe that lentils and other legumes have adequate protein for your needs. In fact they do not have quite the right kind of protein for your needs. They’ll do, but your body won’t do quite as well as it would do with meat. In most cases.  Some people may feel they digest these things more easily than the concentrated form of meat.

Why? For humans, the bio-availability of vitamins and minerals in meat is better than in vegetables. Our bodies process them from meat more easily. (NB: best way to achieve a better protein through plant-based food is to combine lentils with nuts).

Sure, older versions of humans were probably herbivorous. ‘Lucy’ was found to have only grains and vegetable matter in her stomach. ‘Lucy’ was a different species of human. Our species adapted to meat, so our stomachs are smaller, our bodies metabolise it efficiently, and our jaws are designed to exert less force (study).

It doesn’t follow that ‘our ancestors only ate meat sometimes, so you should never ever eat it at all, ever.’ This just isn’t logical.

Also, stating something is ‘natural’ is a classic logical fallacy:


Threatens the viewer

Weasel words again. Here, it is claimed that eating meat makes you more likely to get cancer and heart disease. Of course it does if you eat it all the time. Also if you consider all the drugs and other substances that are added to processed meat products. However, it doesn’t follow that you shouldn’t eat it at all. A tin of Spam has a lot less going for it than a fresh steak.

Remember T. Colin Campbell and his osteoporosis claim? Do you think your GP knows about this? Do you really think your GP would put credence into this man’s work?

Another claim is that protein elevates blood cholesterol levels, but there are at least a couple of issues here. First, emerging evidence suggests that diet doesn’t affect cholesterol levels as previously thought. Secondly, it is fats – saturated fats, to be precise – that have always been implicated. The reason protein might be said to affect cholesterol is if the protein choices were high in saturated fat, but this doesn’t necessarily mean animal proteins. However, cholesterol risk is largely considered now to be based in genetics, not diet.

And the big one (for some): erectile dysfunction. Yet only around 26 men of 1000 suffer from ED, and the majority of these are older. Age, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and, interestingly, lower education (see comment about classism at the end of this piece) are all factors in these. Not meat eating. Of course, heart disease can be affected by what you eat, but like the cholesterol, it’s related to the consumption of saturated fats, poor overall diet, and a lack of fresh vegetables, not meat eating per se.

Omega-6 is a baddie

So you’d think that if saturated fats are bad, these people plugging this “plant-based” (vegan) diet would be keen on polyunsaturates, the good guys of the fat world. We’re talking extra virgin olive oil, for example, that natural detergent for the arteries, the base of the much admired Mediterranean diet …


In the midst of explaining about how the fish oil industry (and the supplements industry) is nothing but a massive scam—an argument I would largely agree with—the film took a sudden unexpected turn. It stated that polyunsaturated fats were also bad. That fat vegans were not cutting out oils.

Why would they? Human bodies need to take in a certain amount of fat in order to support cell growth, give the body energy, protect organs and keep the body warm. It’s considered dangerous to cut out fats altogether.

Knocking polyunsaturates is a strange, strange choice here. Which leads us to the next crazy claim of the film Food Choices:

The fat you eat is the fat you wear

This is dogma. The sugar industry has been running low health expectations for the majority of the western human population for over 40 years, and this has only recently begun to be debunked. Even medical science has been infected by this corporate-sponsored thinking.

Low fat is the scourge of healthy diets. Naturally low fat ingredients are fine, of course. But when a ‘low fat’ product is created to replace a product that is normally moderate or high in fat—for example, yoghurts and desserts, spreads, low fat quiches, mayonnaises, sauces, you name it, that product tends to taste like shit. Or cardboard. Or both. Or nothing. That’s why those things inevitably contain high quantities of sugar,  because dear god they have to make them taste pleasant somehow.

If you’re eating a largely balanced diet, in reasonable quantities, but still gaining weight, sugar is more likely to be the fat you wear. Refined carbohydrate. Not fat. It’s the hidden sugars in low fat tomato pasta sauces, curry sauces, dips, canned goods, and other factory created foods. Read the ingredients on everything.

Vegetarianism is a cop-out

It wasn’t until the movie got to the bit where it bashes vegetarianism that I realised what the overall aim was. Here’s a halfway house that is more possible for more people: vegetarians don’t eat meat proteins. They stay away from processed products that contain animal ingredients such as rennet, gelatine and lard. But they still often eat dairy and eggs, neither of which result in the death of the animal, although there are still ethical issues around the mass production of both. Mass production is the real evil, but this film isn’t interested in that.

According to the film, vegetarianism is not good enough. This is an extremist view based in ideology, not science, that should be regarded with suspicion. It’s talking about veganism, where you get to eat ‘sheeze’, fake mayonnaise made from god knows what chemicals and where soya milk is preferred, despite its insidious effects on human hormones. Not to mention the inevitable tofu (implicated in cancer) and TVP mince (god. only. knows).

Fish eaters beware

And if veggies don’t get away with it, neither do fish eaters. After all, fish have feelings too! (Not that they mention that). Oh, and according to the rather sinister Dr Michael Greger, mercury levels in fish mean that you’ll also damage yourself doing this.

Yet, he also believes pesticides cannot cause you any issues. Right. Sure. I bet those chemicals wash right off with a quick rinse under the tap. Not.

Vegan athletes exist

The film drags out a couple of vegan athletes. They look healthy, sure. But two vegan athletes who are obsessed with the body beautiful does not an entire theory prove. Pull the other one. Just because it works for ‘Rick Roll’ doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.The guy has money, for a start.

Veganism is cheaper than meat eating

Honestly? Buying fruit and veg at the levels needed to create full balanced meals from scratch is not a cheap option. If it is cheaper, through the use of dried legumes and pulses, then it’s more expensive on your time, and without those fresh veggies, is pretty depressing too.

As Food Choices states, supermarkets control the prices. They also control availability unless you have access to an independent shop of some kind. £30-35 is a likely cost of a basket of fruit and veg for a week’s worth of meals, and more if you’re making food for a whole family. Depending on where you live, you may have better or worse availability.

If you buy seasonally, you may be able to do it cheaper—good luck figuring out what is actually in season in a supermarket. Eating seasonally also makes it harder to provide yourself with variety. Air miles on veg are difficult to dodge. For example, most of everything—even onions—in our local veg shop is Spanish at present, and in the Co-op comes from much further afield, e.g. Peru, South Africa, and so on.

Buying large quantities of meat and processed meat products definitely bump the prices up, but buying vegetables only isn’t a significantly cheaper option, since you have to buy larger quantities to get a similar nutritional pay off.

Is veganism healthier?

Most vegans are not especially healthy—if most of the contributors on Food Choices are anything to go by. (Just look at them). And let’s not forget that the film is unimpressed by the supplements industry. So apparently, fuck you if you can’t get all the nutrients you need from your food. This article claims anecdotally that immune systems do not easily hold up against the common cold and other regular illnesses without some input from concentrated sources of vitamins and minerals. My partner, however, a veggie of 15+ years, does not seem to suffer in this way. But vegans tend to eat a great deal of overly processed foods, so this may be a clue to those who suffer from poor health.

Animal torture

The last 10-15 minutes of the Food Choices film shows you a series of videos of animal torture in appalling conditions in slaughterhouses that are clearly breaking the law. It is highly upsetting and unpleasant, and I don’t recommend watching this.

This is a poor show on the part of the film makers, particularly given that they have avoided the emotional trap throughout. It is a blatant guilt trip and an assault on the viewer who has sat through nearly an hour and a half of this propaganda claptrap.

There are no two ways around this particular argument, and actually, for me, this is the most honest part of the argument. The only honest part. If you want to avoid any chance of the meat you eat having gone through traumatic experiences like that as animals, you will need to buy your meat from small and local producers who either kill their own or use small slaughterhouses. Or kill your own. Or give it up entirely.

Is veganism a ‘personal choice’?

Of course it is. Veganism is a personal choice, but it is not at all easy to follow as dishonestly implied by the Food Choices film. It is not only a personal choice. It’s not a diet that just anyone can do. We do not live in a social vacuum. We do not all have the access to plant-based natural foods that we would like. Many people do not have the skills or knowledge to make tasty adequate meals from scratch using only vegetables and no oil or fat of any kind.

To imply that the choice is due entirely to personal morals is dishonest. There are many more factors at play.

If you are revolted at the thought of killing animals for your food, then you should stop eating animal products. This is, in fact, the only argument for veganism that holds up. All the other arguments in the Food Choices film can be answered with the solution of eating less meat.

Classist arguments around veganism and meat eating

My own commonly used argument for eating less meat is that you can afford better quality meat, even organic, if you eat less. But if you want to avoid supermarkets, you need to go to a small producer, a farm shop, a local smallholder, and so on.

But this is essentially classist. I am fully aware that if you live where I do, you’ll have a much better chance of achieving that. Yet most people live in large towns and cities. There’s no way around this. The only way I can see to improve your ethical intake of meat products is to reduce the quantities right down and aim for the Organic label.

At which point you still need money. If you start with nearly nothing, it doesn’t matter how little you eat, that organic meat will still be off the table. Compare that to the price of a tin of Pek and it’s easy to see how poverty plays a huge role in the lack of control and choice people have over their diets.

Bear in mind that worrying about the details of what you put in your stomach is an incredibly middle-class preoccupation. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a good visual explanation of this:

No-one who is suffering for food, water, shelter, security, rest, or warmth is worrying about the details of what is going into their belly.

In the same way, these ‘arguments’ postulated by this propaganda film Food Choices are just as classist. If you’re broke, decent veg in the quantities that you need to fill you, energise you and keep you healthy is hard to come by. And that’s without even acknowledging the effects of Western veganism on countries where certain ‘staples’ are produced. For example, those who pick and process the quinoa; those who have suffered the destruction of their countrysides for the production of avocados to the West. Over production is a problem, no matter what you eat.

Can you win? Sure, get educated, be vigilant, and aware of what you eat. Read the ingredients. Learn about food groups.

Can you become the ‘ideal’ that this movie wants you to believe? Who knows. All I do know is that Food Choices by Michal Siewierski is a dishonest series of arguments aimed to make the meat-eating, veggie or pescatarian viewer feel bad about their lives. Food Choices by Michal Siewierski: welcome to ideologically driven guilt.


Homemade onion bhajis

Curry is a fact of life in this household, but I’m always looking for new ideas i can make in a relatively authentic way. I recently had the opportunity to try out a restaurant in Leeds that I’d never been to before: Shabab, situated under the city train station. Paneer to die for, and that was just the starter.

So this week I found my local supermarket actually sells paneer now, and had a go making a curry from scratch. Went well. A day later, there’s one smallish meal left over. Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s great! Curry tastes even better the next day! But to cheer it up, I made a small batch of these onion bhajis, and ate so many of them while I was cooking that I couldn’t finish my meal in one go. *Shakes head in shame.

So, onion bhajis. We’re aiming for a crispy terracotta on the outside, soft and oniony in the middle, and everything cooked properly (harder to achieve with deep fat frying than you might think).

Delicious homemade onion bhajis
These babies were soft and light on the inside, crisp and oniony on the outside, and I didn’t overdo the chilli powder for once!

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Haggis Arancini: leftovers can be hedonism too

Haggis. Much maligned by those who don’t eat it, this offally delicious treat is only for those with discerning tastes. Because, quite frankly, if you’re not going to enjoy it, we’re glad it won’t be wasted on you. But, if you have great taste and you live on your own, or the rest of your family is veggie, you’ll probably find, like me, that one haggis could feed a small family, which means there’s enough left after one portion to stuff a wicker man.

But that’s a good thing.

A quick skim through the internet reveals there are at least 25 recipes out there for using up haggis, and most of them seem to abandon its Scottish roots and make for the sun, with such tasty suggestions as haggis lasagne, haggis samosas, and haggis pakoras.

But haggis has a very distinct flavour, reminiscent of mutton, and even when it’s peppery, it isn’t spiced beyond standard pre-chicken tikka British tastes. To me, tipping it into a lasagne, flavoured with tomato and basil, or deep frying it in a warm jacket of gram batter and curry umami, is disrespectful of the mighty haggis. Its delicate flavour lost, I see no point in it, and adding all that gunge in a lasagne will surely make the “mouthfeel” weird.

So: haggis arancini was my catch of the day, and a good ‘un it was too. Okay, it’s still Italianesque, but no Italian ‘erbs will touch this baby.

Haggis arancini, with cachumber and homemade tomato ketchup.

Haggis Arancini Recipe

Leftover mashed potato – about two handfuls

Leftover haggis – about two-thirds of the haggis, but see how much you can get into the potato without it falling apart.

1 egg – beaten

Dried breadcrumbs or rice crumbs

250ml sunflower or coconut oil


  1. Loosen up the mash with your fingers in a medium-sized bowl, and add about half the haggis.
  2. Mush everything together until evenly mixed. Check you can make balls out of the mix. If so, add a little more haggis, mix, and recheck.
  3. Keep adding more haggis for as long as a) you have some left and b) the mix still clags together. The aim is to have balls that taste like haggis, not mashed potato.
  4. Once you have a satisfyingly haggisy mixture, create balls about 1-2 inches in diameter. The larger they are, the longer they will take to cook, but don’t make them too small or they may dry out and become hard.
  5. I got 9 balls out of my mixture.
  6. Beat your egg in a bowl, and pour out some breadcrumbs on a plate.
  7. Roll the haggis balls in the egg, let it drain in your fingers, and then roll it around the breadcrumbs plate till covered.
  8. I did this process twice, to ensure a good coat, but I doubt that’s really necessary (my egg was huge, so I used it up this way). Lay the arancini on a plate as you work.
  9. Pour about 5mm oil in the bottom of a frying pan, and heat till just under smoking point.
  10. Add about 4-5 arancini to the hot oil, and roll those babies around for about 5-7 minutes. We’re going for golden brown, not blackened. When you get to the colour of builders’ tea, that’s it!
  11. Test one, by cutting it in half. It should be steaming on the inside, nice and hot throughout. If it isn’t, back into the pan it goes! (I re-batttered the cut halves on my tester).
  12. Serve alone, or with a tiny side of veg (I used up the cachumber from yesterday’s curry), and a large portion of homemade tomato ketchup.

Soulsubsistence the Food Blog is back: Cauliflower Cheese Soufflé Pie

It’s time Soulsubsistence became a blog about food and Cumbria and Cumbrian food once again. We have recipes to share, food ideas for the fussiest, most intolerant eaters, and at least one shareable cooking disaster every couple of weeks.

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