Cheesy nachos with cajun British black badger peas

This is my all-time favourite dinner. When I first discovered nutritional yeast I was pretty excited, but that was nothing compared to when I found out how make it into a supremely cheesy sauce — using mostly potatoes and carrots?! It sounds mad but seriously, try it. Plus it takes the guilt factor out of eating a huge plate of melted cheese.  See ya, raclette.

Lately I’ve been trying to source as much of my food as possible from organic British growers. Pesticides (variations of which are used to make nerve gases and bombs) are what is behind the prediction that some of our soils have only 30 to 40 years of harvests left.

We’re only just starting to clock their effect on our health, and they’ve certainly killed wildlife and even people in farms around the world. We absolutely depend on wildlife as part of the ecosystem to grow food, so at some point our chemical addiction has to be addressed or we won’t be able to grow anything to feed ourselves.

Getting an organic veg box is an easy, delicious way to help, and I’ve started ordering organic pulses online from Hodmedod’s, who are bringing back some really great ancient British peas and grains.

So here’s my recipe for nachos with vegan cheesy sauce, cajun black badger peas and a green chilli coriander salsa.

RECIPE

Feeds 4

Ingredients

** The black badgers need to be soaked overnight **

For the cheese sauce

  • 125g carrot (approx. one)
  • 250g potato (approx. one big one)
  • 125ml water
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g nutritional yeast
  • 2 cloves of garlic

For the nachos 

  • 6 tortilla wraps

For the black badgers

  • 200g dried black badgers (carlin peas) or black beans
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsps paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt

For the salsa

  • 3 small green chillies, go for the variety that suits you for hotness
  • Bunch of coriander, about 30g
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 4 tbsps water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Squeeze of lime juice

Extras

Spring onions, jalapenos, sweetcorn, tomato, limes — but try to go for what’s seasonal! Spring onions are good at the end of winter.

Method

1. Soak the black badgers overnight in plenty of water. Rinse and cover again with water plus 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, bring to the boil then turn the heat down low and cover. Cook for 40-60 minutes until soft.

2. Meanwhile, start on the cheese sauce. Peel and roughly chop the potato and carrot into same-sized chunks and boil for 15-20 mins until soft. Don’t overcook or the sauce will go floury!

3. Drain then blend the potato and carrots with the rest of the ingredients, using a hand blender or nutribullet. You could mash it but the garlic would need to be crushed into a paste.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/ 390F/ gas mark 6

5. To finish off the beans, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onions over a fairly high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add all the herbs and spices, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cooked beans and fry until everything is really crispy. Add any more salt, spices, herbs or oil to taste along the way, the black badgers are great for taking on flavour.

6. Cut the tortilla wraps into triangles and bake in the oven on trays for 10 minutes. Try not to overlap them too much or they won’t crisp up as well.

7. For the salsa, blend all the ingredients together, or chop really finely omitting the water.

8. Assemble — start with the nachos, add the cheese sauce, then black badgers, salsa and any extras. This would also be great reimagined as wraps for packed lunches.

 

Marmite and peanut latkes

I love Marmite so much I once wrote an embarrassing song about it in response to an Amanda Palmer song about her hatred of Vegemite. Just call me Joan Marmiterading. (Sorry.)

Anyway Amanda retweeted it and my life was made.

I’ve now invented a way of getting the salty sticky toffee coffee stuff into a latke, which is the more trendy and pretentious way of saying ‘hash brown’. I went rogue and added peanut butter (although I’m very unsure about the provenance of all nuts and don’t know if they’re ethical, can anyone help?!)

I think tahini would also work instead of peanut butter, and a fried free-range, organic egg would make it even better, if you eat eggs. I just went with wilted spinach and vegan mayo. Here’s the recipe, feel free to write a song about it.

RECIPE

Makes 6 latkes

Ingredients

  • 1lb floury potatoes (three medium sized), peeled
  • 1 onion
  • 25g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsps Marmite
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter, crunchy or smooth, Fairtrade and organic is best
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 5 tbsps sunflower or rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Grate the potato and grate or finely chop the onion. Squeeze it all in a teatowel or muslin until as much water as possible has come out. Wait a minute and then squeeze out more.
  2. Mix with the flour and baking powder in a bowl.
  3. Gently heat the peanut butter and Marmite in a pan with the water and one of the tbsps of oil. Stir until you have a well-mixed paste.
  4. Stir quickly into the potato mixture before it cools and hardens then shape into 6 patties about 2 centimetres thick.
  5. In a non-stick pan, heat 2 tbsps oil over a medium heat and fry half of the latkes for three minutes on each side until good and brown. You can sacrifice one to check it’s cooked in the middle, cook for another minute if not. Repeat with the remaining oil and latkes.
  6. Write a song about them.

Why you should put down that fried chicken burger (and all factory-farmed meat)

It was roughly 2am on February 17th 2013 and I had just walked into Krunchy Fried Chicken in Fallowfield, Manchester, with my mates, a horde of sisters and their boyfriends after a particularly silly night out. I ordered a chicken burger and chips (not for the first time).

I noted the unprocessed real meat, the salty gnarled batter. As students, this very burger was what we had come to worship as the pinnacle of food, joy and life.

It hit me that I had just turned 21 – and I was conducting this strange coming-of-age birthday chicken ceremony in the best place I could think of.

Oh how times have changed.

It never occurred to me at that point to question where the meat came from. The UK has nearly 800 livestock mega farms, processing cows, chickens and pigs. About 80% of chickens and 75% of breeding pigs in this country are factory-farmed. Two out of every three farm animals in the world come from factory farms.

Now, I do not know where Krunchy was getting its fried chicken in 2013, and I am not about to accuse them of any wrongdoing. But the likelihood is that factory farming is producing the supermarket ham sandwiches, corner shop pints of milk and office cakes that are ubiquitous in our lives.

Why is this an issue? For starters, factory-farmed meat plays a huge part in:

  • climate change
  • animal welfare
  • loss of plants and wildlife in our ecosystems (which we depend on)
  • the ability to keep growing food
  • our health

Let’s head to October 2017, specifically, the first Extinction and Livestock Conference, held in London by the WWF and Compassion in World Farming. Stay with me. The conference title references the link between factory farming and our own survival, and made me realise that eating quality meat, dairy and eggs (or not eating them at all) is perhaps the most important thing we can do to help the planet.

Here’s where I go a bit more in depth, on just two points.

  1. Climate change. We are currently heading for a 3.6C rise in the world’s temperature by 2100, according to the policies of the world’s governments. If they stuck to their climate pledges, we are on track for a 2.6C rise, according to this unassumingly terrifying graph by the Climate Action Tracker.

Screen Shot 2017-11-03 at 11.32.27It was agreed in the 2013 UN Paris conference that in order to avoid more death, famine, floods, drought, exacerbated storms, malnourishment, water-borne infections and heatwaves (all caused by man-made climate change) we need to stick to 1.5C.

You can see there is a discrepancy in the figures.

How is climate change affected by factory farming?

Livestock farming alone makes up 14.5% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN. Two thirds of that comes from cows.

When you consider that deforestation is responsible for another 11% of man-made emissions, factory farmed meat starts to look pretty unappetising. Deforestation mostly happens so that we can grow crops to feed animals. This is linked to…

2. Biodiversity loss, which means we’re killing animals, plants and insects. Since the 1970s, when factory farming really kicked in, we have lost 50% of the world’s wild animals. Destroying our ecosystems means we may not be able to keep growing food. An obvious example is that we need bees to pollinate our crops.

Why is biodiversity loss affected by factory farming?

Cutting down rainforests and savannahs is all in the name of growing corn, soy, wheat and palm. Palm oil goes into all kinds of products, and not just food. But the other three mostly go on feeding factory-farmed animals, including fish.

Philip Lymbery, head of Compassion in World Farming, says that animal feed is the number one cause of biodiversity loss.

He also says: ‘Those industrially reared animals are currently chomping their way through enough food to feed an extra 4 billion people on the planet.’ That’s half the world again.

Factory farming, where animals stay indoors for most of their lives and are fed on crops instead of grass, uses up our resources in an incredibly inefficient way. It takes 100 calories of cereal crops (wheat, corn, rice) to produce 17 to 30 calories from meat or milk.

What on earth can we do?

For a start, give up factory farmed food. If you eat meat and dairy, find out where it’s from. Ask the butcher, ask cafes and restaurants where they source that meat from. Be that person! Businesses notice and change when customers question their models.

Buy organic wherever possible. Rules for organic dairy farmers mean that cows are required to graze grass for at least 200 days a year.

Do your best to go for something veggie until you find the meat that isn’t factory-farmed. And please… don’t spend your milestone birthdays in fried chicken shops.

Restaurant review: Tibits

King of the veggie/ vegan buffet

Tibits, 12-14 Heddon Street, London W1B 4DA (0207 758 4112). Two-course meal for two, including drinks: £46

★★★★☆

If you’re walking down Regent Street and realise you haven’t breathed normally in several minutes in an effort to dodge everyone, take a diversion down Heddon Street. It’s the type of street that Muggles don’t notice – you wouldn’t know there was anything to discover unless you were looking for it.

Suddenly you’re in a leafy enclave of restaurants, with strings of lightbulbs overhead. On a half-hot September day you can eat outside and forget about the bustle.

Tibits is king of vegetarian and vegan buffet. The food is so appealing because 1) it’s instant, just like Yo Sushi and 2) the quality and variety is excellent.

When I went on a Sunday lunchtime, there was a pleasant chattery thrum oozing out of the open windows. An oval table in the centre of the restaurant is filled with hot plates and salad dishes.

You pay by weight (£25/kg). So I set about filling up my plate with a little bit of everything…

  • gnocchi verde
  • beer battered onion rings
  • carrot salad
  • vegetable tartare
  • orecchiette pasta salad with tofu, olives and sundried tomato
  • houmous and za’atar
  • okra tempura
  • dried bean salad with a walnut coriander dressing (wait for it, this was unbelievably the best part)
  • rocket

IMG_2222 (1)

The gnocchi was a little overcooked and starchy but I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to carry on eating it for the rest of the day. It comes in a creamy sauce with spinach, leek and basil, which was heaven. The onion rings were sweet and juicy and dangerously addictive. The carrot salad was not naked and sidelined but has its own secret recipe dressing.

Veg tartare had an odd carroty flavour but the tomatoey orecchiette salad was better. The houmous was one of the best ones I’ve had. Tempura okra was great, if you like okra.

But hold on. The best bit, incredibly, was the dried string bean salad. Nope, I’ve never heard of dried string beans either. They don’t look particularly special but the texture was so good and rubbery in a really, really good way? The garlic, walnut, coriander, onion, balsamic sauce – just yes.

The recipe is actually online here. Thank you Tibits.

… and that’s not all.

Vegan pudding. I know what you’re thinking. But oh my, the chocolate molten pudding AND sticky toffee pudding made me all fuzzy inside. They were squidgy and gooey and cakey and datey and saucy. I actually wrote down the word ‘PHENOM’ in my notebook.

I had them with a vegan mocha cream, which was thick, delicious and what a hippy Nigella Lawson would adore.

So now you know about Tibits, don’t be a Muggle.