This week the Soil association launched “Not in Our Bread”, a campaign to highlight the use of wheat sprayed with glyphosate as an ingredient in the manufacture of one of the UK’s principal staple foods.
Glyphosate, the key component of the weedkiller Roundup, manufactured by global chemicals company Monsanto, was declared to be “probably carcinogenic” by the World Health Organisation earlier this year.
The principal reason why up to a third of bread sold in Britain has been found to include traces of glyphosate is that it is common practice amongst some non-organic farmers to spray their wheat crops with Roundup just before harvest because glyphosate acts like a desiccant, helping to dry and ripen the crop.
Since the World Health Organisation’s cancer warning, the Colombian government has banned the use of Roundup to destroy illegal coca plantations. A growing number of UK councils have banned its use in parks and on public lands. The Dutch government has enacted legislation to ban Roundup and the French government has announced a ban on the sale of Roundup in all garden centres. Several UK garden centres have already withdrawn the product from sale.
All well and good, but whilst we wait to see how long it will be before the UK government takes action to outlaw the use of glyphosate in wheat cultivation, there’s never been a better time to make sure the bread you buy or bake is made with organically produced wheat.
Right, time to put on the stripey apron.
I grow pak choi every year on my 100% organic allotment plot, the Circus Garden. It’s one of a number of oriental vegetables that are well suited to the English climate. Unfortunately, after surviving being nibbled by flea beetle, most of my crop this year bolted before I could harvest it, a reaction to the recent hot spell of weather here in the UK.
In this recipe I therefore used organic pak choi which sadly was not from the Circus Garden, although the spring onions I used were. The dish itself is Pad Thai, one of Thailand’s best known and most popular dishes, and this is my vegan interpretation of this wonderful street food classic.
Crispy shallots are available from oriental stores, but you can easily make your own, as I prefer to do, by deep frying thinly sliced shallots in very hot oil and then draining well on kitchen paper. Once cool, these will keep in an airtight container for about ten days.
The key to success with any dish where quick stir frying is involved is to prepare all of the ingredients and to have them lined up in easy reach before you start cooking (a practice which the French call “mise en place”).
200 g organic gluten-free rice noodles
200 g block of tofu
40 g rice or corn flour
250 g pak choi, roughly chopped
100 g beansprouts
6 spring onions, white and green parts, sliced on the diagonal
1 red chilli, seeds in, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
50 g peanuts, dry fried in a hot pan and then roughly chopped
20 g crispy shallots
2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
80 ml soy sauce
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp water
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1. Cook the noodles as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Drain, refresh under cold water and drain again on kitchen paper.
2. Place the tofu in several layers of kitchen paper and place it between two flat chopping boards or baking trays. Carefully place weights on top and leave for at least thirty minutes.
3. In a small bowl mix together the soy sauce, lime juice, maple syrup and water.
4. Unwrap the block of tofu, wipe it dry and cut into 1-2 cm cubes. Roll the tofu cubes gently in the rice or corn flour so that they are lightly coated.
5. Heat a wok over a high heat. As soon as it begins to smoke add the groundnut oil. After thirty seconds add the tofu (you will need to do this in a couple of batches to avoid crowding the wok which would lower the temperature too drastically). Cook, stirring from time to time, until the tofu has crisped up and browned slightly. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Set to one side.
6. Keep the wok on the high heat, adding a little more oil if needed. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Now add the drained noodles and cook for 3 minutes, stirring continually until they begin to dry out. Next add the pak choi, beansprouts, chilli and the spring onions and cook for 4 minutes, still continuing to stir. Now add the tofu, peanuts, crispy shallots and coriander. Stir-fry for 30 seconds then finally add the soy, lime juice and maple syrup mixture. It should quickly bubble up. Stir the contents of the pan to ensure everything gets a really good coating of the sauce then remove from the heat and serve immediately.