Seeds are the stuff of life.
That is why the increasingly tight grip over the international seeds market by a small group of powerful, unaccountable multinational corporations should cause us alarm.
In achieving this market dominance these giant corporations, which include Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont, have enjoyed the support and active connivance of senior politicians.
In the USA, for example, nearly thirty states have passed legislation known as “seed-preemption” laws. Preemption is a term describing how a higher level of government can override laws passed by a lower level. Thus, for example, under preemption, a local decision to ban genetically modified crops (GMOs) in an area can now be overruled at state level
In essence, the legislation means that decisions about what individual growers can grow or plant are being taken away from them and put in the hands of remote government.
Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont have a vested business interest in quashing organic farming and promoting their hybridised seeds and seeds coated in their branded weedkillers, as well as their GMO seeds. They are also keen to prevent or minimise the banning and regulating of any their harmful products, such as pesticides, weedkillers and fungicides.
These companies “sponsor” dozens of US politicians in Congress and the Senate to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, and clearly that investment is paying off.
This “seed pre-emption” legislation is a shining example of how corporate greed corrupts politics and suppresses diversity and local choice. It represents the latest step in the ever-tightening grip of a few, vastly powerful corporations over the journey which our food takes on its way to our plates.
On to the recipe.
Is it too early to be thinking about Christmas? This week’s recipe would make a delicious, alternative, vegan and gluten-free Christmas dinner. If it is too early, let me just say this dish would be just as good for any other special occasion.
It consists of a rich and beautifully flavoured mushroom and chestnut ragout, complemented by a smooth, sage-infused parsnip puree. I have used buckwheat flour to keep the recipe gluten-free, but you can use regular flour instead.
If you do decide to give this a try for Christmas, you can serve it alongside the usual trimmings.
mushroom and chestnut ragout with parsnip puree
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200 g button mushrooms, cleaned
180 g chestnuts
250 g butternut squash, peeled and cut into roughly 2 cm cubes
2 carrots, approx 125 g, peeled and cut diagonally into ½ cm slices
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 x can chopped organic tomatoes
1 tsp buckwheat flour
250 ml red wine
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
for the puree
600 g parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
150 ml olive oil
50 ml vegetable stock
12 fresh sage leaves
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
fresh parsley, finely chopped
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Pour the olive oil into a large oven-proof casserole dish that has a lid. Place the dish over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring for five minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, salt, cumin, cinnamon, dried thyme, fennel seeds, mushrooms, carrots, celery and butternut squash. Cook, stirring for five more minutes.
2. Add the buckwheat flour, and stir to combine. Cook for a further two minutes, stirring constantly, then add the wine. Stir, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, by which time the sauce will have started to thicken. Add the tomatoes and the rosemary. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Stir in the chestnuts.
3. Place the lid over the casserole dish and transfer to the pre-heated oven. Cook for 1 hour.
4. For the puree, pour the olive oil into a pan and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the sage leaves. Once they begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to low. Cook for a further 5 minutes then remove from the heat and set to one side. In the meantime, steam (preferably) or boil the parsnips for 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and mash. Strain the sage leaves from the olive oil, and warm the oil in a pan over a low heat. Place the parsnips in a blender and add the sea salt, black pepper plus a little of the sage oil. Process, gradually adding the rest of the sage oil, followed by the vegetable stock, until you have a smooth puree.
5. To serve, place a generous circle of parsnip puree in the centre of each plate. Top with mushroom and chestnut ragout. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.