Since 2010, initially under the guise of “austerity”, the British government has decimated funding for safety inspections within the food industry.
Nowhere has the result of these cuts been felt as devastatingly as in the meat industry.
40% of meat hygiene inspector posts have disappeared in the last eight years, along with similar proportions of environmental health officer and trading standard officer posts.
Little wonder, then, that we again face a spate of adverse publicity about standards in the British meat industry.
Russell Hume, which supplied meat to Jamie Oliver’s restaurants and to the Wetherspoons chain, recently entered administration following reports of “multiple breaches” of meat hygiene regulations.
Not that long ago another company called 2 Sisters – supplying chicken to Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Aldi and Lidl – was found to have been tampering with food safety records, meaning customers may have been duped into buying out-of-date meat. The 2 Sisters scandal only came to light as a result of an under cover investigation by the Guardian newspaper and ITV News, not through safety inspections.
These events show that the government’s insistence on light touch regulation is failing British consumers, and meat eaters must be left wondering how many more undiscovered scandals have eluded the industry’s threadbare inspection regime.
It’s always a good time to become a vegetarian. Right now, making that change looks more sensible than ever.
On to the recipe, which I have created in association with Suma Wholefoods Cooperative.
Under the terms of our arrangement, every couple of months I select products from the Suma Wholefoods range which Suma provide free of charge. From these I create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
This is a delicious, hearty, nourishing vegan stew designed to stave off the excesses of the winter weather.
smoky bean and tomato stew
2 onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 sticks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 x 400 g can organic black eye beans
1 x 400 g can organic butter (lima) beans
1 x 400 g can organic red kidney beans
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tsp sea salt
2 400 g tins organic chopped tomatoes with chilli
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Rinse and drain the black eye, butter (lima) and red kidney beans.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish that has a lid and place over a medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the diced carrots and celery along with the garlic. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the thyme, smoked paprika, chilli flakes, sea salt, bay leaves, tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and stock. Mix to combine. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat, leaving the lid off.
3. After 20 minutes, the stock will have reduced. Stir in the beans, cover the pot and place in the pre-heated oven for 45 minutes.
4. Serve piping hot, accompanied by good quality crusty bread.