The late American cosmologist Carl Sagan once observed that “national boundaries are not evident when we view the Earth from space. Fanatical ethnic or religious or national chauvinisms are a little difficult to maintain when we see our planet as a fragile blue crescent fading to become an inconspicuous point of light against the bastion and citadel of the stars.”
How wise a race we might be if we all lived in a world free from the concept of national boundaries and the narrow perspective that too often accompanies such compartmentalised thinking.
The UK’s narrow vote in favour of leaving the European Union (“Brexit”) illustrates how a failure of the spirit of coexistence and cooperation can be damaging to everyone’s long-term interests.
I doubt that any of us voting in that referendum had any full sense of the repercussions of a “no” vote, but even now – before Brexit has actually happened – some consequences are starting to reveal themselves.
In voting to “get our country back”, we have sent out a negative message to workers from other parts of the European Union and elsewhere, and they have heard that message. It has been amplified by a ham-fisted government crackdown on immigration that, amongst other things, has left the National Health Service seriously short of skilled doctors and nurses.
Already, British farmers have warned that they face major problems finding workers to pick their fruit and vegetables. A survey by the National Framers Unions reveals a 12.5% shortfall in seasonal workers since the Brexit vote. The absence of willing British replacements has led to edible produce being left to rot in the fields.
The British, it seems, are happy to make Romanian and Bulgarian fruit pickers unwelcome in this country but we are not willing to take their places.
So, it’s time, all you brave Brexiteers who voted to “get our country back”, it’s time you put your money where your mouth is, it’s time to get up off your sofas and out into the fields. Welcome to the future.
This year I am hoping for a steady flow of fresh strawberries from our garden. I have planted seven different varieties, some early and some late fruiting. I’ve used some of the earlier varieties to make this dish.
Although I’ve called it a crème brulee this vegan dessert is really more of a panna cotta finished off like a brûlée. But let’s not split hairs: whatever you call it, this dish is a lovely way to enjoy this wonderful summer fruit.
Agar, sometimes called agar agar is a vegan substitute for gelatin. Derived from marine algae, it is widely available in health food stores and some supermarkets now stock it.
vegan strawberry crème brulee
1 x 440 ml can organic coconut milk
1 level tsp agar flakes
40 ml maple syrup
1 vanilla pod, split, or 1 tsp organic vanilla essence
1 tbsp coconut sugar
Coconut oil, for greasing
for the strawberry compote
180 g fresh organic strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered, depending on size
40 ml maple syrup
1. Lightly grease four ramekins using the coconut oil.
2. For the compote, place the strawberries in a saucepan with the 40 ml maple syrup. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, stir and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool before dividing the strawberry compote between the four ramekins.
2. Pour the coconut milk and maple syrup into a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod with a sharp knife and add them to the pan, along with the agar flakes. Whisk to combine and place the pan over a medium heat. Continue to whisk or stir until the mixture reaches a simmer. Remove from the heat, give a final whisk and then gently pour over the strawberries in the ramekins.
3. Leave to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for 2 hours to set completely.
4. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the brulee with the coconut sugar. Use a blowtorch to harden and caramelise the coconut sugar. (If you don’t have a blowtorch, place the ramekins on a flat baking tray underneath a very hot grill for 2 minutes).Leave to cool for a minute or two before serving.