After this year’s long, hot, dry summer in the UK it’s hard to remember that just a few months earlier a spell of snow and severe weather (the “Beast from the East”) closed roads and led to some supermarket shelves being emptied of bread, milk and fresh fruit and vegetables. This loss of stock was due in part to panic buying but also reflected the supermarkets’ own weather-related transport problems.
What that spell of bad weather had briefly revealed was the vulnerable logistics underpinning the supermarkets’ 24 hour, 365 days a year supply of food. In fact, supermarkets typically hold enough stock for just three to four days and are reliant on a steady flow of lorries throughout each day for their replacement stock. As soon as that flow is interrupted it can start to cause shortages.
Yet, in the alternative reality of the “normal” day-to-day supermarket world everything is hunky dory. We buy strawberries in February, asparagus in September and we don’t have to spare a thought about how such produce managed to get there out of season.
And we have become tied in to this alternative reality because, despite their fragile logistics, supermarkets provide us with consistently cheaper food, a large range of products and a quick service.
However, the disconnection between consumer and producer that supermarket shopping entails does make it a pretty soulless experience. The arrival in recent years of the self-service checkout means we now can do our shopping without having any form of conversation with anyone else.
Those small-scale local suppliers that have somehow survived supermarket dominance (usually by providing niche and quality products) cannot, of course, compete with them on price, nor can they provide a comparable range of products.
To buy local now takes a real effort of will, and usually a readiness to pay slightly over the odds.
However, in return for that effort you will be able to buy food that has been locally grown and produced, which is seasonal and fresh, that has travelled less far and has less unnecessary packaging. You will also almost certainly find yourself talking to people. I have had many fascinating and illuminating conversations with stall holders at farmers markets.These are people who care about the food they produce, who take pride in knowing its provenance and who are usually happy to talk about it.
Finally, when you buy local, your money will be going back into the local economy, employing local people, rather than into the pockets of supermarkets shareholders, whose only concern is corporate profit not local sustainability.
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. It is a range which includes plenty of organic and ethically sourced products. Using the products I have chosen I then create an original recipe which appears on the Suma website as well here, on the Circus Gardener’s Kitchen.
In this recipe I have also used some organic Lord Lambourne apples from a local orchard in making these wonderful vegan apple doughnuts, which are complemented perfectly by the toasted pine nut ice cream.
You can substitute sparkling water for the cider if preferred (although the cider is added to give some flavour, its principal purpose in this recipe is to add pockets of air to the batter. These expand in the hot oil to produce a light, crispy texture).
vegan apple doughnuts with toasted pine nut ice cream
2 organic apples
juice of half a lemon
30 g organic coconut sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
100 g organic plain flour
40 g organic coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
250 ml cashew milk
40 ml maple syrup
120 ml sparkling cider
groundnut oil, for deep-frying
for the ice cream
30 ml organic maple syrup
1. For the ice cream, preheat the oven to 140°C (275°F, gas mark 1). Spread the pine nuts evenly across a flat baking tray. Place in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, by which time the pine nuts will have started to colour and give off a nutty aroma. Remove the baking tray from the oven and tip the pine nuts into a clean bowl to arrest the cooking process and cool slightly.
2. Pour the cashew nut milk, maple syrup, vanilla and salt into a food processor. Add the toasted pine nuts and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and churn. Once it has started to set, tip the ice cream out into a freezer proof container. Cover the container with a lid and freeze for at least 4 hours. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and leave to stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving.
3. Peel and core the apples and then cut into small, no more than ½ cm, cubes. Place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, coconut sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine.
4. Make a batter by whisking together the plain flour, coconut flour, baking powder, almond milk, cider and maple syrup to a smooth batter. Fold the apple pieces into the mixture.
5. Fill a large pan with groundnut oil to a depth of 5 cm and place over a high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully drop spoonfuls of the apple doughnut mixture into the oil, making sure you have a few apple pieces in each doughnut. You will need to do this in batches. After 2-3 minutes, carefully turn the doughnuts over. They are ready once they are crisp and golden all over. Carefully remove from the oil and drain briefly on kitchen paper.
6. Serve the doughnuts whilst still warm, drizzled with a little maple syrup and severed with a scoop of the toasted pine nut ice cream.