jump to recipe
Our attention has been focused intently for the last few months on the Covid-19 pandemic. A huge amount of money has been spent trying to stem the spread of the virus and in shoring up the floundering world economy.
Where has all this money come from? After all, it was only a few months ago that the UK Prime Minister resorted to crowdfunding to try to pay for Big Ben to “bong” in “celebration” of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU).
And why is it that we can afford to prop up struggling businesses to the tune of billions of pounds, yet we seemingly cannot afford to maintain the UK’s high food standards post-Brexit?
Last week, the UK Parliament, currently operating primarily through video links, debated the government’s Agriculture Bill, which sets out future regulation and support for farmers and landowners after Brexit. Ominously, the Bill has nothing to say about upholding British farming and food standards in future trade negotiations.
An amendment to the Bill, tabled by one of the Conservative government’s own backbenchers, which sought to prevent those standards being lowered post-Brexit was defeated, despite 22 Conservative MPs voting against their government.
A country like the UK, which does not produce enough food to feed its population, is dependent on food imports. This has led to growing concerns that the UK government intends to relax current high standards to achieve trade deals outside the EU. The USA’s insistence that chlorinated chicken and other food products which fail to meet UK standards must be included in a future trade deal merely compounds those concerns.
What ought to be happening, of course, is for the UK government to be insisting that other countries meet our high standards. If we do not, we will essentially be outsourcing the commission of higher carbon emissions, animal cruelty and other harmful practices to countries that have lower standards.
But when you decide to strike out on your own, as the UK has decided to do, you lose some of your negotiating heft. The rejection of this attempt to preserve UK food standards suggests we may well be heading for a race to the bottom in order to secure future food trade deals.
I love asparagus. The fact that I will only eat seasonal, locally produced asparagus makes it a fleeting seasonal treat and all the more special.
It is hard to improve on the taste of basic, freshly steamed asparagus, but I think this quick, easy and flavour packed dish manages to do just that.
roasted asparagus with almonds
20 asparagus spears
3 spring onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
15 g flaked almonds
½ tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp sea salt
5 g fresh parsley, finely chopped
5 g fresh mint, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Pre-heat the oven to 150°C (300°F gas mark 2). Remove any woody stems from the asparagus spears by gently bending them near the base until they snap. The lower portion can be composted. Place the spears in a roasting tray with the olive oil, sliced spring onions, sliced garlic, sea salt and chilli flakes. Toss together to coat everything in the oil.
2. Place the tray in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then remove and sprinkle over the almonds. Place back in the oven for a further 3-4 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender and the flaked almonds have started to colour. Stir in the lemon juice and herbs.
3. Divide the asparagus between plates, drizzling over any juices from the roasting tray.