The Circus Gardener's Kitchen

seasonal vegetarian recipes with a side helping of food politics

spicy tofu and pea curry

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The UK held its most recent general election on 12 December 2019, just seven months ago. In its manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged that in post-Brexit trade talks it “would not compromise” on animal welfare or food standards.

That pledge was backed up by statements in the House of Commons. “We will not be importing chlorinated chicken. We will not be importing hormone-treated beef”, we were told just five months ago by the then environment secretary Theresa Villiers.

But now it is clear that we have been lied to: the UK government has bowed to US pressure in its desperation to secure a trade deal.

Despite all those fine promises and statements, post-Brexit Britain will be importing chlorinated chicken and far worse from the USA.

American chicken goes through the process of chlorination in order to treat the high levels of bacteria routinely present in the birds. Those bacteria levels result from much worse standards of hygiene and animal welfare than those here in the UK. Indeed, many common practices in US farming are currently banned here.

US farmers are permitted to feed fast growth hormones that are banned here to their beef cattle.

US pork, which would also form part of the trade deal, contains another growth-inducing drug called ractopamine, which is banned in over 150 countries, including all EU countries, Russia and China.

The Chief Economist of the USA’s Farm Bureau Federation has previously made clear that any US-UK trade deal would require the UK accepting previously banned US food imports, not only chicken, beef and pork but also unlabelled genetically modified foods and a vast array of other food products produced using chemicals that have long been banned in the UK.

It doesn’t take a genius to predict where this is going to take us.

If the government allows currently banned food products to be imported into the UK, then those products, with their lower standards, will be able to out-compete British food products that are required to be produced to a higher standard.
This is likely to result in one of two things: either British farmers and food producers will be put out of business, or the government will level the playing field by reducing the higher standards of food hygiene and animal welfare required of British producers.

Brexit was supposed to be about taking back control. Instead we have are about to hand over ultimate control of our food standards to the USA, without so much as a whimper.

This quick, easy and delicious curry is based on the Indian classic mattar paneer, with tofu replacing the traditional paneer cheese.

I used home-grown purple podded peas for the recipe, but it’s fine to use frozen peas if you don’t have access to fresh ones.

Serve this dish with rice as a meal on its own, or try it as an accompaniment to my chickpea curry.

spicy tofu and pea curry

1 onion, finely chopped
280 g organic firm tofu
150 g organic peas, fresh or frozen
2 red chillies, seeds in, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 cm piece ginger, peeled and chopped
1 can organic chopped tomatoes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
20 g fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp ground nut, or similar vegetable oil

1. Depending on the type of tofu you are using, you may need to squeeze out any excess moisture. Do this by wrapping the block of tofu in a clean tea towel or several layers of kitchen paper and placing it between two flat chopping boards or baking trays. Put weights carefully on top and leave for at least thirty minutes. Cut the pressed tofu into roughly 2 cm cubes.

2. Use a blender or a pestle and mortar to blend the garlic, chilli and ginger into a paste.

3. Heat the groundnut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. They will sizzle and start to brown. After thirty seconds add the onions and cook, stirring for five minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the tofu cubes, turmeric, sea salt and the chilli, garlic and ginger paste and stir carefully for another minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and 150 ml fresh water, followed by the peas. Stir and bring to a simmer.

4. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from the heat, stir in the coriander and serve.

Categories: dairy free, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian

Tags: , ,

18 replies

  1. I’m going to try this tonight – it looks delicious. I agree wholeheartedly with your opinion on the upcoming trade deal with the US but am astounded by the lack of publicity and opposition from the mainstream media and politicians of all parties, especially from rural/agricultural constituencies. I’m guessing COVID hides a multitude of inconvenient truths.

    • Thank you Miranda, I am sure you will enjoy this dish.
      I think you are right: the pandemic is providing a diversion while some under-the-radar activities related to Brexit are carried out. No doubt, the blame for the economic and social fallout from Brexit will also be laid conveniently at the door of the pandemic, Steve

  2. I clicked on for your fabulous recipe as I oft use tofu. I stayed on to read your story in absolute horror. Not that the probable facts were not feared. How many people understand the seriousness of this ? How many people care ? Is there anything which can be done at this late stage . . . the sad answer to all probably amounts to ‘no’. My heart cries for you and, rather selfishly, I do hope we can hold to our current legislation . . . .stay well . . .

    • Thank you Eha. I suspect most people are preoccupied with staying safe and well and so have not really noticed what has been happening on the Brexit front. Steve x

  3. I want to repost this but there is no repost ability on your blog only pinterest facebook and twitter or am I missing it somehow.

  4. As a citizen of the U.S., I offer you an apology. It’s bad enough that we are being poisoned, but knowing that our manufacturers and government are spreading our poison across the pond makes my heart ache. In our home, we grow some of our own produce, buy much more from local organic/transitional veg farmers & open-pasture animal farmers, and are seeking to support small, ancient grain farmers (very hard to do). It’s difficult and expensive, and the burden we carry is the result of almost two centuries of ravaging the land (and indigenous peoples from around the globe) to take without regard for consequence. As an individual, I cannot do enough to fix this broken system (nor can I solely fix the other ways in which our country is broken), but I won’t stop trying. Thank you for giving me yet another reason to stand up and speak out, with delicious tofu in my belly to keep me fueled for the fight!

    • Thank you Anne, for such insightful comments. It is expensive to eat “good” food, but only because the true and terrible cost – in terms of our health and environmental degradation – is not factored into its price. If more of your fellow Americans followed your lead, by growing food and supporting local, organic growers and producers and so on it would force the kind of change we need to see. Thank you for doing what you do, and keep up the good fight! Steve

  5. What a lovely recipe. I will definitely make this later on today.

    May I apologize to people and animals everywhere for our horrible farm practices in the U.S.? I don’t think many people on this side of the pond are aware of the chlorine and filth on what we produce. We can see from other events in the news that terrible things often won’t change until people rise up en mass. Ignorant people are letting the police and greedy animal exploiters get away with far too much.

    In the meantime, tofu and peas for the win!

    • Thank you Catherine. You have nothing to apologise for. The big corporations in the USA hold such power, not only over what does into the food products they make their profits from, but even how much information consumers are permitted to know about the contents of those products.
      So many politicians in the US are “sponsored” by these corporations that a political change seems a long way off. That means it has to be down to individuals to drive the change by changing what they purchase and consume. A critical mass of people doing this will eventually force that change. Steve

    • To follow up, this was indeed quite tasty and an easy thing to fix for supper. Thank you!

  6. Thanks for the tip about squeezing moisture out of tofu. Bummer about the import of chicken and other stuff from the US.

    • Thank you Peggy. The length of the process of squeezing out the moisture will depend on the type of firm tofu you use, but if you think of the tofu as a sponge then the aim is to encourage it to absorb as much of the lovely flavours as possible. Steve x

  7. Definitely a feast for the eyes first!

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