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As I write, the UK is less than a month away from leaving the European Union and yet we still have so little certainty about many aspects of our future outside the EU. The “oven ready Brexit” that the Prime Minister promised has – predictably – failed to materialise.
Given how dependent we are on other EU countries for the food to feed ourselves, the prospect of crashing out of the EU without a deal is a deeply worrying one. A longer-term concern is the preservation of our current high food standards.
The government has previously promised to preserve those standards but it has refused repeatedly to sign them into law, despite pressure from consumers and pressure groups, including a petition with over a million signatures.
And when you look at the fine detail of what has been promised – specifically, no lifting of the ban on chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef – it is simply not enough. It could easily allow many other lower-standard food products to be imported.
To avoid an embarrassing defeat on its Agriculture Bill, the government placated backbench MPs by agreeing that the UK’s Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) would be given the role of scrutinising and advising on future trade deals.
However, the TAC comprises people from the agricultural and business sectors. It does not include people with expertise in public health, environmental protection, animal welfare or consumer protection. Furthermore, as things stand, the government would still have the power to change food import rules without parliamentary approval. Indeed, some standards on the use of antibiotics in farming are due to be scrapped next month.
Promises by this government have been shown time and again to be meaningless. The high standards we have enjoyed as part of the EU are at risk of being lost or compromised for the political goal of securing new trade deals, potentially putting our health at risk.
If this causes you concern and you have not already signed the food standards petition, you can do so by clicking on this link.
These delicately layered thyme-infused stacks are crispy and utterly delicious.
roast potato and thyme stacks
500 g organic potatoes, scrubbed
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
½ tsp sea salt
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Lightly oil a muffin tray. Pour the oil into a large bowl. Add the sea salt and thyme leaves and whisk to combine.
2. Using a mandolin or very sharp knife, slice the potatoes very finely and place in the oil and thyme mixture. Gently toss together , making sure that the potato slices are each covered in oil.
3. Layer the coated potato slices into 12 stacks in the muffin tray. Place in the pre-heated oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until the top and sides are golden and crispy. Remove from the muffin tray with a tablespoon. If you wish, you can retune the stacks to the oven on a flat baking tray for a further five minutes to crisp up the sides still further. Either way, serve immediately, whilst hot and crispy.