Saturday, 1 April 2017

April 2010: 'tub spreads' or butter?


"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants" (Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food.) "Eat food": not additives and chemicals. "Not too much" - ouch. "Mostly plants": yes!

Who remembers yummy butter? Low in fat and cholesterol, 'tub spreads' are the fashion, the word as ugly as, in my opinion, the taste. For 60 years we have been led to believe that cholesterol is the culprit behind rising rates of heart disease, and that vegetable oil and other substitutes will protect us. This could not be further from the truth. There is little evidence that cholesterol is a cause of atherosclerosis, heart disease or stroke. There is more evidence available that suggests cholesterol protects us from atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke. The real culprits, processed foods and refined sugar, moneyspinners of the food cartels, get off scot-free*.
Butter is a live food, dependent on the seasons and likely to go off. Marge consists of highly processed rancid vegetable oils, soy protein isolate and additives and lasts forever. Take your pick.

Direct: lettuce, rocket, radish, beet, broad beans, summer cabbage, calabrese, kohlrabi, parsnips, peas, spinach (beet), spring onions, chard, early carrots, autumn cauli, salsify, scorzonera, celeriac, celery. Late April: courgettes, french beans, pumpkins.
Plant: summer cabbage, onion sets, potatoes, summer cabbage.
Sow to transplant: leeks, brussels, sprouting broccoli, autumn cauli, kale, tomatoes (indoors).

Veg: purple sprouting broccoli, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, spinach, watercress, loose-leaved lettuce, radish, sorrel, spring greens.

Fish: do you like proper fish rather than the insipid stuff you find in a supermarket freezer and haven't got a fish shop nearby? I found a marvellous website, It is committed to local and sustainable sourcing, based in Cornwall, and supplies fresh or frozen seasonal fish anywhere in England, minimum order £25, postage £7.95.

From your local shop this month, try red gurnard or red mullet. Red mullet is delicate and good grilled, shallow-fried, baked or cooked. Gurnard is a firm white fish and quite sweet. One website says it's best cooked on the bone because the small bones are difficult to locate. Cook for 30 mins - to stuff, poach, or use in bouillabaise. Goes with strong flavours (ginger/lime, fennel/orange).


- packed with vitamins C, E and K, iron, potassium, fibre and calcium. Don't discard the stems: sliced thinly they are sweeter than the leaf. Add at end of a stir fry, use in soups or stews. Delicious sliced, steamed, drizzled with melted butter. Don't overcook.

Raw – just wash and eat in salad or with a dip such as hummus.
Side vegetable – wash and steam 3-5 minutes, until just softening. Serve immediately.
Stir fry (covered) for 3-5 minutes in sesame oil. Delicious with toasted sesame seeds.
Wash and slice finely (stems, heads and leaves) and add to rice for 2 minutes, or put in pasta sauce. Generally, cook as you would whole head broccoli/calabrese, but for slightly less time.

  • 2 large fillets white fish (230g each), 
  • 2 tbsp soy, 
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated, 
  • small knob ginger, grated, 
  • oil, 
  • 200g spring greens, roughly shredded. 

Toss the fish with soy, garlic and ginger. Heat oil, add fish and its marinade. Sizzle 3 mins each side, until the fish is almost cooked. Throw in greens and splash of water, simmer 5 mins until the greens have wilted. With rice or noodles.


Ramsons grow in the damp. As well as being delicious, this soup makes an excellent spring tonic - good for cleansing blood, liver and intestines. 
  • 100g ramsons, 
  • 40g butter, 
  • 40g flour, 
  • 1 sm. onion, 
  • 250ml milk, 
  • 1l stock, 
  • 50g cream cheese, 
  • 1 tbsp. crème fraîche. 
Cut ramsons into fine strips, saving one leaf per serving. Melt butter. Dice onion, sauté until just glassy, add ramsons, cook a few more mins. Sprinkle flour over it, cook and while stirring slowly add milk and stock, simmer for 10 mins. Puree if you like, season. Blend cream into soup. Stir in cheese. Briefly heat again but don't let simmer. Decorate with saved leaves: serve immediately.


2 small heads spring greens, 2-4 tblsp oil, 2 cloves garlic, soy.
Chop two whole greens cross-ways into strips of 1cm or less. Chop almost down to the stump: the stems and leaf ribs are sweetest. Peel and lightly crush garlic with the back of a knife: keeping the cloves whole avoids burning. 
Heat oil over high heat. Cook garlic for 20 secs, add greens before it browns. Cook 2-4 mins, turning constantly. Add soy, cook 15 more secs, serve. 

Buy local: punch in your postcode and a map shows you where to find good stuff. Also how to buy local online:
You can subscribe to 'Veg-box recipes' for whatever is in season at
The Slow Food movement supports biodiversity, taste education and food communities - find out more (and join!) at
Wildflowers are scarce, bumblebees declining. tells you which plants they like. They publish 'Gardening for Bumblebees' for only £3. 

Dr Malcolm Kendrick, The Great Cholesterol Con. 
Uffe Ravnskov, The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Cause Heart Disease. 

* For details see

Next month: fast bread.