A wild stir fry

Mid-May and early June is the perfect time to go foraging for a little wild food here in the Peak District of Derbyshire. While there are plenty of edible greens around as early as March, May allows us to spend more time outdoors, getting close to nature and understanding our local environment better. And what better way to understand your local environment than to eat directly from the land? Eating locally and seasonally is a central part of a macrobiotic diet, and here at the Macrobiotic Shop we can often be found sampling local wild food.

At the same time, we recognise that under the current agricultural model in the UK, there is a real shortage of local ingredients to make up a healthy plant-based diet. So we tend to be pragmatic rather than purist, combining the best of local wild food with high quality organic ingredients bought from reliable sources.

There is a real abundance of wild greens around right now. Even for those of us living in cities, green spaces such as parks, hedges or even ‘wasteland’ can provide some really great ingredients for a delicious meal, such as the Elderflower buds we turned into a simple buckwheat tempura, a wild garlic and chickpea farinata and the other greens we used for a great seitan stir fry.

Elderflower buds

We started off by wandering our nearby lanes and footpaths in search of edibles. Now is a good time of year to look for tender greens, such as Elderflower buds, nettle tips, dandelion leaves, goose grass, wild garlic and white dead nettle leaves. All of these are fairly common throughout the UK, so you should be able to do the same yourself fairly easily. Unlike domesticated plants, wild plants don’t feed fertilisers to grow or pesticides to keep them from being eaten by slugs and insects. As a result, the tastes can be a little strong at first to anyone new to wild foods. But it has only been in the past few hundred years that we have relied so heavily on domesticated species. In addition to the more flavourful tastes and interesting textures, wild foods contain an abundance of nutrients. Some, such as nettles and dandelions, contain surprising amounts of iron, protein and calcium while others, such as Elderflower buds, are a very good source of antioxidants and have strong healing powers.

Nettle tea

Any good foraging trip should be accompanied by a little outdoor cooking. On such trips we always take along our Kelly Kettle which allows us to make a nice brew of nettle tea or green tea, just using small scraps of wood for fuel. With the embers you can also heat a snack if you have happened to bring one along. In our case we just had a couple of Terrasana Hazelnut Waffles to balance out the nettle tea we had just made from leaves picked along the way.

Waffles

Unlike domesticated plants, wild ones don’t thrive very long out of the soil, so it’s important to cook and eat them quickly. This also encourages less waste, which is a little counter-intuitive, considering that we pay money for domesticated plants while wild ones can be had for free.

Kelly Kettle

Our meal started with a simple buckwheat and millet flour tempura, which is a fantastic way to cook the Elderflower buds we had harvested. The buds are a little like broccoli in texture, but with a more subtle flavour. This was followed by a simple stir fry consisting of Bertyn tamari seitan, carrots, onion, wild garlic, goose grass, dandelion, nettle tips and white dead nettle leaves. This was flavoured with a touch of maple syrup, mirin and shoyu. All of this was backed up with a wild garlic and chickpea farinata.

Stir fry

Take advantage of the long summer days to get out there and explore your own local environment while also enjoying some really wonderful local food in the meantime. For anyone interested in using wild food in macrobiotic cooking, why not contact us or come along to one of our cooking classes?

Koji

Koji is a fungus, which interestingly is only found in Japan. Koji has been extremely important in Japanese cuisine for centuries. The Japanese can now do wonders with it. Without koji, there would be no miso, no amazake, shoyu, tamari or sake! It starts fermentation processes and ensures at the same time that the often long fermentation processes can be controlled. Koji creates the unique umami flavour. It enriches, makes the flavour more powerful and creates an end product that is easy to digest.

Hatcho miso ferments in large 100-year-old cedar wood barrels. About 600 river stones are manually stacked on top in a pyramid shape.

HOW DOES KOJI FERMENTATION WORK?
Koji works best with warm temperatures and a high humidity. During the active fermentation, koji needs two to three days to develop explosively in the ingredients that come into contact with the koji (e.g. soy, rice or wheat). One gram of koji contains no fewer than 10 billion koji spores. This fast growth is necessary, as this way other moulds and bacteria have no chance to develop.

My vegan life: article in Vegan Food and Living magazine

Below is a copy of my article which appeared in the May edition of Vegan Food and Living magazine

My vegan life

It’s mid-January In Dufton, Cumbria, and I’m woken up by my alarm at 5am. I am sleeping in the back of our converted camper van, and today’s itinerary will include climbing Cross Fell in the half light of the morning, and hopefully reaching Hadrian’s Wall around midnight. I am about halfway through the Spine Race, a non-stop 268 mile footrace along the Pennine Way from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland. It’s called “Britain’s Most Brutal Race”, and it attracts experienced ultra runners from around the world. I am one of 120 competitors hoping just to survive running up to 60 miles per day through rain, mud, bog, hills and fog. Most runners get by 2-3 hours of sleep per night.

The question I get asked most often is why I would want to put myself through something like this. I have come to the realisation that if you ask the question you probably wouldn’t understand the answer anyway. So I don’t really try to explain things any more, instead I just focus on making the most the the experiences I have in these events.

I have been competing in long distance running and cycling events for close to 20 years now, including 11 marathons, road cycling at elite level for several years, taking a 3rd place in the national 24 hour time trial championships, completing the 2,200 mile Transcontinental Cycle Race from London to Istanbul twice, as well as finishing a number of ultra marathons and mountain races. But up until a couple of years ago I’d always followed a so-called ‘healthy diet’, i.e. some meat (mostly chicken or lean red meat), dairy products, eggs, cheese and lots of carbohydrates, the type of diet endurance athletes have been used to following for decades.

While I had always had the strength and determination to compete at a reasonable level, I’d sometimes found recovery difficult, especially with running. In the past I had been lucky to be able to run more than 20 or so miles without suffering for days afterwards, and I was prone to injury. Then in 2014 I was really fortunate to meet my partner Georgina while I was preparing for my first attempt at the Transcontinental Race. Georgina is a trained macrobiotic chef and food expert and she eventually convinced my to change my diet to a macrobiotic vegan one for increased endurance and better recovery. I admit I was fairly sceptical for some time, but as I gradually transitioned to a plant-based, wholefoods diet I found a number of remarkable things started to happen. Firstly, I was able to run up to 80 miles per week in training for weeks on end without any muscle soreness or injury. Also I was sleeping much better, my sinus issues cleared up and my mood swings went away. And so my horizons of what I thought were possible began to expand.

In February, 2016 I put my name down for the Spine Race, which is one of the toughest running races in the world, with only about 50% of entrants making it to the finish. Georgina was just as enthusiastic about driving along to support me in the van as I was in running the distance. Mentally I was prepared for the prospect of not making it to the end, as I knew fully well that at age 49 I was towards the upper end of the age spectrum, and that even if my mind was strong my body might just give up at some point. But Georgina’s steady stream of delicious meals, including miso soup, tempeh, sweet potato chips, aduki bean burgers, quinoa porridge, raw kimchi, brown rice and nut butters to take along the trail allowed me to finish strong. I was back in training a week later.

www.veganfoodandliving.com

The original article can be seen below (click to enlarge).