Friday, 16 December 2011

Oxtail Stew and a Winter Challenge

UPDATE: I'm taking part in a blog challenge this year : The 5th Annual The Dark Days Challenge, which is all about local cooking. I noticed that I'd been pretty slack with eating local lately, so what better motivation than joining a blog challenge?! :D Every week I'll try and post one meal made mostly (or entirely) with local ingredients. I've started a little late because when I signed up I was put in the Lower New England/Mid Atlantic group (though I live in England, UK!) so was confused about whether I could take part but apparently I can, yay! I just happen to be the only English participant hehe. But no worries, I look forward to showcasing the wonderful local food England has to offer! :D. My first local meal is my oxtail stew:

Mmmmmm....Oxtail stew....(*cue Homer-Simpson-like drooling)

This has got to be one of my all time favourite foods/meals. You just can't beat oxtail! It's rich, tender, melt-in-the-mouth, gelatinous, meaty...deliciousness.

Technically it's a 'winter-dish' ; warm, comforting, perfect to dig into on a cold night. But I even make it in Summer. Call me crazy, but yeah, I have the oven on the whole day during Summer. Seriously, it's worth it!!

So, this is really simple to make (no recipe required per se), and involves simply chucking a bunch of stuff in a casserole dish (a Le Creuset  is my favourite, but use a crock-pot or any other dish suitable for stews), and filling it with a mixture of water and red wine.

I usually make it by separating the parts of one whole oxtail, marinating it in a few tsp of turmeric powder for a few hours (or just put the turmeric directly in the liquid), then covering with water, a 1/4 bottle of red wine, and some crushed rosemary. Bring it the boil then whack it in the oven for 3 hours. Then add some chopped celeriac or swede, greens (kale and chard are my fave), brussels sprouts or any other seasonal veg that I like, and maybe a few cloves of garlic if I'm in a garlicky mood. Back in the oven for two more hours or until tender. Done. The only thing to do next is tuck in with a fork and spoon for the delicious broth, and don't feel too bad about eating the entire oxtail in one evening  :)

My local food sources
Grassfed Oxtail - Wild beef (from Borough market)
Kale and chard - Wild country organics (from Notting Hill farmers market)
Swede and brussells sprouts- Ted's veg (Notting hill farmers market)

I'm submitting this to Fight back Fridays and Dark Days Challenge

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I stumbled across this picture a few days ago. It made me laugh. But at the same time it  inspired me to write about frankenfoods (merely the sight of the word Monsanto stirs up some anger inside me that inspires me to spread the word about how evil they are... haha) 
Ok, so most people have probably heard about GMO foods but don't know too much about them. Genetically modified foods are foods where the DNA has been manually modified - usually a gene is added - in order to give the plant new traits that it wouldn't have in nature. It's a step beyond selective breeding, with  possibly disastrous consequences.

The safety of GMO foods is unknown. There is lots of stuff on the internet about the hazards of GMOS and I'm not sure if ALL of it is true, but I'd rather be on the safe side. Messing with nature never turns out to be good. And anyway, many 'studies' that people quote in order to argue that they are harmless are either seriously flawed or funded by the very companies that are screwing up our food (Monsanto). 

To give you an idea of the lengths such companies go, they genetically engineered crops like corn, soy and cotton, whereby the only herbicide that could be used on them was Roundup (made by, you guessed it...Mon-fucking-santo!). So they convinced farmers that these spankin' new seeds would have higher yields and reduce labour costs and basically transform their lives. But then the farmers had to buy all these Roundup chemicals in addition to the seeds. Furthermore, they had to buy new seeds every year. And what happened? The crops failed. And number upon number of farmers committed suicide.

Oh yeah,  then there was that other story about two fox news journalists who did a research piece on Bovine growth hormone. When Monsanto found out about it they tried to make the journalists change the story, but when they refused to lie, Monsanto pressured Fox to fire them. Friggin' insane huh? Read here for more details. These money obsessed companies should NOT be allowed to mess around with my food. With anyone's food.

That isn't the only problem of GMO crops. Not only have they failed in their promise to 'feed the starving' and ensure a more stable food supply, there's evidence that they may be dire consequences to health of animals and ecosystems. Here's just a few..
-One study  on genetically modified peas had to be abandoned after it caused lung damage in mice, while other studies have shown GM foods cause organ failure in mice.
-GMO crops can increase allergic reactions, as allergenic proteins from one food could be transferred to other foods
-Genetically engineered rBGh given to cows in the US to increase milk yields also increases infection and risk of birth defects in cows. The effect on humans is likely to be increased cancer risk as the milk also has increased levels of IGF-1 which may increase cancer in humans
-Messing around with genes and plants could create superweeds
- There's evidence that genes from GMO foods might transfer to gut bacteria 

And the list goes on...

The scary thing is, GMO foods are now pretty widespread, especially in the US. It is said that about 70% of foods in the grocery store contain GMO foods. That shocks me. I am lucky to live in Europe where consumer opposition has meant that GMO foods are banned. However there are still some examples (although more regulated than in the US) of GMO crop growing in Europe, especially Spain. Furthermore there is widespread feeding of GMO crops (like soy) to animals, which are then eaten by humans. This is one of the reasons why I choose to buy organic food as much as possible; the organic label guarantees that there are no genetically modified organisms involved in any part of the food's production.
But even then, there's the risk of cross pollination of GM crops with non GM crops, which will be more likely if GMO crops become more widespread.  It's sad that governments have allowed this to be unleashed on the world without first strictly testing that they are safe. 
But hopefully as more people become aware of what is going on behind closed doors, we can put a stop to this madness! 

The institute of responsible technology has lots of info, and if you want to know more about how you can avoid GMOs check this guide out.

This post is part of Fight Back Friday