This is the dish I brought on Tuesday for our first Low Carbon Cookbook get-together at the Greenhouse. First eaten on an island in the Cyclades, this is a staple that is grown and eaten all over the world. It's simple to cook, nourishing, tasty, good-looking and very flexible as a dish. You can have it as part of a main course, among salads, or as a starter with pitta or crackers. For supper, for lunch or as a meze. Warm or cold. Oh, and it takes about twenty minutes to cook. You don’t have to soak the pulse either.
Put 250g of yellow split-peas into a pan with cold water (two inches above the peas). When bubbling turn to simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until soft. Skim any scum that rises (usually in the first five minutes). Stir if necessary to prevent sticking. The peas will either collapse of their own accord or you can press them against the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon. The texture is up to you. Season with salt.
Turn into a bowl. Shake some good olive oil over the top and garnish with thin slices of red onion, roughly chopped parsley, black olives and halved hard boiled eggs and lots of black pepper. Serve warm.
These are some of the details we looked at during our exercise. Food connects and coheres almost all the Transition themes from Economics and Livelihoods to Zero Waste. It brings attention to the massive production system behind everything we eat and the number of questions that lie unanswered within every dish we consume. The exercise also highlights the number of relationships you engage in if you don’t shop in supermarkets.
Yellow split peas – organically grown in Canada. Produced by the co-operative Suma. Bought in local grocer’s Focus Organic in nearby market town. Can these be grown elsewhere? I asked myself. Yellow split peas grow all over the Med. What does the plant look like?
Packaging – light plastic. Suma have a detailed description of their new packaging policy on their website. This is one of the few items I use that go to landfill as light plastic snares up the local Council’s recycling machines. Some organic stores now have the American system of wholefood dispensing units which means you can reuse your own packaging. Transport - Cargo ship and truck to and from Suma (find out more about this).
Olive Oil – organically grown in Italy. Produced by Clearspring. Bought in Strangers’ Wholefood Buying Coop. Olive oil is the least produced of the oils we consume. The Cookbook will look at several of these including rape, hemp, evening primrose, sesame, sunflower. We’ll also be looking at how co-ops work and where they exist locally. Packaging – glass. Recycled. Transport – freight? More research needed here. Fairtrade – who picks the olives?
Red onions – organically and locally grown by Swallow Organics. Collected in a weekly veg box as part of an eighteen-mile shopping round car trip. Veg boxes are one of the smallest types of CSA and form one of the Transition Food Patterns. We’ll be listing schemes that operate around Norwich, including TN’s own CSA scheme at Postwick.
Eggs - from hens kept at a local allotment, sold on Sarah’s roadside stall (along with jams, flowers and organically grown veg). Transport is nil, but I know almost nothing about the hen’s feed. Typically hens are fed grain and scraps (70% grain grown in East Anglia is for chickens and pigs). Free range hens can forage for insects. Need to investigate!
Olives – grown and harvested by Zaytoun, a Palestinian fairtrade co-operative. Bought at the Peace Camp in the Forum. Zaytoun run an extraordinary scheme whereby people can help with the harvest that begins in October and stay with Palestinian families (the presence of foreigners in the orchards helps prevent land seizure and destruction of the ancient olive trees).
Parsley – home grown from a plant grown from seed by Erik in Hethersett. Swapped for a bag of Late Crop Cara seed potatoes at the TN Seedling Swap in May.
Salt – sea salt from Maldon, Essex. One of four traditional salt makers in Britain. Cardboard box recycled. Plastic inner bag to landfill. Salt and its harvesting will be one of the information boxes in the Cookbook.
Black pepper – organically grown in India. Produced by Infinity Foods, organic wholesaler in Brighton. Spices are one of the few things we cannot grow locally and have become almost indispensable in daily cooking (home-grown chili would be the best substitute for black pepper). However their lightness both in weight and use means less intensive long-haul than say, rice. Before oil – petroleum that is – and coal these goods would have come by sailing ship and been very much more expensive.
The Island’s Windmill, Cyclades, Greece (photo by Terry Harris). Naomi and Charlotte at Focus Organic, Halesworth - despite the rain! (photo by Mark Watson)