Tuesday 3 July 2012

Low Carbon Cookbook - Peak Beans

But even if we cannot avert a crisis, we can prepare some portion of the populace for the aftermath. We can build community resilience. We can seed the public conversation with information that will undermine the inevitable, reflexive effort to blame economic unraveling on handy scapegoats. Also, the future will be better if we protect at least some species, some habitat, some wild places, some water, and some topsoil before the energy-led crash of the economy, so that we have an ecological basis for ongoing existence in the absence of cars, planes, iPads, and cheap, abundant fuel.

In short, things will go better for us if we resist denial rather than engaging in it. (Richard Heinberg - Peak Denial)
You might think this is a strange way to introduce a post about food. But in the Low Carbon Cookbook, food is not just a different way to toss your salad; it's the reworking of a diet in the face of ecological and economic change. No matter how much the media and politicians deny climate change and peak oil, future cooks are thinking ahead, reworking their larders, gaining some knowledge, learning to glean, preserve, bake and grow. We're prepping for the long term in our kitchens, knowing that the global industrial food system is highly unsustainable, unethical and unkind to man and beast. And that to use nearly 60 percent of the world's agricultural land for beef production that accounts for less than two percent of the world's calories is not the way forward.

So in the coming weeks, this slot will feature some of the themes we've been discussing in the course of the project, from simple and tasty bring-to-share dishes, to how to survive without a fridge, to discussions about the deeper and broader topics, such as land sovereignty or the effect of pesticides on our health.

And most of all we'll focus on the plants that sustain us, in mind, body and soul. Because no matter how hard it gets, our symbiotic relationship with the green vibrant world is what keeps us alive and happy. Plants are what many Transitioners have naturally in common, and many posts on this blog have focussed on their beauty, medicine and everyday gifts.

Last month at Sustainable Bungay's Green Drinks, Mark and I held a conversation about Plant Families. We focussed on five specific families and brought some wild and garden plants, so people could have a look at their signature leaves and flowers - the rose, mint, umbellifer, sunflower, and pea family. As I held up the jar full of pea flowers (from a neighbouring field), clover and broad bean, I realised we live in a country of legumes, those nitrogen-fixing fellows, that provide the world with such great staples. Beans are what we need to be eating instead of a meat and dairy-based diet, and learning to cultivate a taste for them.

"Josiah, would you like to say something about these beans?" I asked as I held up a familiar packet. So he set forth on the great saga of the East Anglian fava beans that everyone used to eat in England, until the New World provided other varieties and our diets changed to more exotic, everyday-a-feast day fare. Everyone was rivetted. It's paying attention to simple things, like beans, that brings you back to the land, that connects you with life and the history of the world, and compensates for the loss of any of the glamorous or cheap chemically-enhanced food we take for granted.

Today as a follow up on his original post on Great British Beans we're very happy to share Josiah's ace recipe for falafel, which we ate in the garden before a hard afternoon's work editing the Sustainable Bungay newsletter and manning a stall at the Bee Cause launch in Norwich. They were delicious served with a lettuce, rose petal and lemon balm salad and a minty yoghurt dip. Falafel is made throughout the Middle East (from fava, or chickpeas or both), and every street vendor has their secret recipe, which they normally keep to themselves. But, as they say, we live in extraordinary times . . .

Serves 4 makes 16 or 17
Preparation Time: 35 mins prep 5 mins cooking
500 g pre-soaked fava beans (that is to say after soaking the weight 500g)
Big bunch fresh coriander
10 mint leaves
3 pinches coarse salt
3 pinches fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 chili pepper, sliced (red)
zest from 1 or 2 lemons
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 red onion
8 mint leaves, chopped fine
350g yogurt
1/2 lemon, juice of
coarse salt
fresh ground black pepper

1) Combine beans with coarsely chopped herbs, chilli and onion. Add spices and pulse in food processor until fairly smooth (though not to a paste).
2) Roll ping pong ball sized patties from the mixture and refrigerate for 30 mins (not sure if the fridge bit is essential - but it's what I did and the falafel worked out OK...)
4) Stir together mint, yogurt, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
5) Heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in a pot to 375°F and drop patties into hot oil. Deep fry until dark golden brown. Drain briefly on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.
6) Serve falafel with yoghurt sauce and a lightly-dressed salad.

Yum! Makes a great lunch-to-go stuffed in pitta too.

For further info and other fava bean recipes, check out the Great British Beans website. Beans are also for sale in Norwich Market at Folland Organics.

Photos: Take Back the Flour, Anti-GM Protest Rothamsted from Interview with Raj Patel in STIR; Grade A choice?: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Meat (2012); falafel in Josiah's garden


  1. Fab post, Charlotte, I'd been wondering where to get some of these beans (with their beautiful label too!) so now I know, I'll head down to the market this week and experiment with some falafels!

  2. I just hulled a bucket of Broad Beans and there are plenty more to come. Things that were growing over the winter have done well as it was mild but the spring sown beans (Borlotti etc) have been set back by the strong winds and cool conditions. Hope that July warms up!

  3. Well, it certainly did today. Went down to the beach with the Dark Mountain Norwich crew and had a great swim, after a fortifying lunch of fava houmous and broad bean salad. Here comes summer. Long may it last!