Life Food & Drink

Friday 24 March 2017

Healthy eating: Susan Jane White says buy Irish and buy organic

Buy Irish and buy organic, says Susan Jane White, and fuel your bodies and taste buds with this peppery salad

As its name suggests, rocket is a fiery addition to any supper without burning your buds. Also sold as arugula, I prefer the name that sounds like it's going to take you to another planet.

Lazy teenagers will benefit from rocket's rich source of iron and vitamin C. Iron is needed to transport oxygen around the blood -- it's vital for energy ignition and plotting the next night out. Vitamin C is crucial to the proper absorption of iron, and in the fight against acne.

There is a significant difference between organic rocket and inorganic rocket, the latter being a muted relative. Pat Thomas ascribes this gulf in taste to the overuse of agrichemicals during its growth, routine radiation to extend its shelf life, and a chlorine treatment "20 times more concentrated than in the average swimming pool" (What's in this Stuff?, Rodale International).

With National Organic Week starting tomorrow, I dare you to challenge your taste buds and weekly menus. But don't just confine your task to rocket. Pick up some organic tomatoes from Wicklow farmer Marc Michel, available nationwide, and compare them to the inorganic chaps from Spain and Holland. The first will be explosively sweet, while the latter often feels like you've sunk your teeth into someone else's soggy Kleenex.

For any Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall types, www.brownenvelopeseeds.com arranges for organic seeds to be posted straight to your door. Think The Good Life with Tom and Barbara. Lazier urbanites might prefer windowsill farming with a Biosnacky sprouting germinator, available from health-food stores, or why not start a nifty balcony allotment? Check out www.quickcrop.ie

Meanwhile, check out your nearest Mecca of artisan cheeses, breads and locally reared meat on Bord Bia's website. They have a groovy one-click menu on all organic markets in Ireland, and information on what's happening during National Organic Week.

Irish Parmesan and Rocket Salad

It's not necessary to frighten your bank balance by buying a large chunk of cheese for this recipe. Listed below are particularly strong-flavoured cheeses that go a long way, finely shaved. They almost taste illicit, they're that good.

You'll find that farmer's markets and specialist cheesemongers offer tastings -- and history -- before you decide to buy their produce. Seems like a good deal to me, especially when some chain stores only provide rows of packets, resulting in Russian roulette for your wallet.

Remember that every penny you spend supports someone. Is that going to be a multinational supermarket? A fancy US conglomerate? Massive greenhouses in Holland? Or your neighbours from a family-run Irish business?

You will need:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon cider balsamic vinegar

2 handfuls organic rocket

Shavings of aged Mossfield gouda from Co Offaly, or Cratloe sheep's cheese from Co Clare, or West Cork's Desmond cheese

With a fork, whisk together the olive oil and the cider balsamic vinegar. Tumble into the rocket just before serving. Using a potato peeler, shave bits of your chosen cheese over the salad, and give the salad a last gentle turn with clean hands. Implements can bruise the leaves and cause them to wilt, so always use your hands when preparing salads.

Spankingly good alongside a tray of roasted veg or air-dried Connemara Hill lamb from McGeough's of Oughterard.

L

www.susanjanewhite.com

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