Ever since I first encountered Peelham Farm at the Stockbridge Market I’ve been wanting to sample their award-winning organic and free range products. (http://www.peelham.co.uk/)
What I really like about this particular producer, aside from being certified organic and free-range, is the transparency of their farming methods. Now I don’t mean to be preachy, but I feel that this needs to be emphasized. It is characteristic for factory farms that they are veiled in secrecy – as a consumer you are generally not allowed to have a look inside (even if you ask nicely!). This is very convenient for the factory farm industry, as they can treat the animals however they want without having the public gaze and judgment upon them. The footage that does make its way from inside factory farms, usually provided by desperate factory workers, is alarming – typically material that exhibits acts of severe animal cruelty. Behind closed doors, all sorts of things can (and do) take place without our knowing. This is why it makes me so happy to see the constant stream of raw video footage uploaded by Peelham Farm on their Facebook page. I see pigs roaming outside grunting happily, I see them cuddling up together at night like pigs are naturally inclined to do. To my eyes, these are happy pigs. (see for yourself here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=739657512725992&set=vb.140000452691704&type=2&theater)
Seeing these videos makes me feel assured that these animals are being treated the way I would want them to be treated. I’m a big supporter of family farms; they are the radical alternative to the factory farm industry. And if you are not convinced by arguments relating to animal welfare, there are significant environmental and health arguments in favour of family farms. And of course there is the matter of taste. Animals that have been treated well during their life simply taste better. It’s a bold statement, but I dare put it forward.
Still, as much as I like family farms, I do sometimes buy factory farmed meat because it is so convenient. We still have a long way to go before family farmed meat is as readily available as the factory farmed product.
Ok, end of sermon. Let’s turn to lighter meditations. At the moment I see parsnip-apple everywhere, in food magazines, on the daily specials boards in cafés. Parsnip-apple soup is the thing. But I’m not keen on the dull beige look of a parsnip-apple soup, so I wanted to try something different. I love baked apples, and a potato mash is so much more tasty when it is enriched with the roots of the season. Parsnip and carrot was what I put in, but you could also use sunchokes, swedes, or parsley roots (though I’ve never come by the latter in the UK?).
Coupled with the delicious pork-sage sausages from Peelham Farm, this makes a hearty end-of-winter feast to help you endure those last cold days (let’s hope!) before spring brings luscious baby veg and renewed vitality to our bodies and minds.
4 pork sausages (free-range, please!)
3-4 sweet apples
1 red onion
a few sprigs of rosemary
1 teaspoon sugar
For the mash:
3-4 medium potatoes
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
a knob of butter
a squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius. Peel the roots and cut into cubes. Peel the garlic clove but leave it whole.
2. Cut the apples and onion into wedges, transfer to an ovenproof dish and toss with olive oil and a teaspoon of sugar. Put in the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes, until they look wrinkled and starting to caramelise, stirring from time to time.
3. While the apples are roasting, boil the roots and the garlic in a pot of salted water for about 15 minutes, or until the roots are completely soft and tender. Drain the water and leave the pot to stand for 5 minutes, allowing the roots to dry. Then mash them with olive oil and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste, put the lid back on and keep warm on a very low heat.
4. Now fry the sausages in a tablespoon of olive oil. Serve with mash and baked apples.