DUP MLA Gregory Campbell stirred it up a bit when, at the start of November, he used mock Irish in the Stormont chamber; "Curry my yoghurt can coca coalyer", and went on to recreate the scene at the DUP ard fheis, sorry, party conference. This was interpreted as his mockery of "Go raibh maith agat, Ceann Comhairle" which can be translated as "thank you, Speaker" and is used by some on the nationalist side of the house. He succeeded in getting some hackles up anyway, which may have been his intention. So was it a cheap jibe (certainly not either a very good pidgin Irish attempt anyway or a good joke) or should those who do feel an attachment to Irish have laughed it off?
However, as some commentators have said, if it had decided to mock any other language – French, German, whatever – he might have been taken to task more on his own side. Campbell said he was pointing to the fact Sinn Féin MLAs tend to start or end with cúpla focail as gaeilge (a few words in Irish, not that Gregory Campbell used the Irish). If his intention was to get a rise from members of Ourselves Alone then he succeeded. However there could have been some clever ripostes to Campbell. One would be to refer to the onomatapoeiac origin of the Irish word for the English language, ‘bearla’. ‘Onomatapoeia’ is used to describe a word that sounds like what it represents, e.g. the word ‘hiss’. As I understand it, ‘bearla’ has the same origin as the word ‘barbarian’ (which is of Latin origin), foreign people who go ‘bla bla bla’ or ‘bar bar bar’ in some nonsense that you can’t understand. So just as ancient Romans speaking Latin thought people speaking other languages were going ‘bar bar bar’, so Irish speakers hearing English heard ‘bearla bearla bearla’. A little information like that might have stopped him in his tracks because clearly he wasn’t making too much sense in English either.
V & V (8): A rumble with a crumble
Continuing on with my own personal take on vegetarian and vegan cuisine, I come to one of the handiest dishes in the veggie repertoire, the vegetable crumble. While blending vegetables together is good, so is tasting individual veg – onions, carrots, cabbage, whatever. I would tend to do a ‘blend’ for a stir fry or for a vegetable crumble (that blend should vary if you do the dish regularly) which makes a good main dish though, depending on what you are putting in the topping, may not have the protein for a balanced meal. That can be provided by nuts or seeds in the crumble topping, by tofu or beans in the mixed veg, or by a separate helping of nuts, seeds or dhal.
Firstly, the topping for a savoury crumble is endlessly versatile. I usually use a blend of wholemeal flour, jumbo oats and wheatgerm. To this I would add seeds such as sunflower seeds or ground linseed which is great nutritionally. Ground linseed tends to be relatively expensive to buy but whole linseed seeds are pretty cheap; I grind them finely in a coffee grinder (which I also use for grinding spices) because they need ground if you are to get as much nutritional value as you can out of them. I would usually add some curry powder and/or individual spices, possibly some herbs, to the mix before adding oil and mixing by hand to make it ‘breadcrumb like’. For lacto-vegetarians you can add dried cheese to the dry mix, and/or grated cheese at the end. I would usually make the topping while the veg is cooking.
I use mainly ‘in season’ veg for the crumble; the basics could include onion, carrot, parsnip, and cauliflower but you can add any other veg you like (I would include broccoli and courgettes in season) with peppers, mushrooms (these last two added towards the end because they don’t need cooked so much). I usually also use chilli and garlic but sometimes one without the other but you can use other flavourings like horseradish. Making it diverse in terms of colour adds to the aesthetic appeal. I cut up the veg fairly small and sauté it in a heavy pot, for some of the time with the lid on, watching the heat and stirring regularly. You can also add things at the end like chopped, stoned olives, some chopped, reconstituted dried tomatoes, cooked butter beans, or cooked barley.
You don’t want to overcook the veg – it will do more in the oven - so 10 – 12 minutes is probably enough. Now, you need a sauce to go with the vegetables and this can be done by making a savoury white sauce which can be flavoured with herbs (e.g. parsley, fresh or dried) and black pepper, possibly salt or soya sauce. You can make it using a roux (oil and flour, I use wholemeal) and adding milk or soya milk, stirring constantly as you heat it to thicken. Or you can add cornflour, mixed in water, to your milk of whatever kind, again stirring constantly as you heat it. You could also use a tomato based sauce or whatever you fancy; if using passata for a tomato sauce you can thicken it a bit in a pot under a low heat. If you are stuck for time or ingredients you can also use a tin of condensed soup for the sauce. Whatever you use, it will thin quite a bit with the juices of the veg so your sauce can be quite thick to begin with.
Mix your sauce with your veg, and put on the topping and cook in the over until the top browns a bit, usually 20 – 25 minutes at gas mark 4 or 180°. If I am not doing it for a crowd, I would often make enough for two crumbles, and undercook the one that I am going to keep in the fridge to heat up and go with something else later in the week.
As indicated above, depending what is in your crumble (e.g. if there is no tofu or beans and not much in the way of seeds or nuts in the topping) you need to provide a good balance in the rest of the meal. But that is easy done. You can roast nuts or sunflower seeds separately, or use a dhal for protein. You can serve it with potatoes, nuts and other vegetables or a salad. Depending on your portion control the vegetable crumble can be the main item on the plate.
There are so many possibilities for combinations in this dish that it need rarely be the same as the last time – unless of course you want it to be so and can remember what you did previously!
Veggie eco heroes
OK, the title of this item is over the top and inappropriate, but when did that stop me? Just going into hyperbole mode. Support for eating much less meat – meaning in fact a much more vegetarian diet – came from an unlikely source recently; Chatham House think tank/institute in London (‘The Royal Institute of International Affairs’). See here
Amazingly, “Greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector are estimated to account for 14.5 per cent ofthe global total, more than direct emissions from the transport sector” whereas most people in the world think it is the other way around. The report say governments have done little on this matter because they are fearful of a backlash if they try to interfere with people’s diets. But “Recent analyses have shown that it is unlikely global temperature rises can be kept below twodegrees Celsius without a shift in global meat and dairy consumption.” If meat and dairy production grows at the rate it is projected to currently then agriculture could use up the world’s carbon budget in a few decades’ time which obviously makes any climate control efforts unfeasible.
Potentially good news in the report is that emerging big meat eating markets (China, Brazil etc) are more aware of human factors in climate change than other countries (e.g. Britain) and more willing therefore to make a change; “Consumers with a higher level of awareness were more likely to indicate willingness to reducetheir meat and dairy consumption for climate objectives. Closing the awareness gap is thereforelikely to be an important precondition for behaviour change.” Also important is emphasising the health and economic benefits (the lower cost) of eating less meat so there is a ‘pull’ as well as a ‘push’ factor in being more vegetarian.
This argument will of course run and run, and there have also been debates recently about how much methane is produced by ruminants and Ireland’s share. What it means for Ireland’s animal industries is another question; will some countries be allowed specialise in animal production for those who continue eating meat and dairy? That said, there is no reason Ireland could not produce a lot more vegetables but it depends what sort – home production of heat-loving vegetables may be more carbon intensive (certainly at the moment with dependence on carbon fuels) than transporting said veg to Ireland from a warmer country like Spain.
Doubtless there are some who will say nuts to changing their diet and don’t give a fig for issues of global warming or the fact there is already barley mushroom to grow enough food on the planet with a meat-eating diet. But those who have their finger on the pulse of what is necessary for humanity to survive on this planet in a reasonable fashion will be thinking about their p’s and q’s - potatoes and (s)quashes. That would certainly be a turnip for the books. And, given that we are into peace and nonviolence, remember – lettuce work for peas. [Enough corny jokes, let me out of here, I feel like doing a runner bean... – Ed]
Prosperity and austerity
A recent survey showed the North as more affluent than the Republic, contrary to many expectations, and rural areas of the Republic as suffering more, partly due to emigration/depopulation but also through higher unemployment rates. In recent years unemployment has been about twice the rate in the Republic as in the North and the North has had a very high number, relatively speaking, of public sector or state supported jobs (twice the proportion as in the Republic). Irish Times coverage of the story is here and the map itself is here. Interestingly, “The North also has a much more even spread of affluence right across the six counties, whereas well-off areas in the Republic are mostly confined to major cities and their commuter belts.” (Irish Times)
The one caveat to all this is that the survey was taken in 2011 and the economy in the Republic has recently started to turn the corner whereas the cuts are only starting to bite in Northern Ireland. So whether the pecking order has changed at all or will shortly change remains to be seen. My guess though is that rural areas of the Republic will continue to be relatively deprived as the emigration shuffle and shuttle has taken hold. How the cuts being implemented currently in Northern Ireland will affect it all also remains to be seen but, as usual, it is likely that the poor will be the ones that get screwed, wherever they happen to be.
- - - - - -
Well, there we go, nearly the end of another calendar year and the winter solstice beckons. I wish you a great break over the Christmas season to recharge the batteries and definitely, as I always wish you, a Preposterous New Year. – Billy.
is Billy King? A long, long time ago, in a more
innocent age (just talking about myself you understand),
there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train'
and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor
has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write
a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able
to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor
around with you).
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).