The hungry gap, vegan haggis, and cast iron cookware

I heard a new word recently – well, two words – hungry gap. It has come, once again, into popular parlance thanks to Brexit. Britain imports more food than it produces and there are fears that without a trade deal on 29th March 2019, Britain will run low on food. Before Britain became a net importer of food, the period in late winter to early spring was called the hungry gap. Crops aren’t yet growing at this time of year and most of the winter stores have been depleted by then, leaving very little to eat. But now Britain imports so much and you can get whatever you want, whenever you want in supermarkets here … that is, until Brexit. I’ve read reports of people stockpiling food. We haven’t been doing that. Perhaps we should?

We’ve created a bit of a tradition in our home of having vegan haggis every Sunday with a vegan whisky sauce. It’s so good. This was dinner tonight.

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For dessert we had a clootie dumpling which we forgot to eat for Hogmanay. A clootie dumpling is a traditional Scottish dessert, similar to a fruit pudding. Cloot is the Scots word for cloth and it’s in this cloth that the fruit pudding is boiled. Traditionally they are made with animal suet – the fat found around organs in the body – but the one we ate was made with sunflower oil instead. It is a bit like a cake and was really delicious.

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I made some custard to go with the pudding. The custard saucepan in this photo is cast iron and British made by Netherton Foundry.

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Cast iron cookware is a good source of iron. We have had a cast iron frying pan for many years but I don’t fry very often and it isn’t used much. Mostly I cook with a casserole dish or saucepan so I replaced my stainless steel pot with a cast iron one and plan to get a cast iron casserole dish too.

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It’s a beautiful saucepan. Cast iron cookware is seasoned with oil and not meant to be washed with soap. Instead it is rinsed and dried.

Cooking with iron to reduce iron-deficiency anaemia inspired a Canadian scientist – Christopher Charles – to develop the lucky fish. He visited Cambodia in 2008 and was struck by the level of anaemia in the population. He developed the lucky fish which is a small iron ingot in the shape of a fish – apparently the fish is a symbol of luck for Cambodians. The fish is put into pots during cooking and releases much-needed iron into the food. The iron fish were successful but only for those cases of anaemia caused by iron deficiency. Anaemia can be caused by other things and in Cambodia there were genetic factors which the iron fish could not solve.