To celebrate Organic September in style, let me take you on a tour of one of Arla’s free range organic dairy farms and share with you the recipe for one of my favourite French desserts: Crème Brûlée.
First things first…
What on earth is Organic September?
“Organic September is a month-long campaign designed to raise the profile of organic in the UK and shine a light on the amazing organic farmers, producers and brands who work hard to produce food as it should be.” The Soil Association
What does ‘organic’ actually mean? Is it just another fad?
There are so many logos and labels on food these days: Organic? Fairtrade? Free range? Red Tractor? Origin of the food? Date? Price?
All food that receives the organic certification meets strict standards farmers and food manufacturers must follow. Choosing organic means you are opting for products that have been produced to a high animal welfare and environmental standard. Preservatives, artificial colours and genetically modified ingredients are all banned under the organic accreditation.
In a nutshell, it’s food you can trust! For more information, check the Soil Association’s website.
Is organic food worth the money?
If you are not too sure whether organic food is worth it, here are a few reasons why I choose organic wherever possible.
Problem #1 – Taste
Organic fruit and veg might not look as perfect as their non-organic counterparts, but they DO taste a lot better. Go on, have a bite of a raw organic carrot or baby tomato if you don’t believe me!
Problem #2 – Shall we have poison for dinner, darling?
Think I’m a tad extreme for using the word ‘poison’ to describe chemicals and pesticides sprayed all over our food? At the risk of sounding brutal, what else would you call insecticide, herbicide and fungicide? The ‘cide’ brothers? The latin meaning of cide ranges between “killer” and “act of killing…”
I just stumbled upon this list of fruit and vegetables that are most likely to contain more than one pesticide residue (source: Organix):
• Pre-packed salads
• Spring greens
Food for thought, huh?
Problem #3 – My children’s Children
Organic practices focus on working with nature, rather than against it. Instead of focusing on always being able to eat anything anytime I want (cherries in December, anyone?), I would rather the food industry encouraged more people to eat more local, more in season and definitely more organic produce for a more sustainable approach that would guarantee future generations wholesome food.
Problem #4 – Hormones & Antibiotics in meat: yum (not!)
Livestock raised following organic practices are not pumped up with antibiotics but just treated when needed. I would rather eat less meat and make it go further, but buy free range, organic meat.
A Day at Cockhaise Farm
After a rather tedious drive half way round the busy and exhaust-scented M25, followed by a short straight line on the M23, I left the motorway and stepped into another dimension, or so it seemed. Gone were the endless stretches of tarmac, the traffic jams and gas emissions. The scene before my eyes was a stark contrast to the start of my journey: narrow country lanes, cattle grazing in fields, farm after farm, tractors on the road and dainty villages seemed to be the norm in West Sussex.
Dan, a passionate 3rd generation dairy farmer, took us round his farm with his dad. We started by spending an hour or so in a field, surrounded by calves. I absolutely loved getting close to the young females, watching them graze, drink and run.
Dan then explained what benefits they get from being part of a farmer-owned cooperative like Arla. As one of the 84 organic farmers who own Arla, Dan is proud of the milk his cows produce.
Not one drop is wasted: it is all taken by Arla, even if supply is higher than expected, which guarantees no unnecessary waste ever.
As Dan pointed out, milk is a 2-second choice. You get to the milk aisle in the supermarket, grab a bottle, check the date and move on. This is why Arla decided to rename its milk Arla ‘Organic Free Range Milk’ this month. Knowing that Arla milk is not only organic but also free range quite simply makes it clearer for shoppers. It gives them reassurance that the cows graze outside as much as the weather allows them to.
Cows are comfortable between 5-15 degrees and at Cockhaise Farm, they spend an average of 200 days a year outside. They graze on grass and clover that is grown using bees and wildlife-friendly methods with no artificial fertilisers or herbicides. The cows on the farm have space to graze and move around more. It is obvious from the calm and happy atmosphere at the farm that the cows’ welfare is top of Dan’s agenda. The highlight of the day for me was to see a newborn calk take its first steps.
The cows get milked twice a day, at 5.30 am and 3 pm. The job is simple, nice and comfortable. There is space for 20 cows and they like being on the rubber mats and each row of cows takes about 7 minutes. It takes a couple of hours for one person to milk 280 cows and it is always done with the radio on. Both the cow and the farmer love it!
If you want an insight into the lives of farmers and food producers dedicated to making better, healthier, and safer food, check Indie Farmer, a magazine about farming, food and culture.
After a fab morning at the farm, we were all getting peckish, and we weren’t disappointed by what was awaiting in a barn: we had our own local chef doing a cooking demonstration for us: Sussex Smokey Scotch Eggs and Vanilla Crème Brûlée. We did eat every last bit as soon as the demonstration was over and it was divine!
With no further ado, here is my own crème brûlée recipe.
Crème Brûlée Recipe
- 150 ml full fat double cream
- 100 ml full fat free range organic milk
- 50 g caster sugar
- 3 egg yolks medium organic free range eggs
- 1 Madagascan vanilla pod
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- Slice the vanilla pod in two. Scrape approximately half of the seeds into a large bowl and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 160ºC (Gas Mark 3 / 320ºF).
- Warm the cream, milk and vanilla pod together in a small saucepan over a low heat. Take off the heat, cover and leave to infuse.
- Add the egg yolks and caster sugar to the vanilla seeds and beat until you get a pale, fluffy mixture.
- Slowly whisk the warm milk and cream into the egg mixture.
- Pour into four shallow jars or ramequins, and place those in a roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the roasting tin and around the ramequins (or jars), being careful not to splash water into your crèmes brûlées. The water should reach about halfway up the sides of the ramekins/jars. Bake for 30 minutes. When cooked, crème brûlée should be wobbly like flan or jelly.
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool at room temperature, then place in the fridge for at least four hours.
- Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving. When you are ready to serve, sprinkle with brown sugar and brûlée with a blowtorch.
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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by @ArlaFoodsUK but all opinions and photos are my own. For more information, click here.