It’s very difficult to escape the ongoing discussion about the predicted effects of the EU referendum. With so much speculation, it’s often hard to sort expert opinion from conjecture or politically motivated speculation. Regardless of one’s predisposition, it must be said that the food market has gone relatively unexplored in the media frenzy, particularly for such a staple industry. In a step towards addressing this apparent lack of coverage, the Kindling Trust, Manchester’s resident sustainability champion, co-hosted an event with the Food Ethics Council (FEC) to explore the implications of the impending vote on our food system.

The event was held in the Bridge 5 Mill in Ancoats, Manchester’s centre for sustainable living, and drew a rather large crowd for a light afternoon discussion of agricultural policy and potential EU reform. The event was chaired by the FEC’s Executive Director Dan Crossley and its panel of speakers included: Steve Webster, agricultural economist of Delta Innovation; Anne Selby, CEO of Lancashire Wildlife Trust; Charlie Clutterbuck, Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University; and Pete Ritchie, Executive Director at Nourish Scotland.

The discussion varied from animal welfare and the positive effect the UK has on EU policy, right through to GM crops and the relative support from UK policy when compared to the EU. There was a balanced discussion, with the majority of speakers urging caution towards the Brexit camp, particularly when talking about the apparent deficit from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This is of course alluding to the £6 billion a year put towards the EU’s CAP with only £3 billion in subsidies seen in return. It’s a fact often quoted by members of the Brexit camp, but one that relies on a post-Brexit scenario in which the UK government would make a previously unseen investment towards agricultural subsides.

Another previously undiscussed trail of thought said that the UK imposed many of the unsustainable ‘red tape’ policies on the EU, and in fact it was in the member states’ interest for a Brexit event. It’s a rather far-reaching yet narrow view on the UK’s membership, but one that carries a fresh insight into how the relationship operates.

Another comment, when addressing the argument that the UK government couldn’t be trusted to re-invest the £18 billion ‘savings’ into the appropriate industries, even went as far as saying that the “strong British people” wouldn’t stand for that. One could make the argument to say that we already have, though the gearing of public opinion to national government policy is not something that could or will be addressed in this article.

The take-home theme that arose from the discussion was that, despite the forthcoming decision, the UK and Manchester’s food system have their benefits and failures which need to be addressed, whether part of a larger entity or not. The first step is knowledge and understanding, with events like these a step in the right direction.

Charles M Veys

Photo courtesy of The Kindling Trust



50g dried porcini
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
100ml mushroom stock
50g butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
200g Arborio risotto rice
75ml dry vermouth
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
½ tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
½ tbsp fresh sage, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
300g wild mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
3 tbsp parmesan
Truffle oil
Sage leaves
Sea salt and white pepper

Take some time selecting the leaves you’ll be using. If you’re cooking for four or six people, make sure they’re all the same size. It’s little things like this that will take your home cooking to the next level. Have some kitchen paper ready and carefully but simply drop the leaves into some hot oil. Remove after around 20-30 seconds and drain immediately.

In a bowl, add the dried porcini and top with 150ml of boiling water. Cover with cling film and set aside for 20 minutes. Take two large saucepans, and in one add the stock and heat gently. In the other, add the butter and a splash of olive oil then soften the shallots. Next add the rice and coat evenly in the butter and oil, stirring continuously. Once coated, add in the vermouth and cook off the alcohol.

Now over a bowl (you need to reserve the liquid,) drain your dried porcini mushrooms though a J-cloth and a sieve. Chop them and set aside. Add the liquid to the rice, stirring all the time. Now add in a ladle of stock and stir until the rice is drying out. Add the herbs, garlic and all of the chopped mushrooms. Continue to add stock, a ladle at a time, until you are left with a sticky, creamy risotto that is just retaining a little bite. Now add the parmesan, serve and garnish with crispy sage and a drizzle of truffle oil. Season to taste.

Taken from At Home, the new cookbook by Manchester’s Simon Wood, Oldham Athletic’s Executive Chef.