Desertification is a major issue across the world. Fertile soil is disappearing up to 100 times faster than it should be, largely due to farming methods such as excessive ploughing and the use of synthetic fertilisers.
Regenerative agriculture is a type of farming that aims to reverse this process, and rebuild soil fertility. Without good soil, the nutrition of our food drops, as does the surrounding biodiversity, causing further environmental damage.
Regenerative farms are few and far between, however, and need our support. We can help reduce soil loss while eating conventional produce by diversifying the foods we eat, especially by eating more perennial crops, including tree fruits, asparagus, rhubarb and berries, which grow back year after year, building soil health.
Berries may be a perennial harvest, but they also perish very quickly. Keep them fresh by rinsing in a cup of water mixed with three tablespoons of vinegar, dry well and transfer to a container on top of a cloth. Even if your fruit does soften, though, don’t waste it: it’s still perfect for compote, crumble or pudding.
This is an all-time summer favourite of mine and so quick to make. I like to experiment with different seasonal fillings, using up whatever fruits I have available. Right now, berries are plentiful, but later in the summer, when apricots and peaches are in season, I like to add them, too. Summer pudding is best made the day before you want to eat it, so the bread has time to soak up the juices and set. As a wholefood chef, I use wholemeal sourdough to line the pudding basin, which works surprisingly well, adding both flavour and nutrition. To create a good seal, I recommend removing the crusts from the bread, but rather than throwing them away or looking for another use for them, I turn them through the berries, which has the added benefit of bulking out the filling. You’ll need a one-litre pudding basin for this.
6 slices stale bread
500g mixed summer fruits (eg, raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries, blackberries …)
½ lemon juiced
Clotted cream, to serve
Cut the crusts from the bread and cut them into small cubes. Put the berries, bread crusts, lemon juice, 50ml water and honey into a small pan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for two minutes.
Lay one slice of bread in the base of a one-litre pudding basin, then run four more up the sides, overlapping them and press the joins firmly together, to seal – a dab of water will help. Fill the basin with the fruits, then cover with the final slice of bread, sealing it against the “walls”. Put a small plate and heavy weight on top, and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, carefully turn the pudding out on to a plate and serve with plenty of cream.