If you believe that cows belong in fields, ‘free range’ milk will give you hope | Joanna Blythman

Asda’s plan to stock milk with the Pasture Promise logo, from herds that have spent at least six months outdoors, is good news for consumers and farmersWhat will people make of Asda’s newly launched line of “free range” milk? Some might not be entirely clear why it sells at a premium price of £1.50 for two litres and 90p for one litre. After all, on old MacDonald’s bucolic farm the cows grazed contentedly on verdant fields.If you’re unfamiliar with the workings of the modern dairy industry and take at face value the nursery rhyme marketing images for standard milk, you can be forgiven for believing that all milk is from free-range cows. It once was; now it isn’t. (Indeed, there are currently no laws in place to define free-range milk production.) These days it is estimated that up to 20% of dairy cows in the UK are zero-grazed, that is, permanently housed indoors for the entirety of their lives. Continue...

The 10-a-day diet tested: ‘I feel like a sentient composter’

New research suggests that we ought to be eating 10 portions of fruit and veg a day. Stuart Heritage plies himself with the good stuff, and Guardian cook Felicity Cloake judges his effortsLike everyone else in the world, my blood ran cold when I heard that we are now expected to eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. That is double the previous recommended amount, and even that required too much effort for my liking. Oh, sure, the effects of 10 a day sound miraculous – researchers claim that it would decrease our chance of heart disease by 24%, stroke by 33% and cancer by 13% – but it sounds a bit much, doesn’t it?Perhaps not. “We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death. Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better,” said Imperial College’s Dr Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research. Continue...

What does ‘free-range’ actually mean? It’s complicated

Asda is launching a new range of ethically produced milk – but the ‘free-range’ label, also found on eggs and meat, can be confusingAttempting to buy food that is ethical is not only expensive, it’s also confusing, thanks to a wide array of labels that promise varying degrees of animal welfare, and a lack of consistent regulations when it comes to calling a product “free range”. Asda is boosting its eco credentials with the introduction a “Pasture Promise” label, on free-range milk, taken from cows that have been grazed outside for a guaranteed minimum of 180 days a year. So what does free range actually mean? Unsurprisingly, it’s complicated. Continue...

Rachel Roddy’s recipe for minestrone soup with regional variations | A kitchen in Rome

Minestrone is a moveable feast in Italy, varying from one region to the next. One thing’s a constant, though: it’s a chorus of vegetables, cooked slowly over a low flameYou probably don’t need a whole tin of plum tomatoes for today’s recipe: half will do. You might be tempted to put them all in, reasoning that you are making a big panful, and you don’t want another half tin of something hanging around the fridge, being pushed further and further in until it freezes to the back wall. I mention this as I recently tipped a whole tin in. I am suggesting you don’t, as it tips the tomatoes from being collaborative to shouty. The minestrone was tasty and satisfying, but my every mouthful was accompanied by the same nag I have when I wish I hadn’t said something. Why did I do that?In Italian, the suffix -one denotes “big”. So culo (bottom) becomes culone, a big bottom; naso (nose) becomes nasone, a big nose; minestra (soup, of course) becomes minestrone, a big soup. Minestrone, like minestra, comes from the word ministrare, which means to administer, or distribute, in this case a substantial soup from the pot to many plates, a convivial action that unites us in an everyday way. Continue...

Nigel Slater’s leek, potato and mackerel

Mackerel served with a velvety soupTrim 4 young leeks, discarding the toughest part of the green and slice them into 3cm rounds. Wash thoroughly under running water to remove grit. Put the sliced leeks in a large pot together with 30g of butter and 3 tbsp of chicken or vegetable stock. Place a piece of baking parchment or greaseproof paper over the top of the leeks, pushing it down into the pan so it touches them. Place a lid on top and cook over a moderate heat for 5 minutes till the leeks have softened. Continue...