As part of her residency on the Pendle Hill peat restoration, environment artist Kerry Morrison is working with local chef Andy Dean to create the Pendle Peat Pie.
This culinary artist collaboration is an opportunity to engage with people across Pendle about the value of peat and peat restoration on Pendle Hill, opening up dialogue about cultural traditions and the landscape.
The idea arose from a personal curiosity Kerry had about food named after places, for example: Eccles cakes, Chorley cake, Dundee cake, Bakewell Tart, Shrewsbury biscuits, and so on. Could we raise awareness about the value of peat through creating a Pendle culinary treat with the potential to become synonymous with the area and moreover, peat restoration? And if so, what would this food look like and taste like?
They played around with ideas for sound, look, texture, story, and taste. They also discussed culture, specifically food culture within east Lancashire. All are equally important and all needed addressing if the Pendle food we were about to create was to reach out to the different communities living in the region. There is no point creating a new food if no one wants to try it or if it doesn’t fit with the regional palette.
A Savoury Pendle Peat Pie and a Sweet Pendle Peat Pud
The pie is a take on curry and chips. A pastry crust base filled with a brown lentil dhal (the peat) and chips (the coir logs). The pie is topped with a layer of miso jelly and spinach to represent water retention and new plant growth.
The pud is a rich dark chocolate pudding made with dark rye bread and seeds (representing seeds trapped and preserved in the peat layers) and sprinkled with pistachio Barfi (a Pakistani milk sweet). The pudding is served warm and when served, a rich chocolate sauce seeps out. Squidgy, dark, dense, anaerobic earth: Peat, with a sprinkle of new vegetative growth.
The Pendle Peat Pie and Pud are a fusion of traditional Lancashire and Pakistani tastes, representing the prominent demographics of the region.
The story of Peat as a recipe for a new regional dish
We often overlook the value of Peat. Healthy peat holds rainwater, which helps to prevent flooding in the valleys below. Healthy peat is a unique habitat for wildlife. Healthy peat is a carbon sink and holds more CO2 than a forest.
There are many issues connected to exposed peat, including loss of habitat for wildlife. Laid bare to the elements, rain is washing the bare peat away the wind is blowing the bare peat away. As this happens, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere – CO2: a greenhouse gas. CO2 escaping into the atmosphere exasperates climate change. Peat being washed away enters watercourses depositing peat particles that suffocate fish eggs, thus reducing the number of fishes in rives, for example, brown trout. As the peat disappears, so does its ability to hold water. Rainwater flows down the hill and in downpours can cause flash flooding.
The restoration process is currently underway on Pendle Hill. Large Coir logs (made from the outer hush fibres of the coconut) have been placed across the channels creating dams to trap peat silt as it flows downhill. In a short period of time, around a year, peat silt builds up behind the coir logs creating a new reformed layer or bed of peat. These smooth, flat, surfaces, the depth of a coir log, (50cm) are being replanted with cotton grass, mosses and heather – the peat’s blanket. The exposed peat hags have been flattened and spread out and replanted with cotton grass, mosses and heather. The bare peat, covered with a thin planting of cotton grass and a layer of heather brash cuttings – which contains seeds and mosses – is transformed from dark brown and exposed to shades of greens and browns formed by the new vegetation. The habitat is being restored.
The Pendle Peat Pie and Pud are currently being tasted and judged at events throughout Pendle, and the final product is set to go into production in Spring 2020, to be available throughout the Pendle Hill area.