Modern innovations and transport methods have made it possible to eat what we like; when we like. However, this approach has serious implications across the whole food industry and has resulted in a reliance on imported goods from across the world. Alexia Robinson founded Love British Food in 2002 after identifying that, although there were many British food initiatives, there was no unified flagship event to captivate the public’s attention. Love British Food is dedicated to promoting British food and encouraging individuals and businesses to make home produce their ‘go-to’ supplier. The first British Food Fortnight event was held in Autumn 2002 to coincide with the Harvest Festival, the traditional time for celebrating the abundance of food and crops. A growing annual event, British Food Fortnight (21st September - 6th October) has secured its spot in the culinary calendar as the biggest national celebration of British food.
A host of famous foodie faces have helped shine a spotlight on our brilliant British produce including: Michelin-starred founder of Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and president of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) Raymond Blanc OBE, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) Minette Batters, cookery writer Alex Hollywood and wellbeing campaigner Liz Earle MBE. Major institutions and public buildings such as Wembley Stadium, Harrods, Westminster Abbey and Ascot Race Course are just a handful of establishments that have added their support - alongside official sponsors Co-Op Food.
Why Back British?
- It helps to support the home economy - from the farmers and pickers right through to the shop assistants and owners.
- Seasonal eating is a big part of a sustainable diet which helps to protect the environment. Homegrown food tends to have a lower carbon footprint than imported produce as it has travelled less to get from the farms to the shops. It also helps support the farmers keep the beautiful British countryside thriving for future generations.
- Increased food security - last month Minnette Batters issued a plea for the Government to put the nation’s food security at the top of the political agenda as latest figures show the UK’s food self-sufficiency has stagnated. If the country only ate British food from the 1st of January, we would run out completely by the 7th of August. Batters stated: ‘British food production has been pulled into sharp focus in recent weeks with farmers across the country wrangling with the impacts of unprecedented dry and hot weather...we strongly believe that every British citizen should be entitled to a safe, traceable and high quality supply of British food that is produced to some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards in the world. The statistics show a concerning long-term decline in the UK’s self-sufficiency in food and there is a lot of potential for this to be reversed...if we maximise on the food that we can produce in the UK then that will deliver a whole host of economic, social and environmental benefits to the country.’
- Better for the budget - seasonal fruits and veggies tend to be cheaper if there is a glut. Don’t be afraid of buying lots of a particular produce; abundance offers the opportunity to get creative in the kitchen, try out new recipes and hone your culinary skills. For example, tomatoes can help you plan ahead for some super simple meals later in the year. Try making tomato sauce to keep in the freezer ready to add to some wonderful winter warmers (think sumptuous soups, spicy chillis and aromatic curries). You could also make chunky chutneys or relishes - perfect for sandwiches - or enjoy fresh in salads and salsas.
- Health Heroes - not only will your household budget reap the benefits of supporting seasonal, local food - it is well known that eating seasonally brings a whole host of health benefits too! Foods in season contain nutrients that our bodies require at particular times of year.
Having established the brilliant benefits of British Food, here is a round-up of some excellent plant-based ways to ‘Back British’...
Where to eat...
‘British Food Fortnight’ aims to encourage the hospitality industry to take a look at their current suppliers and see if they can ‘back British’ a bit more. One pub leading the way in sustainable (and delicious) supplies is the Kings Head in Wye. Since taking over the glorious Victorian coaching inn (which is also a luxurious B&B) in 2013, Mark and Scott have been on a mission to showcase the outstanding produce Kent has to offer. The dynamic duo are passionate about serving good food, made with quality ingredients, served in a warm, relaxed atmosphere...with the pair succeeding in establishing The Kings Head as a multi-award winning Gastro Pub.
The menu draws inspiration from across the British Isles; including both comforting classics and innovative new creations that really celebrate the Garden of England’s bounty. The talented team of chefs use only the very best local ingredients in creating a menu dictated by the seasons - if it is not grown in the land or found in the sea, it will not be on the menu. Mark and Scott revel in the fact that Kent is home to an abundance of fine farmers and producers and they take care to seek out the very best suppliers: veggies come from neighbours at ‘Ripple Farm Organics’ whilst ‘Perry Court Farm’ supply a delicious variety of fruit, meanwhile Wye-based ‘The Wooden Spoon’ preserving company supply handmade preserves from their converted Kentish Oast House. Staplehurst-based artisan deli supplier ‘Curd & Cure’ and Hawkhurst-based ‘Maws’ ensure only top quality kitchen ingredients are used.
The sumptuous seasonal menus offer something for everyone at any time of day; from Breakfast right through to Dinner (with bar snacks and lunches to keep you going!). Plant-based guests are more than welcome with a delicious ‘vegan breakfast’ on offer to start the day off on the right foot (think homemade bubble and squeak, vegan sausage, avocado…) and a host of dishes designed to easily be adapted for any diet. The main menu is full of irresistible vegan dishes including a spicy harissa hummus and flatbread ‘whilst you wait’ and a mouthwatering Willow Farm roasted round courgette with a butterbean, pepper, aubergine and tomato stew. Sunday Lunches also include a delicious Kingdom Oyster Mushroom and Lentil Wellington with a feast of fabulous trimmings. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy the festive season in this wonderful Wye gem with seasonal party menus and of course ‘The Big Day’ both including a host of seasonal delights (think ‘roasted Ripple Farm vegetable and pearl barley wellington with roasted red pepper and tomato sauce’ and an inspired ‘Kingdom roasted oyster mushroom and lentil pate with tomato and chilli chutney’). On the 25th vegans can look forward to a homemade ‘Willow Farm roasted artichoke soup with toasted chestnuts, bread and Kentish lemon oil’ followed by a showstopping ‘Willow Farm roasted crown prince pumpkin and chestnut pie with all the trimmings.’
The Kings Head really is the epitome of the ‘British Food Fortnight’ ethos - every trip is not just a tasty treat but a masterclass in celebrating seasonal, local food. For more information please visit: https://www.kingsheadwye.com/
What to drink - Bardsley England Fruit Juice
Fruit fans will simply love the brilliant ‘Bardsley England’ range. The 5th generation, family run, fruit farming business currently cultivate 1062 acres of breath-taking orchards across 16 sites in the Kent countryside. Each year they produce 9,100 tonnes of fruit including: apples, pears, plums and apricots (plus other seasonal stunners). They pride themselves on producing the finest fruit in the industry whilst passionately looking into ways to innovate and adapt their methods for the future (implementing everything from modern planting practices and variety clones to state of the art machinery and technology in the Packhouse). The beauty of the Packhouse (which runs alongside the farms) is that it allows them to store, grade, pack and distribute the majority of their fruit for consumption, before transforming the remaining ‘juice’ grade fruit into their famous, 100% fruit, ‘Bardsley England Fruit Juice’. With a single estate provenance, using only fruit that has been grown in their orchards, Bardsley England are able to bring the entire harvest to consumers through 1st class eating fruit and delicious pressed fruit juices. Fans of the Cherry and Almond Goupie will love the ‘Cherry’ or ‘Cherry and Apple’ juice, but if you prefer something more traditional, the amazing ‘Apple’ juice is the one for you (although the ‘Pear’ is not to be missed either). They also encourage the public to reconnect with nature and discover the provenance of their produce via their ‘Pick Your Own’ farm (think plump and juicy berries, succulent sweetcorn and proper pumpkins). Visitors can sample the delicious juices in the cafe - and munch their way through the fabulous fruit - before taking away the fruits of their labour to enjoy at home.
Bardsley England: Available to buy direct from their website or various restaurants and farm shops across the country. For more information please visit: https://www.bardsley-england.com/For Pick Your Own information please visit: https://www.felderland-pyo.co.uk/
What to buy - Rubies in the Rubble
Where to start with this gem (ho-ho!) of a company and the inspirational, trailblazing founder; Jenny Dawson-Costa. Driven by a desire to instigate change within the food industry and a passion to persuade the public that a sustainable business can be a successful business - Jenny set up Rubies in the Rubble in 2011 to tackle the shocking amount of surplus fruit and veg she found at the end of the day in markets. Right now ⅓ of all food produced is wasted; often because of imbalances in the supply chain or undesirable shapes, sizes or colours. We are in the midst of a food waste epidemic; up to 40% of crops never reach the shelves - with uneaten food contributing to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Jenny wanted to revolutionise the narrative around surplus food - reframing the perception of ‘rubbish’ to an appreciation of a precious resource. She began, alongside co-founder Alicia, by establishing relationships with farmers to gather as much surplus as possible. The humble misshapen, bruised and blemished ingredients were transformed into an innovative array of flavoursome relishes and chutneys. Over the years the range has grown to include a variety of condiments (the ‘banana ketchup’ is incredible - inspired by Carribean cuisine with a hint of ginger and chilli...a must with curries, roasted veggies or plant-based burgers). Last year they launched their first plant-based mayo using surplus chickpea water from hummus suppliers (who would otherwise flush it away). By sourcing surplus ingredients and feeding them back into the supply chain, Rubies in the Rubble save a whopping 53kg of CO2 emissions for every 100kg of mayonnaise produced (think of all the scrummy sandwiches enjoyed whilst helping the environment).
Their newly developed tomato ketchup is designed to rescue as much fruit as possible. Given that the leading branded ketchup is made using ⅓ water and sugar, the Rubies in the Rubble recipe relies on plump and juicy pears. Thus, their tasty tomato ketchup has 3 x the amount of fruit and 50% less refined sugar - all whilst saving 17.5kg of CO2 emissions for every 100 L of ketchup.
Check out their website for more information on their 100% vegan range - alongside a treasure trove of recipe inspiration with their delicious products and fascinating features on how to reduce food waste - the ‘pumpkin and sweetcorn fritters’ are a great vegan canape, light lunch or starter with the aquafaba mayo’. Creative cooks can try making their own ‘beetroot’, ‘avocado and spinach’ or ‘sweetcorn, chilli and coriander’ dips using the marvellous mayonnaise or try the ‘Chickpea Tuna’ sandwiches. Grab your favourite Goupie to decorate the magnificently moorish ‘Pina Colada Carrot Cake’ - the Ginger or Date and Walnut flavours work particularly well).
Rubies in the Rubble: available via their website and Ocado, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Wholefoods https://rubiesintherubble.com/
What to order…
Another great way to back British farmers is by joining a fruit and veg box scheme which allows you to enjoy healthy, seasonal food delivered to your door. There are a variety of options out there depending on your location. Local farms offer classic box schemes with fruit and veg (some will offer extras such as milk, eggs and butter) whilst larger companies often have more flexibility and variety. The Soil Association have the following link to help you find your local organic company (https://www.soilassociation.org/organic-living/buy-organic/find-an-organic-box-scheme/) or the Food Box Finder allows you to search a range of different options (http://www.foodboxfinder.co.uk/). One brilliant company is Abel & Cole. Not only do they offer fruit and veg boxes - with meat and fish options available too - they also have ‘Smoothie Boxes’, ‘Meal Kits’ and ‘Recipe Boxes’ alongside seasonal recipes to inspire you to get cooking with a host of new ingredients. Don’t miss their ‘One Pot Wonder’ option which offers a weekly vegan recipe (for six) with all the seasonal organic ingredients for a delicious one pot meal - great for sharing with friends and family or batch-cooking for the week ahead. To top it off you also receive a variety of seasonal fruit and veg too! Keep your eyes peeled for a special ‘Brandmance’ for more information on the amazing Abel & Cole…
Hungry for more?
If you are looking for more information about seasonal eating, check out ‘Eat the Seasons’ (http://www.eattheseasons.co.uk/index.php) for an extensive list of ingredients and resources to help you on your journey. The ‘Love British Food’ website (http://www.lovebritishfood.co.uk/) and social media pages are also a great place to find inspiring blog posts, interviews and information throughout the year.