Monday, 24 December 2007


This year, much as every year really, Christmas finds me staying with family in Lincolnshire. This raises certain issues with my eating British scheme, since it would be rather rude of me to insist on only eating British food. However, I have so far been pleasantly surprised that quite a lot of the food we've had so far has been British. The interesting thing is that this is not a consequence on some deliberate effort to buy British, it's just that the food that has been bought from the supermarket has been mostly British. Some of the vegetables even came in bags which had pictures of the farmer that had grown them printed on, which made it seem much more personal.

For example, yesterday we had vegetable soup followed by boiled beef with onion sauce. The soup was made from white cabbage, leek, carrot, swede and onion, all of which were British! Not only that, but there were all grown in Lincolnshire! This is a typical Norwegian dish and the beef is boiled in the soup before being fished out towards the end. It makes a great antidote to all the fried, grilled and roast meat that is normally consumed at this time of the year, since the boiling makes it really tender and all the 'goodness' is preserved in the soup.

On Saturday, we visited a farmers market which was being held in a town near to where my family live. It was very much like the farmers market in Edinburgh, although there weren't quite so many stalls selling really exciting things, such as cider and 'grow you own' mushroom kits. However, there were the typical assortment of stalls selling vegetables and meat and a few other bits and bobs, such as hand-made chocolate. I only recognised one local company, which was Pipers, who make my favourite crisps (I think I may have mentioned them before).

I brought back from Edinburgh some of the Cairn O'Mohr fruit wine that I bought at the farmers market up there a little while ago. After I got quite tipsy at the stall from trying so many of their products, I ended up buying two bottles of the 'Berry Christmas' fruit wine, made from raspberries, strawberries and a hint of spices. We opened one of the bottles yesterday and it was really very nice! It's a little bit like mulled wine in that it has a hint of spices to it, but we served it cold and it was really rather refreshing. I'm no wine expert by any means, but I would think that this would go best before or after food, rather then during. It certainly has enough character to be drunk on it's own, although it is quite strong!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Cheese cake

It turned out to be my turn for cake again last week! That's the third time since I started this eating British scheme back in August. Since I've been quite busy at work recently, I was tempted to go for a honey cake again, but this seemed far to boring. I'm an avid fan of Nigella Lawson's programme on BBC 2 and I had recently seen her making a cheese cake, which seemed very quick and easy. The challenge though, would be to make a version of it using British ingredients. I figured that the cheese would probably be the biggest problem. Cheese cake, and here I'm talking about the non-baked variety (I've never understood baked cheese cakes), is usually made using some form of extremely mild cream cheese, such as Marscapone. Clearly, this isn't a British cheese and although I briefly entertained the idea of making a cake using a large block of Stilton (the king of cheese, after all!), I thought that this might not be too popular with my colleagues at work. It was time to call in the professionals.

I called in at I J Mellis on Victoria Street, which is considered by many to be the best cheese shop in Edinburgh. I figured that if anyone was going to be able to help me, it would be them. It turned out that they didn't have anything suitable in stock, although the shop assistant assured me that they usually do and he was able to advise me that the cheese I was looking for was called "Crowdie", which is a famous Scottish cream cheese (you can learn more about it here: He suggested that I should try the Jenners food hall. Luckily, this isn't too far away from Victoria Street and they did have some, so that was the cheese problem solved.

It then occurred to me that the next critical part of any cheese cake recipe is the base. Nigella makes her base by blending up broken digestive biscuits with butter, sounds simple, but are digestive biscuits really British? I don't think they normally quote a country of origin on most packs of biscuits, so I searched high and low in the Jenners food hall, but they didn't have any digestives at all. I didn't really want to go hunting around Edinburgh for biscuits as it was getting late, to it was time to deploy my trusted problem solving technique. I went and had a cup of tea.

Feeling refreshed and inspired by the brew, I realised that oat cakes go well with cheese and so would probably make a reasonable base for a cheese cake. So, I purchased a couple of packs of plain, Scottish oatcakes. Once I got the ingredients home, it was a simple matter of following the standard cheese cake recipe. I broke up the oatcakes and blended them with some butter to form the base material, which I then pressed into the bottom of a round, spring-form cake tin. I think mixed the Crowdie cream cheese with caster sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, before gently folding in some whipped double cream. I then gently spooned this over the base and left it in the fridge over night to set.

I think it turned out rather well, although I have to say that the Crowdie cheese really does taste of cheese, which made for an interesting flavour when mixed with the cream, sugar and lemon juice. The key test was that several of my colleagues had second helpings, so it can't have been all that bad!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Farmers Markets (2)

I had a friend round for dinner last week, so I thought it would be the perfect chance to try out the Edinburgh farmers market. It was a very pleasant experience, although I did get there a bit late since a lot of stalls had sold out, but I was still able to get almost everything I wanted and a little bit more! This particular friend is a vegetarian, so it made for a slightly different challenge for my Eating British scheme.

In the end, I went to leek and potato soup to start, followed by Stilton, onion and potato pie, with baked apples and ice-cream to finish. I think it all turned out really well, although I might have over done the potato theme slightly... :-) I already had some leeks from the week before, but I was able to get the potatoes at the farmers market. I also bought some Scottish cider, called 'Peel Walls'. Despite the name hinting at possible applications as paint stripper, this was really very good and went well with the Stilton in the pie. I also picked up a couple of bottles of 'Berry Christmas' fruit wine from Cairn O'Mohr, which tasted very nice. Although, the lady at the Cairn O'Mohr stall let me taste so many of the products that I felt positively tipsy afterwards!

I also noticed a stall selling flour, including strong flour suitable for making bread. I went over and spoke to them, thinking of my previous entries on the subject of bread flour and how I've read that high gluten wheat doesn't grow to well in the British climate. It seems that this might be incorrect, since these people have certainly not had any trouble growing the high gluten wheat. This is something I'm clearly going to have to try to get to the bottom of - watch this space.

The leek and potato soup is a great dish for this time of the year and all the ingredients are in season at the moment. It is also very easy to make. Simply melt some butter in the bottom of a good, heavy bottom pan. Wash and slice a leek and fry the slices in the butter until they darken and go soft. Then, add peeled and sliced potato and stir around. Finally, add enough vegetable or chicken stock to cover (and maybe a wee bit more) and then put the lid on and let it simmer until the potatoes are cooked. That's it! Proper fast food.

For the baked apples, I managed to get British Bramley apples in my local supermarket. These are by far the best apples for this kind of thing, I've tried other apples and they don't work nearly so well. As the Bramley's are cooking apples, they are not too sweet to start with, where as eating apples just tend to get a bit sickly. To make these, I simply cored the apples using an apple coring tool. I'm not generally a fan of having loads of different, single use kitchen gadgets, mostly because I don't have space. But, if you need to core and apple and leave it whole, then one of these is essential! Once cored, I filled the whole brown sugar (unfortunately not British, but I'm working on that one) and wrapped them in tin foil. Then, simple bake in the over on gas mark 7, or about 200C (ish) for about 20 - 30 minutes until you can feel that they are soft. Then serve with cream, or ice-cream.

I am also now the proud owner of a bread machine! As I predicted, the novelty of making my own bread by hand soon wore off. I haven't had much time to try it out yet, but I'll keep you posted with how it goes.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Farmers Markets

It seems that farmers markets are becoming ever more popular. According to Country File, on BBC1 this morning, 10 years ago there were only four farmers markets in Britain but there are now around 550! There is one here in Edinburgh which is very popular, although I have only been to it a couple of times myself. Something I hadn't realised is that only about half of the over 500 farmers markets in the UK are certified by the National Farmers Retail and Markets Association. Such certification means, amongst other things, that all of the produce which is for sale has been produced or grown by the stall holder and must come from within 30 miles of the market (50 miles if it can be considered an urban market). Luckily, the farmers market in Edinburgh is certified and even won Farmers Market of the year for 2007. You can check if your local farmers market is certified or not at According to Country File, there is growing concern amongst farmers market operators about large commercial companies trying to cash-in on this growing market, by selling "Farmers Market" branded products. My guess would be that markets that allow this would not get certification because I doubt that these products are going to be locally produced. So, certification is something to look out for!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

North America

Gosh, it's been a long time since I last wrote on here! Please accept my apologies, but I've been to New York, on business and to Canada to visit a friend. Of course, this trip raised the issue of whether I should try to continue the whole eating British thing while traveling, although it didn't take too much thought to realise that this would probably result in me starving to death. To be honest, I don't really know if Britain exports much food, this is something I shall try to investigate in the near future. Anyway, in the end I decided to try to eat local food as much as possible. Of course, since North America is so huge, it isn't really a challenge to live of American food, so I'm fairly sure that most of what I consumed while away would have at least been produced in America.

The friend I visited in Canada told me that at the moment it is popular there to try to eat food that has been produced within 100km of where you live. I thought this was interesting, since it's basically the same idea that I have, except adapted for living in a country the size of Canada. As I say, living off food produced somewhere in Canada (or North America) isn't going to be too much of a challenge and it isn't going to help the environment all that much either, so limiting things to a certain radius from home would be more relevant. I had been impressed at how much interest there appears to be in Britain for eating locally produced food, but I was surprised to find similar trends in other countries as well. I suspect that the primary motivation in most cases is environmental, whereas this has never been one of my major goals. Rather, my aim has always been to try to raise awareness of how much great food is produced in Britain. I suspect that, in Canada at least, everyone already knows that they produce a lot of good food! Maybe someone can comment on this? I visited a farmers market while I was in Canada and I was really impressed with the range of products on offer, everything from live chickens to pumpkins. I took some pictures, but I still use 35mm film, so I'll post them once I've had them developed.

New York was an amazing place to visit, not least because they seem to really know how to eat over there! :-) Good food, huge portions and decent prices (compared to the UK, anyway), what more could you want? One notable meal was at a place called "Trattoria dell'Arte" on 7th Avenue between 56th and 57th. I think this place must serve the thinnest pizza possible, while still actually having a base. Actually, if anything, it was more like a water biscuit with pizza topping then a pizza, but it was really good. I was glad that it was very thin because it certainly made up for this in it's other dimensions!

Other then that, we ate at a variety of less notable places, but the food was always good, especially the bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. I plan to investigate if it's possible to buy bagels made with only British ingredients, or if I would have to start making them myself.

Well, I said I would try to eat local, but I have to admit that I didn't really find out where any of the food I was eating came from. I did, however, make more effort with beer. The first night there, I asked in the hotel bar if they had any local beers, to which the barman shook his head and suggested that "Samual Adams", from Boston, was the closest they had. A couple of pints later, I could say that this was a pretty good beer, although not really as local as I would have liked. The closest I was able to get, at the rotating bar at the top of the Marriott Hotel at Times Square, was "Snow Dog" which was produced in Brooklyn, if my memory serves me correctly. I didn't enjoy this beer all that much though and I think the waitress was quite surprised that we were happy to pay the 7 USD per person surcharge for sitting in the rotating bar, just to have a beer that you could have anywhere (they seem to specialise in cocktails judging by the menu).

I think that's probably more or less enough for one post! But, on my return to the UK I was pleased to see that Sainsbury's is still selling just as much fresh, British fruit and veg as it was before I left! I've never noticed before that you can still buy British tomatoes towards the end of November! Maybe my earlier concerns about not getting enough vitamins through the winter were unnecessary? We'll see, watch this space!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Dinner party

I had some friends round to dinner the other day, which was really nice and presented me with the challenge of creating an all British meal for three people. Actually, since many British ingredients still seem to be in plenty full supply, it wasn't all that difficult, although I had to make one small compromise. I went for a starter of grilled Portobello mushrooms with Somerset Brie and some small British tomatoes, the name of which escapes me right now. The mushrooms were the one compromise, they were from Ireland. For the main course, I made grilled Venison steak with potatoes, peas and roast parsnips and for dessert I had baked apple with McKay's organic ice-cream. I think it was really good, even if I do say so myself :-)

To drink, my friends managed to find some English wine (see entry about wine!) from Sainsburys, which was really nice. I think it was just called Sainsburys English wine, but I could definitely recommend it. I will have to investigate further where the grapes were grown, etc. I will report when I have more information.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Friday cake (2)

I was lucky enough to be drawn for cake again last Friday, meaning that it was my turn to make cake for all my lucky colleagues today. Feeling that I didn't really do very well last time I was drawn, in terms of making a British cake, I thought I would try a little harder this time. This time, however, I was armed with knowledge of a source of British flour (Doves farm, as mentioned a little while ago), so I set out to think of a type of cake that I would be likely to be able to make from all British ingredients. In the end, at the suggestion of one of my colleagues, I went for a 'honey cake'. I've never made a honey cake before, so I wasn't really sure what to expect, however a quick search on the Internet revealed a few good sounding recipes.

Being a honey cake, one of the main ingredients is honey. And, of course, no cake would be a cake without a good quantity of sugar. The recipe called for light Muscavado sugar. Now, I didn't think I'd have much chance of finding British Muscavado sugar, since it is, I believe, always made from sugar cane. However, it turns out that 'Silver Spoon' sugar is made using sugar beat grown in Britain. In fact, according to the 'Silver Spoon' website, they process the entire sugar beat crop! Gosh. Unfortunately, it turned out that my local supermarket isn't one of the suppliers of Silver Spoon sugar, so that could be why I haven't so far noticed that you can indeed by British sugar. So, I headed to Tesco, who do apparently sell this brand of sugar.

After getting the bus all the way into town to go to Tesco, I find that although they clearly do sell Silver Spoon sugar, they had run out. I tried to get some of the other ingredients, but found that they had no British honey and didn't have the self-raising variety of Doves farm flour. So, I headed back to my local supermarket, Sainsbury's, where I was able to get Scottish Heather Honey and the self-raising flour. In the end, I settled for light Muscavado sugar, made from sugar cane. So, the cake wasn't made entirely of British ingredients in the end, but it was certainly a lot closer then last time!

I thought the cake was quite nice, but we shall have to see if any of my colleagues comment on it! I shall have to do a little more research on the sugar and see if I can find a reliable source of Silver Spoon sugar.

Thursday, 18 October 2007


I was invited to a dinner party last Saturday, which was very nice, but of course I couldn't really insist that the hosts cook only with British food! So, I thought that I should at least take along something British and since it is fairly normal to take a bottle of wine to a dinner party I thought this would be the logical choice.

I know a very good wine shop in Edinburgh, called Peter Greens, in Marchemont. I was confident that if I was to be able to get British wine anywhere in Edinburgh, then it would be here. There has been much made of British wine recently on TV, so I didn't think it would be too difficult to get hold of some. Unfortunately, Peter Green's didn't have any, although I did learn something interesting about British wine. Apparently, the term 'British wine' refers to wine which has only be fermented in Britain, using grapes grown somewhere else and imported in. Wine that is actually produced in Britain, including the growing of the gapes, has to be called English wine. I have no idea why this might be, but could be something interesting to find out. I shall add this to the list of things to investigate!

Anyway, in the end I settled for a bottle of Elderberry wine, which was really very nice - a kind of dark, fruity red. As you can probably tell, I'm not exactly a wine buff! But, it went well with the meal (roast beef and roast chicken) and I am sure it would have been equally good on its own. It was Cairn O’ Mohr Elderberry wine and I would definitely recommend it.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Winter foods

I haven't posted for a while - sorry! :-) But, things have been fairly busy. Despite this, I haven't been neglecting my Eating British project. Last week passed smoothly and there are still plenty of British vegetables for sale in my local supermarket - even tomatoes! I do wonder how much longer this will last though, so far my predictions of things getting more difficult haven't come true.

I think there will be a change, but by switching to more traditionally 'winter' meals I should be able to accommodate this. So, I shall be buying more parsnips, turnips, carrots and that kind of thing from now on. This is a different style of cooking to what I am used to, but I made a lamb casserole last week and it was really good, so that's encouraging! Although my knowledge of history is weak at the best of times, I'm fairly confident that in the past people would have been used to changing their diet between the seasons, where as today we tend to eat what ever we want, whenever we want it. I think that the important question to ask is whether this modern lifestyle is really sustainable in the long term?

Curiously, I was talking to someone last weekend and I got to telling him about this project. He thought it was very interesting and wished me luck, but he said that whilst he thought it would relatively possible for me, as one person, to do this, he didn't think it would be sustainable for all 60 million people living in the UK. I wonder if this is really true? I shall have to do some more homework on this one, but it's a big question and I wonder if anyone really knows the answer. I suppose that this was very effectively tested during the second world war when rationing was introduced because we were unable to import as much food as we needed. The fact that people had to really 'go without' during those times suggests to me that the answer was certainly no then. But, will it have changed now? Have modern methods of agriculture made food production more efficient, implying that we would be able to cope better now?

The tomato chutney that I made a little while ago has been fixed, I think. I re-boiled it once I had the time, without the lid on the saucepan, and it thickened up nicely. So that's good.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

In a pickle...

I finally got around to trying to preserve some tomatoes last night, although I'm not sure how well it's worked out. I followed a recipe I found for tomato chutney, but the result is not like any chutney I've ever had!

I basically just boiled nearly 2kg of tomatoes with some onion to release the juice and then added salt, sugar, vinegar and some spices. The recipe said to simmer gently until thick, but the chutney I've ended up with is quite runny, so I'm wondering if I didn't simmer it for long enough. It tastes quite nice, although the vinegar flavour is very strong. The recipe said that it should be left for three to five weeks to mature, so I'm hoping that it will taste less acidic after this time. I did wonder if the tomatoes were a bit too watery, or perhaps it's a little late in the season. Oh well, we'll see what it's like in a few weeks time!

In the mean time, I might see if I can find some other interesting preserves to try out.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007


One of the problem areas with my eating British scheme has been bread. I posted a little while ago that this was a problem because the types of flour that are commonly grown in the UK are not suitable for bread making. The reason for this is, I believe, that bread needs a wheat with a high gluten content and our climate is not really that suitable for this type. While I was doing my shopping last night I had a look at the range of flours that were for sale and was surprised to find some which claim to have been produced from British wheat! This is good news, since I often have sandwiches for lunch. The company was called "Doves Farm", but as far as I can tell they don't have an active website at the moment. However, according to the bag of flour they specialise in organic flour milled from wheat grown on their farm.

Of course, in order to turn the flour into tasty, lunch-time sandwiches, I had to make some bread first. I went through a phase of making my own bread a few years ago, so it's not something completely new to me. Despite this, I still find the process quite fascinating, especially since I don't have a bread making machine to do it all for me! It took quite a long time, but the results were definitely worth it. I basically just followed the recipe on the back of the flour bag, but I used hemp seed oil in place of vegetable oil because I can be sure of it's British origin (well, it claims to be farmed in Britain!). I'm not sure how long the loaf will last before I've eaten it all, but I have a sneaky feeling that after a while the fascination with making bread by hand will wear a little thin. Perhaps now is the time to investigate bread making machines a little more closely?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Hawthorn berries

Gosh, it's been a while since I last posted! My excuse is that I've been away - a trip down to Southampton on business, London to visit some family and Lincolnshire. All good, but not too easy to keep up with the eating British thing!

Anyway, back now and aiming to try some new British food! While I was in Lincolnshire, I attempted to make fruit leather from Hawthorn berries, following a recipe I heard about from the TV programme with Ray Mears, called "Ray Mears' Wild Food". I collected a large bowl of berries and then squished them all up with my hands to form a paste which I then pushed through a strainer, as I saw on the programme. However, the berries seemed rather dry, so I had to add quite a bit of water to make it go through. I then left the paste to set - it turns into quite stiff jelly quite quickly. Then, I cut this into strips and dried them in the oven. It should be fairly simply, but I must have done something wrong since by the time a got back to Edinburgh, they had started to go mouldy :-( Oh well, the search for a source of winter vitamin C continues!

I tried a new British cheese today - Cornish Camembert, made by Cornish Country Larder Ltd ( I used it in my sandwiches for lunch and it was really good, with a lovely, creamy texture. It went well with sliced tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.

I don't know how much longer I'll be able to get hold of British tomatoes, so I plan to try to preserve some. I havn't yet decided how to do this, but I shall investigate. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


Whilst doing my shopping last week, I came across marrows in the vegetable section. I noticed that these were produced in Britain and so decided to try one out. Now, I've never done anything with marrows before, so I wasn't sure what to do with it. So, it sat in my fridge for a few days while I gave this some thought. In the end, a quick web search revealed that marrows can be chopped up and used in stir frys and things, much like courgettes, or they can be de-seeded and roasted. I'm sure there are other things you can do with them to, but I don't know what they are!

In the end, I went for marrow stuffed with minced beef in a tomato sauce. This is really easy to do and turned out to be very tasty indeed. Simply preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (reasonably hot - about 220 degrees C), then slice the marrow into two halves and then slice each of these length-wise down the middle. The seeds can then be scooped out with a spoon, leaving a decent size trench into which the filling can be put. Arrange these on a baking tray, ready for the filling.

To make the filling, I chopped and fried a small onion and a few spring onions until soft and then added the minced beef. Use a high heat and don't be tempted to stir the minced beef around straight away after adding it to the pan. Leaving it still for a while allows it to get sealed and this held to keep more of the juices in, I think.

Once the beef had browned I added chopped mushrooms and continued cooking until they started to shrink. I then added some salt, pepper, paprika and chopped basil (OK, OK, none of the spices were produced in Britain - I'm working on that one!). Finally, I added about 6 decent size tomatoes, chopped into small chunks and then stirred this around until the tomatoes began to release their juice. I then simply put this mixture into the trenches in the marrow and then put it all in the oven for about 20 minutes. It was great, so give it a try and let me know what you think. I guess you could add cheese or any number of other ingredients to make a bit more exciting.

I have frequently had conversations with people about British cheese. Often, visitors to Britain assume that all British cheese is Cheddar and given how much Cheddar is produced and how many different 'varieties' I can see how they get this impression! However, according to, there are around 700 different varieties of British cheese! Although they don't list what they all are, which is a shame. I shall have to try to get hold of some of the more exciting ones at some point. I have been a fan of British cheese for sometime and regularly enjoy the delights of Somerset Brie, Shropshire Blue, Double Gloucester and of course, Stilton (the king of cheese, according to the website!). I know there are some great goats cheeses out there, for example, so I'm keen to find a more extensive source of British cheese. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Potential bad news...

Woke up to some potentially bad news this morning... Apparently, the cost of meat produced in Britain is set to rise significantly in the near future, because the cost of wheat has been increasing. I didn't realise, although it seems obvious now, that a lot of cattle feed is made from wheat, therefore if the cost of wheat goes up, then the cost of animal feed and hence the cost of meat, goes up accordingly.

Someone on the news this morning said they thought that prices could rise by as much as 20% - 30%, which is going to make this a somewhat more expensive project then I thought! They were also saying that this will be a crunch time for the British food industry - they need people to support them and to continue to buy British produced food, otherwise the whole industry could be under threat. So, I guess that makes my project to raise awareness of the British food industry rather timely!

While searching out some facts about wheat and grain, I found the answer to my question from a couple of posts ago about whether much bread is made from British wheat. Apparently it's not and the reason for this is that the variety of wheat commonly grown in Britain is not good for making bread because it has a relatively low gluten content, compared to North American wheat. This would fit with what I was taught at school that British wheat is commonly used to make biscuits. Apparently, some farmers have started to grow different varieties which are better for bread production, but I don't think it's a large scale thing. I shall have to do some more investigating to see if I can find a source of bread made from British wheat! Or, if I could get British bread flour, I could start making my own bread of course. If this turns out to be the case, I will consider investing in a bread machine, but we'll see how it goes.

Last night I had grilled trout for my dinner, which was excellent! The trout was 'farmed in the United Kingdom' according to the label. A quick search on the Internet later and I came across some interesting facts, for example, according to, 16,000 tonnes of trout are farmed in Britain each year! Gosh. These farms are apparently widely distributed around the UK. I shall have to keep a look out - it would be interesting to go and visit one at some time.

My recommendation for grilling trout fillets - lightly season both sides with salt, pepper and dill and then cook in a grill pan, skin side down first, for about 5 minutes on each side, or until the colour appears to have changed all the way through. Very quick, very easy and fairly tasty!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Friday cake

Oh dear. Well, I was drawn for cake this week, which is the first time in at least a year I think, but unfortunately comes while I'm still quite early on in my campaign. Perhaps I should explain a bit, at work we have a routine of having cake every Friday. “Very civilised.” I hear you cry! Well, indeed. Many moons ago, it seemed that the best way of choosing who we be responsible for making cake each Friday would be to have a random draw every time. So, this is what we do. This year has proved to be a truly excellent year in that the new students in our lab have demonstrated themselves to be very capable chefs and my name wasn't ever drawn. Up until now.

Well, I have an admission to make I'm afraid. That is, that although I've just made a suitable cake, it really isn't very British. I have a suspicion that making cakes out of ingredients that have been produced in Britain is going to be a bit of a challenge and one that I should have risen to for this prestigious cake baking opportunity.

It's been a really busy week at work, so I haven't had the time to look into it. But, enough excuses! I will have to do some homework on this one so that I am ready next time. Anyway, in the end I made a kind of chocolate and raisin loaf. I hope that the self raising flour might be British, but it doesn't say on the bag, so there's no easy way to tell. On the subject of flour, I'm sure I remember learning at school that nearly all of the grain grown in Britain is used to make flour that goes into biscuits and that bread is mostly made with imported flour. I wonder how true this is though? Maybe it was right back then, but does it still apply now? This, I will need to investigate – watch this space!

Anyway, the chocolate was in the form of chocolate chips, which are most definitely not British. Also, the raisins are not exactly likely to be British! There were four eggs in the cake, they were British! So, it's not a complete failure. Hopefully the cake will go down well tomorrow – it's also the first baked cake I've made for my colleagues in my 'new' oven.

Monday, 20 August 2007

This all seems to easy...

I've just been and done my usual weekly shop and I have to say that I am beginning to feel that this whole eating British challenge isn't really very much of a challenge at all. Today, whilst wondering the isles of my local supermarket, I was readily able to locate British producing, in fact, many of the supermarket own brands distinctly boasted that they were produced in Britain. This is not what I expected when I began the project.

I think that this might be because the supermarkets are aware that they have picked up a bit of an image problem recently. They have been criticised for not supporting British farmers, amongst other things and I suspect that they are doing what they can to try to reverse this image, which probably makes good business sense for them. It was interesting to note that many of the other 'well known' brands didn't worry about whether they were produced in Britain or not. Actually, in many cases I noticed that they didn't even state the country of origin.

Well, I say that, but I couldn't help but notice the large sign advertising that all Walkers crisps are now made with '100% British' potatoes. I wonder if this was the case already and they're simply jumping on the bandwagon, or if they have actually made a concious effort to change their product.

Anyway, this week I decided to treat myself to some venison burgers, which I've had before and know to be fantastic, so I'm looking forward to those. Venison, it seems, is always produced in Britain, well, at least the venison I find in the supermarket is. Of course, it isn't difficult to find British beef, pork, lamb or chicken, so I'm confident that I'll manage the whole year without having to resort to foreign produce. Fruit and vegetables however, I think will be a different storey. Actually, I'm beginning to get a little bit worried about this. The conversation over lunch at work today quickly headed in this direction, with my colleagues speculating that I might have to resort to eating more nuts and that I should make jam now, while I still have the chance. The suggestion that I could mug the squirrels outside my flat for their nuts, however, was quickly dismissed in favour of eating the squirrels themselves. I must stress that I'm only joking here!

One of my work colleagues and former flatmate, recently pointed out to me that there is a good supply of wild raspberries growing not far from where I live. Now this represents an interesting possibility, if I could collect a good quantity and make jam from them then I would have a good source of fruity goodness to last the winter. Luckily, I've been saving up glass source jars for a while, so I should be sorted on the jam container front. However, my attempts to buy sealing wax (paraffin wax) like my Mum used to use to seal jam have so far come to nothing except for a couple of shop assistants talking to me very slowly without using any long or difficult words. Clearly only a complete imbecile would ask for something that they don't sell and have clearly never even heard of. We may produce some great food products here in Britain, but customer service seems to be a very rare thing these days!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

First week over!

Well, that's more or less the first week of my eating British scheme passed and it's gone fairly easily. I think I probably did slightly better then last week actually. I have the feeling that things are going a bit to easily if I'm honest and I am really beginning to suspect that later in the year it will become much more challenging.

However, for now, I'm doing well with carrots, onions and potatoes all readily available on the vegetable front and I've just had Scottish venison for dinner, which was good. Of course, things like carrots and onions are seasonal, so I'm really wondering if I'll still be able to get hold of them come the autumn. In the past, people would have stored up a surplus of these foods to last them the winter. When I was growing up, my parents used to grow many of their own vegetables and I can remember the onions being tied up in bunches and left hanging from the beams in the garage roof. These onions would then last through much of the autumn and winter, although we would run out eventually and then we'd have to buy them. These days of course, no one bothers with storing vegetables, since as soon as something like onions goes out of season in Britain, they simply get imported from somewhere else in the world. I've never paid much attention to where onions come from and I cook with them nearly all the time, so things could get quite interesting as the year wears on!

I had pasta for my dinner yesterday, which I must admit was not British! The only way I can see of getting something like pasta which is sourced from British wheat would be to make it myself. I know how to make pasta, thanks to my ex-girlfriend, but I've never really tried doing it regularly. At the moment I'm wondering if it would be relatively easy to dry my own pasta, then I could make it in batches. Mind you, my ex-girlfriend always held that she could make and cook pasta from ingredients in no more time then it took to cook dried pasta from a bag. She even demonstrated this to me, so I know it's true! Of course, this doesn't apply to the 'quick cook' varieties of dried pasta.