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 www.britishtrout.co.uk, 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.