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.