It’s everywhere you go; people exhausting their credentials of being British, local, different, better. But what does it mean?
Britain used to be a self-sufficient agricultural nation, with fruits and hops from Kent being ferried throughout the country, fish from Cornwall, Scotch Beef – we indulged in our own supplies. But we are a nation of explorers and we travelled and sent back new found wonders: potatoes, tea, coffee, chocolate (thank you God!), spices, wine – it flooded in, markets were made, and slowly we imported more and more. And so began the decline of the self-sufficient British food and agricultural industry.
But in recent years, largely thanks to telly chefs and foodies, there has been a great revival in all things British. Why? Quite simply, because if you don’t use it, you lose it. And some of the things us Brit have bred and made are too darn good to be missed. Local means you know where it has come from. It means that if you buy locally and British you are supporting a business which may be struggling as it tries to compete against cheaper and often poorer quality imports. It means it will be there when you want it next time. And it means animal husbandry can support rare breeds are prevent their extinction. And this also means great taste. A proud farmer will eat nothing but their own meat, because they seriously think it tastes the best. We eat no other lamb than our own: and that’s because it’s the best. Really.
Locks Drove Farm, run by Jamie in our village, provides the tastiest chicken EVER. Roast this with the giblets in the bottom of the pan with water and a decent stock cube – outstanding gravy, and the basis of my very famous chicken noodle soup. The birds have wonderful lives, I’ve seen them all regularly, and I would never buy any other chicken they are so full of flavour. Available to buy around Hampshire and Berkshire, and Moen & Son in Clapham.
Parsonage Farm, down the road from us, makes burgers from rare breed cows which the kids adore as they have no seasoning in them, and delicious bacon with rosemary. They also, every couple of months, have White Park beef from the Trinley Estate up the road. Once you have tried this very rare and ancient breed of beef, you will never eat anything else. Without the breeding programs estates like Trinley do, this breed would have died out. And if we all don’t buy it, they will stop breeding them. We have a well hung chunk of rib from these beautiful beasts every Christmas – the darker the meat, the longer it’s been hung and the more flavour there is in it. Contact Sarah to find out when next they have one in and they may even arrange delivery to Moen in Clapham. Serve with a decent Red, Béarnaise sauce, chips or potatoes dauphinoise . Heaven.
The Chesil Smokery in West Dorset is run by the wonderful Mark Firth, who smokes fish and game. Quite rightly he has won many taste awards for his goods, and the smoked duck is fabulous. Everything is available to order, and you can even get a box delivered once a month which is a very clever idea and ideal for the approaching Christmas festivities.
Now, onto eggs. Not everyone has the space for chickens. We wouldn’t do without our bantams for a very good reason; their eggs. If you have to buy, you won’t do any better than the eggs from Clarence Court. You want an orange yolk; that shows you the hens have eaten and drunk well, and have a good and healthy life. Pale yellow – bin it. It will be tasteless. The darker the yolk, the better the bird, so the tastier the egg.
Fruit and veg. ALWAYS buy seasonally. You will then get the best quality, deliciously fresh produce, which has the least amount of food miles attached to it. You will also experience wonderful veg you may not have before; kale and Kohlrabi have disappeared from supermarket shelves; but not from a delivery service. Riverford and Able and Cole do fantastic seasonal fruit & veg boxes, from farms local to where you live. You can also go to your local market to get some real deals on seasonal veg. Yes, Jerusalem artichoke can get dull after a while, but the asparagus season is fully embraced in our household. And runner beans which are in abundance at this time: stir fry with garlic and some sliced almonds – delicious.
And, the best till last. Blackberries. These are FREE and make a great British adventure. Littering most of the footpaths and bridleways of our countryside, there is no excuse not to pick your fill. Our ride on Saturday afternoon was pretty useless; by the time the kids, me, the husband, the three dogs, the pony and my mare had realised how many bulging blackberries were hanging from the bushes, we didn’t make it very far. And the funniest thing ever is a horse eating a tart blackberry! Try Blackberry Vodka for a winter tipple. Blackberries, vodka, lots of sugar. Leave for as long as possible then try not to drink all in one sitting.
Support your local farmer and supplier and they will continue to support rare breeds and prevent their extinction. And you will be supporting your local economy too. And you will be eating jolly well too
New Zealand lamb – frozen and shipped 11,000 miles? Really? Buy British lamb: 50,000 foxes can’t be wrong!
By Joanna Jensen, Founder of Childs Farm