What no coffee? How we rose to the challenge of eating 100% British produce.
There is a revolution happening in the way that people view British food and wine. It isn’t just that locally grown produce is better from the point of view of food miles, food security, or knowing the provenance of what you eat and drink. It is better because it is delicious.
I wanted to join the revolution. So, in the summer of 2022, I went the whole hog and started eating and drinking a diet of exclusively British ingredients. I did so in an effort to live more sustainably and to tap into a lifestyle of being more mindful about food. To eat seasonally and enjoy things when they were at their very best. And, as a vegetarian, just for the bloody-minded challenge of it!
Eating 100% British Produce Means No Coffee
I put aside olive oil and lemons, ginger and turmeric, coffee and chocolate, and swapped them for an entire diet of locally sourced produce. It wasn’t always easy, yet by the end what I discovered truly amazed and delighted me. Hopefully it will inspire you to join me this October in eating and drinking exclusively British Delicious.
It Wasn’t Easy At First
I began in June. But it didn’t start well. As a vegetarian, I had been imagining eating things like pea velouté with a cheddar crisp. And strawberries in a buttery tart crust for dessert. Those ingredients, as it turns out, aren’t readily available right at the start of the summer. Or they require some time and effort to source or make.
So, what I actually ate in those early days was a lot of potatoes, with heaps of caramelised onions. As one friend put it, “this is the most boring diet ever.”
Autumn Is Best For Eating 100% British Produce
Yet as the summer went on, I became more adept at hunting out delicious home-grown ingredients. Partly late summer and early autumn are much more abundant. English berries are widely available and there are plums, apples, pears, quince. Mushrooms are at their best. Mediterranean-style vegetables grown in the UK like courgettes, tomatoes and aubergine are plentiful, while root vegetables are at their sweetest and most flavoursome. This is the time to be organised and it’s worth freezing and preserving for those meagre winter months ahead.
I also discovered that the supermarkets I assumed would be the best for UK-sourced foods weren’t always as good as some of the less likely (German!) rivals. I found a world of incredible ingredients can easily be had by going just a click or two beyond the usual national retailers.
Look For Award Winning Produce
Did you know that in the most recent World Cheese Awards, a quarter of the top 16 cheeses were from England and Wales? The British cheese scene is vibrant and full of flavour and experimentation, but you’ll need to go beyond most supermarkets to taste it. Baron Bigod is like Brie on steroids, and Old Winchester is a Parmesan-like must try for world beating flavour.
Meat eaters are lucky because UK meat is world class. In the 2022 Great Taste Awards, a Dorset Coppa was awarded 3 stars – the same as an organic acorn-fed Iberico ham. There is year-round availability of free-range chicken, pork, and beef and, as most supermarkets only stock British meat these days, it’s a super easy way to cook something locally sourced. Butchers will obviously give you more choice: look out for regional treats like Romney Marsh lamb or seasonal produce such as wild duck in autumn.
From fine dining to street food, seasonal fish is an absolute staple of British Delicious. Loch Bay oysters and a glass of English Sparkling wine, or a fillet of flour-dusted, shallow-fried plaice eaten in a bun on the seafront are extraordinary experiences. If this was France or Italy we were talking about, they’d be world-famous. Let’s celebrate them!
English Grown Pulses Are A Game Changer
If, like me, you’re a vegetarian, you don’t need to eat British meat or fish to get your protein hit. Hodmedods is a Suffolk-based online retailer that describes itself as the pulse pioneer. They’ll deliver you English-grown lentils, quinoa, and chickpeas, and their fermented (UK-grown) fava bean paste will give you a hit of umami to rival anything available from Korean cuisine.
Pair British Food With English And Welsh Wine
Sip chilled rosé with English charcuterie for al fresco drinkies in spring. Slivers of Old Winchester and a glass of English Sparkling Wine are perfect partners at a summer picnic. Pair English Pinot Noir and wild meat during game season in autumn. And try a glass of English Chardonnay with a creamy cauliflower and stilton soup for a winter supper.
Eating 100% British Produce Hybrid Style
By the end of November, I gave up eating entirely British food for a more hybrid diet. By then the UK staples which grow pretty much all year around tend to have less flavour, and it would have been back to potatoes. Yet I was able to continue enjoying things I had frozen and preserved over summer, like chilies, garlic and plums, without always having to revert to imported fruit and vegetables.
October Is British Delicious Month
I found that autumn was the sweet spot for overall availability and flavour, which is why this October I will be challenging you to join me for a month of eating entirely locally grown food and wine. It will change the way you view UK-grown produce forever.