What do we need in the kitchen, as we head into what looks like one of the toughest winters since the Second World War?
It makes me wonder as to what attributes British cooking can provide as we head into a time which may lack many of the items we consider staple to our modern diet? If any food shortages are going to occur, they will start with the things that come to us from the furthest away places which makes the understanding and use of great British produce even more important.
Winter is the season when British classics come into their own. Items that the French would turn their noses up at, we celebrate. Root vegetables, humble as they seem, are ignored by many. The French tend to view things like swede and parsnips as cattle fodder not fit for humans to eat.
We all know a Burns Night is not complete without Neeps and Tatties let alone the wonder that we know as haggis, finished off with some highland whisky either poured over, or my preference drank from an old crystal glass.
A well-made Haggis is a thing of beauty. A few Americans still believe it’s a small, round, short-legged beasty that runs around the highlands of Scotland. Whereas we all know it’s made from a sheep stomach stuffed with liver, heart and lungs held together with oatmeal onions and suet. Seasoned with a few herbs and spices (the exact mix, and ratio used is the well-kept secret of the last few Scots butchers who make their own).
Will we see the return in popularity of dishes such as Haggis, steak and kidney pudding, slow braised shin of beef in Guinness or your favourite Brew Dog version served alongside feather-light dumplings or cheese scones. All manner of steamed pudding needs to make a resurgence, a rediscovery as we head into this winter. If we can’t turn up the heat from the outside, we will have to do it from the inside. Which is what most of these dishes were designed for.
It is the right time for the re-emergence, of this classic British food. Why? Because of the mayhem that is happening all around us. From the price of fuel to mortgage rates, business loans, potential winter power cuts, the list of increased costs and general supply problems is endless. It’s time to try to use what we have here rather than pay the extra to import, from faraway regions of the planet.
Do we need to have tasteless raspberries in the middle of December? Instead, we should be using great British apples. Try them mixed with things like Rosehips. The French variety which is grown here are as large as small walnuts, have great flavour and are easy to use.
See if you can get hold of some crab apples, they’re difficult to track down, and the few trees left tend to be grown for decoration with the fruit being then left on the ground to rot. They are so sharp in flavour they make a lemon seem like candy floss.
We have largely forgotten our own food heritage. We’ve gotten so used to adopting everyone else’s cuisine that we are in danger of losing our own.
Like all cooking, there are a few basic rules, get to know them and we can have a great British food revival.
We even have a salad dressing that was originally written in the form of a poem. First sent to Elizabeth Vassal Fox in 1839, some believe that it was a declaration of love from the author. Who knows but you should try it out, it’s very British and works well with our winter greens crop. An unusual combination for the modern palate but it’s worth perusing. Sydney Smiths Sauce for Winter Salads.
So, let’s start a new British cooking revival, this is the right time.