Good Food Blog
The Great British Food RevivalPosted at 3:30PM, 07 March 2011 by Roxanne Fisher - Writer/Sub-editor, bbcgoodfood.com
British produce is in danger. More and more people are buying imported, manufactured equivalents of those culturally important ingredients that make our country what it is and, if we don't change our ways, we may lose the skills of treasured suppliers forever.
This is the message of BBC Two's new five-part food series and accompanying book, The Great British Food Revival, kicking off this Wednesday at 8pm. Ten chefs will be making the case for foods synonymous with Britain - everything from cauliflower to crab - and calling for all of us to take action.
Here James Martin, the series advocate of the Great British apple, talks to us about the importance of buying British.
Why did you choose to champion the Great British apple?
As the UK's biggest selling fruit, I believe it's something everyone can relate to. There were once around 1,500 different varieties in the UK; today we only really eat three of these. New growing techniques and high intensity production are overshadowing the great old varieties, mainly because 'manufactured' apples look a lot shinier and less flawed on the shelf.
Did you discover a new favourite variety during the making of the show?
The good old traditional Bramley is my favourite - but not necessarily the type we're used to seeing in our supermarkets. The old Bramley was a lot smaller and looked pretty gnarly but tasted much better. This isn't only true of the Bramley; many of the older varieties of apples have a stronger, sharper taste. We're so used to eating the modified versions of foods that our taste buds have changed. For the programme we carried out taste tests on the street, which were extremely telling. Often kids would spit out the old varieties claiming they were too sharp. Older generations had the opposite reaction.
The responsibility for changing the fate of dwindling British produce lies with the consumer
Do you think the responsibility for saving British produce lies with the consumer or with the supermarket?
It's ludicrous that despite British apples being in season throughout the year we continue to import as much as 60% of the apples we see in shops. Supermarkets are simply responding to and filling a demand - the responsibility for changing the fate of dwindling British produce lies with the consumer. If people don't make a conscious effort to buy good British food, supermarkets won't stock it and producers will continue to go out of business. People wanting to experience the real thing should hunt out their nearest farmers' market; they're great places to find varieties that are at risk of dying out.
You're showcasing the apple in three different recipes on the show. Can you tell us what you chose to make?
I made a classic apple charlotte, which will hopefully appeal to everyone, as it's a nice, quick favourite. Sticking with the traditional I also made a slightly more challenging apple custard tart and a savoury dish of roast pork with an apple cider sauce.
Have you found it increasingly hard to source British produce as suppliers continue to go out of business?
Suppliers are certainly disappearing but there are still many people who produce quality British ingredients. Their dedication and commitment to their trade in such trying times makes their produce extra special.
There have been a lot of campaigning food shows recently. Do you think they're having an effect on people's attitudes to food?
I think knowledge is a powerful thing. It's important to educate people about produce, particularly produce from their own country, and give them the ability to make an informed choice about what they buy. The masses are the ones who can make a significant change and programmes like The Great British Food Revival are able to reach them.
Do you agree with James? Which British foods would you champion?