Local produce, international food: the new foodist mantra?

“Pride in local ingredients and regional dishes is central to modern British cooking. […] but is it time to start using local ingredients to cook international foods?”

This quote is from a recent post on the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog called ‘Local food: have you had your fill?’, which asks whether the increased interest in local produce will be short-lived as people get bored of eating traditional local dishes. The focus of the article was on Wales, but the principle applies to most regions of the UK and it got me thinking.

Just looking at the long list of winners for the Great Taste Awards 2013, announced yesterday, I don’t think we need to be too worried. Congratulations, by the way, to all of the winners from East Anglia – they are very well represented in the list, across a very wide range of categories – and not only for produce that’s traditionally associated with the region, or even the UK.

Last weekend we used local onions from our Rocket and Rhubarb veg box to make onion bhajis using the The Bhaji Man‘s (@bhajiman) Onion Bhaji Easy Mix. The Bhaji Man is based in Norfolk and has a full range of curry and spice kits. They also actively promote using local produce from independent suppliers to cook their recipes. The bhajis were indeed very easy to make and tasted great!

Bhajis cooking

Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown

Bhaji close-up

Close-up of the bhajis cooking

Recently we also came across Omars Tandoori Restaurant (@Omarsindian) in Hatfield Peverel. Omars is an Indian restaurant and takeaway with a difference. Their menu changes with the seasons and has a strong focus on using local ingredients. They even list their suppliers on their website. Apart from the fact that it tasted far superior to other takeaway curries, knowing that we were eating quality produce made it far more enjoyable.

Going back to the Guardian blog:

“On a simpler level, why aren’t we demanding – even if it limits us, in some ways – that British ingredients be used to produce cuisines, from Italian to Japanese that would otherwise rack up so many food miles? Local produce, international food, should that be the new foodist mantra?”

This is absolutely what we should be demanding, but just looking at the couple of examples above, I think it’s safe to say that the answer is that many people already do. It’s just a case of awareness of the versatility of local produce and the idea that local doesn’t always have to mean traditional.

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