Day 3: Ingredients Matter

Guest expert: Jillian McEwan PhD, Farmer from Lunan Bay in Scotland.

Guest expert: Professor Richard Hazenberg, Director and Research Lead at the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact.

I’m not sure when it happened and like many things it was probably a gradual thing over time, but at some point us modern humans lost that connection with our food.

We’ve forgotten about seasonal eating and got used to having what we want, when we want it. We’ve somehow managed to demonise food and create weird powders and pills which will ‘magically make us ok’.

So I’m saying NO! I’m taking a stand and declaring mutiny against all of the keto, paleo, caveman, raw food and whatever else ‘diets’ and potions. I’m rebalancing the wavelengths and saying YES to proper food! Or as the marketing agencies call it ‘wholefood’ 😉

We’re so lucky to be living in a time where food is so readily available, but I think we also need to take a step back and remember the basics of great ingredients and think about where they’re coming from.

Today we’ll be looking at why ingredients matter and how:

  • You can get the most flavoursome and nutritious food;
  • Why investing in your food at a local and national level increases community cohesion; and
  • How you can get the best food within your budget.

You’ll be hearing from myself, The Rebalance Chef, Lunan Bay Farmer Jillian McEwan (prepare for cute goat pics!) and Director of the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact, Professor Richard Hazenberg.

Ingredients matter. Where they come from matters. How they’re grown matters. Why? Because it affects everything from your health, to your bank balance, to your local communities and to your planet.

Food is amazing! Delicious! So lets celebrate that!

Full transparency before I continue. There is a divide when it comes to food and there’s no point in pretending there isn’t.

Organic, hormone free and slow grown food, (which in my humble opinion) is what everyone should be eating without barriers.

From personal experience not only is it more flavoursome and the producer/farmer gets a better deal meaning it can be grown sustainably, but since making the switch I’ve noticed a difference for the better in my health.

However, it’s more expensive and that creates a barrier for some.

Unfortunately the ‘norm’ at the moment is that it’s cheaper to buy 20 cheap frozen sausages than it is 1 organic broccoli head.

So what can we do within your budget? Plenty! Both for immediate results and long term ones.

Buy Foods That Are In Season Including Meat

Yes, proper meat has a season. Industrial farming made meat available all year round but actually it’s not natural or most of time tasty.

Seasonal food is:

  1. More nutritious because it’s picked at its peak
  2. Cheaper and you save steps on your carbon footprint because it doesn’t have to be brought in from abroad
  3. Has more flavour because it’s again picked at its peak and growing just as nature intended

Officially/unofficially as well, I’ve always found seasonal food tends to work extremely well together flavour wise.

  • Wild garlic and lamb
  • Venison and blackberries
  • Wild mushrooms and truffles

You get the picture! It’s like Mother Nature has her own kitchen and decided to sprinkle recipes everywhere just for our enjoyment!

Check out my instagram for seasonal food charts if you’re unsure what’s in season. Also, buy using the next tip, you guarantee that farmers, farm shops, butchers and greengrocers will know what’s in season and also have plenty of it!

Source Locally and/or Direct

Did you know that many farmers offer a direct purchase option?

Buy buying locally you’re reducing CO2 emissions as the food doesn’t have to be shipped in and you’ll be supporting local farmers.

But don’t just take my word for it. Professor Richard Hazenberg is Director and Research Leader of the Institute for Social Innovation and Impact at the University of Northampton.

He specialises in social innovation and recognises that if we bought more local produce we could create more cohesive communities.

“We all realise the importance of developing strong communities, enhancing social ties and helping to reduce environmental harm. However, within these larger narratives, what can often be overlooked is how best we can work to deliver these aims. The importance of local trading and of using locally sourced products from socially orientated organisations to help achieve these aims is now important than ever.

When it comes to food, sourcing locally helps us to reduce the carbon footprint of our food needs, it supports local growers and hence local economies, all whilst giving us access to fresher (and hence tastier) food. However, locally sourcing our food can also offer us so much more, in helping to increase social ties and build community cohesion, through the personal interactions that take place between producer and consumer, in a way that can’t occur when your food comes from halfway around the world.

Eating locally produced food provides a great way for us to build a more cohesive world in our own backyards.”

This has certainly been true for myself. I’m a regular at my local butchers and farm shop. Over the years I’ve seen both invest their profits in to more sustainable produce. Plus, it’s always nice to have a chat!

Grow Your Own

Whether you have an acre or a windowsill, making space to grow your own food can be a deliciously rewarding journey.

You’ll naturally up for your food knowledge and know not only what’s in season, but actually what food is meant to taste like when it’s at its nutritional peak.

I’ve been growing my own food since I was little and I can honestly tell you that the excitement you get every time a new seedling pops through, never goes away!

It Makes Sense To Invest In Your Food

I hope you can take away from helpful tips from todays tutorial.

As a chef, I’m passionate about food and where it comes from. For me, food has that rare ability to transport us back in time and to bring people together.

It makes sense that we invest in it so we can get high quality produce that works in harmony with the world around us.

Lastly, I want you to hear directly from a farmer. Jillian McEwan PhD is one of the main women at Lunan Bay Farm in Scotland.

Passionate about food, she’s been an advocate for the Angus food scene for many years and has thrust micro suppliers in to the limelight enabling people to buy from them – including myself!

“We sustainably produce asparagus, free range goat meat and honeyberries on our farm at Lunan Bay in the North East of Scotland.

Especially now, there is a greater desire by the public to source locally sourced food and to have a much closer connection with the producer.

For us transparency, education and provenance are key. This open approach allows our customers have a deeper understanding and appreciation what it takes to produce food ethically and sustainably”.

Without producers like Jillian, we wouldn’t have food on our plates. So do a little research, see what local producers are near you and try to make a few sustainable swaps today.

Let’s Connect!

Along with the daily journal posts here, each Wednesday at 12pm GMT I’ll be going live on my instagram @therebalancechef to recap on the week’s progress and show you around my kitchen. Depending on the weather you might even meet my rescue hens!

The main point of this challenge is to have fun with it, learn new skills and refresh old ones.

I want to see your creations so don’t forget to tag me and show off what you’ve been doing!

I’m taking part in the Rebalance May Cookery Challenge! Check it out here

Connect with Jillian!

You can find Jillian on Twitter here and on Instagram here. The goat updates are immense!

She’s also produced a podcast called ‘Kidding Around at Lunan Bay Farm’ and you can listen to that here.

Connect with Richard!

You can find Richard on LinkedIn here.

He also produces a podcast called ‘Talkin’ Impact’ and you can find that here.

You Didn’t Think I’d Forget The Goats Did You?!

Day 4 Preview

The Basics of a Well Stocked Fridge and Cupboards

With a properly stocked kitchen, you’ll never need to worry again because you’ll always be able to rustle up something tasty!

And no don’t worry, I’m not talking about having several different meats cheese and exotic birds ready at the click of a recipes fingers. I’m talking about what ingredients every home cook should have available at all times.

Following on from the previous tutorial, lets dive a little deeper in to the main things every home cook should have to hand, and how those ingredients can enhance your meals.