From farm to fork
PUBLISHED: 09:00 24 January 2014
Adam Henson has joined forces with top chef nigel Slater for a fresh look at how we view food
I’ve recently been involved in an unlikely but very enjoyable partnership. I teamed up with Nigel Slater for a BBC TV series about British food. Nigel and Adam’s Farm Kitchen saw me, a farmer from the Cotswolds, paired up with this North London cook, award-w inning writer and celebrated food columnist. We come from entirely different worlds. For instance, while I’m really at home in the cab of a massive combine harvester, Nigel hasn’t driven for decades. But sure enough, we got on famously.
The whole idea of the series was to follow some of our best-known and most popular foods from farm to fork as a way of trying to reconnect us with the meals on our plates. After all we lead such busy lives these days and convenience food is so easily available that I think we’ve lost touch with the staples in our diet. That’s despite the fact that more than half the land in the UK is used for producing food.
Take chicken for instance. It’s Britain’s favourite meat, we eat our way through more than a billion chickens ever y year and a lot of it appears in processed meals and takeaways. But knowing how much we Brits love exotic tastes and foreign flavours, Nigel picked the brains of some top restaurant owners in the North West to devise simple ways of making things like chicken kiev healthily at home.
Living and working on the land, I‘m very aware of the changing seasons and what that means for crops and harvesting. I count myself lucky to be so close to nature because modern city life and imported meat, fruit and vegetables can really divorce you from the notion of seasonality. If you let it, that is. When times are tough the cost of food in season is all important, so we looked at something which has become increasingly expensive in recent years to see if there was a cheaper alternative. Spring lamb is delicious but out of reach for many people on a budget. I discovered that the answer lies in knowing the various cuts of meat; the sort of things you see on diagrams in butchers’ shops. We rescued the cheaper, less fashionable cuts and Nigel produced dishes which proved Spring lamb c an be tasty and inexpensive. We also filmed the sort of event which was once a common sight in ever y village in the country; the traditional harvest supper. It really focuses the mind when you’re challenged to feed your neighbours from food you’ve grown yourself.
The prospect of moving in with a farming family to grow crops, rear animals and cook up tasty, cheap, healthy food was a very tall order indeed. I really think we succeeded and both Nigel and I learnt a great deal from the experience. Although, I’ll think twice before letting him any where near another combine harvester.