Q: How big is the catering operation at the Olympics?
The world’s eye is fixed squarely on the London Olympics this week and while the weather has been mixed and the Badminton players suspect, the quality of the games overall has been exceptional. Beyond the individual sports, British culture is also in the limelight, so to capture the Olympic Spirit this week we are sharing our Market 5 for British cuisine. There is much more to British cuisine than Bangers ‘n Mash and to highlight the versatility of these everyday (and often overlooked) kitchen staples, I have included some world class recipes from some of Britain’s best Chefs.
While Don Burke may have controversially called parsnips an “affront to human dignity”, there are many Brits who couldn’t imagine a Sunday roast without them- in fact before the arrival of the potato from the Americas, the parsnip was a staple across Europe. So much so that during the Tudor dynasty, the parsnip was more commonly consumed than bread. Closer to home this cost-effective, nutritious and versatile vegetable is wonderful buying at the markets with quality, flavour and supply at its peak until October. For more information on parsnip selection and availability, please click here.
Host Nation inspiration: Chris Horridge’s Veal sweetbreads, parsnip air and curry oil
2. ENGLISH SPINACH:
Spinach first appeared in England in the 14th century and was adopted quickly due to its availability in early spring when other vegetables were scarce. Spinach was brought to Australia by the first fleet but as it was difficult to grow here, Silverbeet soon became the crop of choice. Today many still refer to Silverbeet as Spinach in Australia for this reason. At its best until September-October, Spinach is a tasty, healthy addition to the menu, especially while other leaf lines are battling with frosty conditions.
Availability: all year, best Mar-Sept
Appearance: bright green, slightly crinkled, flat leaves on a firm green stem
Flavour: bittersweet– finer in texture and flavour than silverbeet
Best for: suitable for eating raw, blanched, braised
Host Nation inspiration: Adam Gray’s Spinach soup with wild garlic toasts
Rhubarb is yet another ingredient that isn’t native to Britain, yet it is strongly linked to the national cuisine due to its popular use in desserts and wine making prior to WW2. In the United Kingdom, the first rhubarb of the year is harvested by candlelight in forcing sheds, where all other light is excluded, in order to produce a sweeter, more tender stalk. In Australia. Our rhubarb season peaks during Autumn-Winter, so now is the time to enjoy this tart vegetable at its best. For more information on selection or availability of rhubarb click here.
Host Nation inspiration: Nathan Outlaw’s Rhubarb and crumble trifle
The leek brings a Celtic flavour to the celebrations. As one of the National emblems of Wales, this humble vegetable root has a proud history in Britain and is currently enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Brought to Australia on the first fleet, the leek is used widely in Australia with most production coming out of Victoria and an annual production value of over $16 million in 2007/2008. While it is grown commercially in other states across Australia, Victoria’s cooler temperatures allow for a top quality, consistent harvest over a longer period.
Appearance: long thick white stalk with hard green leaves
Flavour: mild sweet, onion flavour
Best for: commonly used insoups (cock-a-leekie), stock, stews and other dishes, they can also be boiled, fried or eaten raw in salads
Host Nation inspiration: Martin Wishart’s Leeks vinaigrette with eggs mimosa
Growing up in Manchester there was nothing I liked more than mushy peas- popular across Northern Britain (Scotland/Yorkshire etc) this signature dish has become synonymous with stereotypical English fare- in particular meat pies and fish ‘n chips. Realistically peas shouldn’t be featuring in our Market Five as they are very expensive at the moment (due to cold snaps in QLD slowing supply) however we couldn’t help by include this British classic on our list. Prices should ease over the coming month as the weather warms up, in the meantime Sugarsnaps are performing well and are a good substitute.
Availability: generally all year
Appearance: round green seeds in a long green pod
Flavour: sweet, juicy
Best for: mushy peas- other than this they aretasty raw or cooked- often used in soups, risottos, pastas, salads, sides
Host Nation inspiration: Nathan Outlaw’s Ham hock with pea purée and wholemeal bread
A: The Olympics (in this instance London 2012) is recognised as being the largest peacetime catering operation in the world and the Brits have stepped up to the plateas the first Olympic organisers to produce a food vision with a focus on sustainability. Over the course of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Olympic venues are forecast to serve up 14 million meals across 40 locations. The Olympic Village alone is being supplied with 25,000 loaves of bread, 232 tonnes of potatoes, over 82 tonnes of seafood, 31 tonnes of poultry items, over 100 tonnes of meat, 75,000 litres of milk, 19 tonnes of eggs, 21 tonnes of cheese and more than 330 tonnes of fruit and vegetables. Now that’s a mouthful.