COLUMN: Respecting food is key to viability

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Lots of people ask me what sustainable food and eating is really about and I think that’s because there are so many different issues, causes, facts, statistics and opinions – it’s just downright confusing.

To me, sustainability is quite simply about respect. Respect for people, our planet, the things we produce. Food should not be seen or produced as a commodity – it keeps us alive, healthy and well – it sustains us.

When we started messing around with food it was borne out of a desire or need to drive down cost, to make things more affordable, to provide more variety and choice.

What may have started off in the right place, could now be contributing to an ever-increasing number of food intolerances, cancers, resistance to antibiotics, and is almost certainly a leading cause of deforestation and climate change.

When we respect something we value it. Fortunately, for us Sheffielders, we are blessed with so many fantastic farmers, producers and artisans all working tirelessly to produce great quality food.

They didn’t set out to produce a commodity, nor did they employ a marketer to help them develop a more ‘sustainable’ product; they produce a great product because they respect their environment and the people involved. The output is an honest product made with care. 
So if sustainability is about respect what other things can we do? Last month I talked about how throwing out good food costs the average family £700 a year. But we could eat less and better meat – local and grass fed is best. We could eat more plants and even have a bash at growing our own. You’d be amazed the difference even a window box of herbs will make to your cooking. How about eating less processed food – I know that’s tough because lives are so busy but most processed is not really real food. If you want to get really practical why not make a big batch of my simple tomato sauce? Stick it in the freezer and then use as a base for pizza, or add leftover shredded roast pork and fennel seeds to make a ragu, or fry off some onion, aubergine and cumin seeds for a great pasta sauce. All meals you can make in less than half an hour, which taste fantastic and are good for you. Your freezer is one of your greatest friends when it comes to sustainable eating, and pretty much anything can go in it. Keep an eye on the fridge and rather than bin stuff you can’t use, freeze it. My only advice? Leave room for the ice - or your Sheffield gin just won’t taste the same.

Visit www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk for the recipe.

Easiest and best tomato sauce

Plenty of olive oil

Half bulb of garlic

Cloves peeled and crushed

4 tins of tomatoes (Cirio would be my choice)

Teaspoon of sugar (maybe more, taste it)

Splash of red wine and balsamic vinegar (optional)

Any herbs you have like basil, marjoram or oregano (fresh if you can but dried is also good)

Heat the olive oil, add the garlic. Cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, sugar, wine and balsamic (if using). Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add the herbs and cook down for at least 20 minutes. The aim is to reduce the liquid to intensify the flavour. I often leave mine for an hour or more as it just gets better and better