How to cook good food using international ingredients
- Credit: Mike Bowden
Home cooking with interesting and exotic ingredients has become a popular pastime over the past year or so as more of us have enjoyed experimenting with food during lockdown.
Many of the flavoursome good food products from abroad that we now find on local shop shelves are brought into the country by Ipswich-based Cory Brothers.
Indeed, some 27 per cent of the cargo imported by the logistics and maritime service falls into the category of food, drink and ingredients, explains Erika Scarlett, the company’s import manager (and self-confessed foodie).
“We are busier than ever at the moment,” she admits. “There has been a surge in demand for imported food and trade is up.”
So, what foods are imported to the UK?
Cory Brothers bring in a truly colourful variety of good food, drink and ingredients, including fresh, ambient and temperature-controlled products.
“We have tinned produce from India, China and Pakistan; refrigerated cargo from Mexico – bananas, avocados, pineapples – and rice from South East Asia, for example,” says Erika. “And we air freight in quite a lot of wine as well!”
She continues: “During lockdown our rice shipments went through the roof: people wanted products with longevity that they could combine with fresh, local ingredients.”
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Erika believes many of the cooking and healthy eating trends we saw during lockdown will now continue.
“People’s attitude towards cooking and eating at home has changed. Over the past year or so, people have adapted to eating at home more because the hospitality sector has been closed.
“And I think having tried out recipes during lockdown periods, they may now be more inclined to continue. They might also perhaps have more confidence when it comes to cooking for friends rather than necessarily always going out to eat at restaurants.”
Confidence in our food
“The processes and protocols for food imports are more heavily regulated and monitored than ever before,” she continues.
Cory Brothers have strong relationships with the various port health authorities who undertake rigorous checks of all types of food, drink and ingredients.
“We have to ensure our customers’ supply chains are robust and on time so people can have trusted foods whenever they want them,” she says. “Our customers rely on us for our experience – in exporting, as well as importing,” she stresses.
What food does the UK export?
Cory Brothers export a vast array of products from the UK and further afield.
“This is supermarket shelf food, which is not only produced here in the UK but also elsewhere,” she explains. “These include good foods that are imported from around the world and are consolidated here in the UK with our homegrown produce before being re-exported."
“It is very complicated because of the new processes – but we are successfully solving and managing all these issues for top brands because we are experts in food, drink and ingredients’ supply chains.”
What can I make with imported ingredients?
Erika’s love of good food and healthy eating combined with her understanding of where ingredients come from has fed her own passion for cooking.
“I enjoy making all sorts of dishes with unusual ingredients, such as sumac, fresh tamarind and black cardamom pods,” she says. “It’s lovely being able to try recipes for curries and other interesting dishes completely from scratch rather than using pre-prepared sauces."
“When I am pushed for time, I cook Italian food, a nice lasagne perhaps, with bread, oils and salads.”
A meal like this might well include tinned tomatoes imported by Cory Brothers, as well as oregano, garlic, pasta, olive oil and parmesan they have brought in from overseas.
“And we could well be drinking wine with the meal that was imported by us too!” she observes.
Tinned tomatoes can be very nutritious and are great in Italian dishes. But Erika always buys her fresh salad ingredients locally.
“It is good to buy seasonal, fresh ingredients to use with these other products from abroad,” she says. “I also buy fresh, local, organic, free-range eggs here in Suffolk – and I might combine these with imported ingredients to make a tasty egg foo yung or a homemade quiche, perhaps.”
Erika’s Egg Foo Yun Recipe: combining local Suffolk produce with imported ingredients
- Six locally sourced, free-range, organic eggs
- One tablespoon sesame oil
- Half tbs vegetable oil
- 200g beansprouts
- One white onion thinly sliced
- Half a garlic clove crushed
- Two tablespoons soy sauce
- One teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- Salt and chilli seasoning (I like the Kerala brand)
- Leftover roast chicken from Sunday lunch, shredded
- 12 raw king prawns
Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and set them aside. Heat the sesame oil and vegetable oil in a large deep frying pan and add the finely sliced onion and garlic. Lightly fry for two to three minutes. Add the roast chicken, king prawns and soy sauce. Stir-fry for another two to three minutes, adding the bean sprouts a handful at a time. Season with salt and chilli seasoning to taste. Add the egg mixture. Transfer to a 190 degrees, pre-heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until firm in the middle. Serve with a coriander and spring onion garnish.
Serve as a main dish or as a side dish to a Chinese meal.