'It makes sense... I taste the difference in things I cook' - Sara Cox goes organic
This is the month to go organic, Sara Cox tells Ella Walker
September might be synonymous with the end of summer and start of chillier weather, but it's also the month of all things pesticide-and-chemical free when it comes to what you're putting in your mouth.
Organic September, the Soil Association's month-long drive to raise awareness of organic food, is in full flow, as is the Organic Trade Board's EU-funded campaign #FeedYourHappy, fronted by DJ Sara Cox, who is "fully obsessed with food" - especially the organic kind.
"Organic food is just produced in a really lovely way, I want to go and roll around in the fields of Riverford (Organic Farmers) where they make up their veg boxes, it all just sounds so lovely," she buzzes. "And Yeo Valley with their happy cows, romping around in their lovely green grass."
Sara teamed up with food writer Rosie Birkett, to put together a feast of organic goodies, from fresh tomato bruschetta to roast chicken. Here are their tips for fitting organic into your life.
It's worth prioritising organic when you can taste the difference
"I think people were a bit dubious about organic when it first came out; to me it just makes total sense," says Rosie. "I genuinely taste the difference in the things I cook."
"Organic tomatoes, having them on toast - it's genuinely one of the most amazing things, and it's so easy. When tomatoes are in season, they're so ripe and full of flavour and sweet," she enthuses.
You don't have to exclude all other non-organic foods in the process
"I'm not saying there aren't fantastic ingredients that don't have the certification, because there are, and I've met many farmers and producers doing great things without necessarily being certified," explains Rosie.
"But as a rule of thumb, when I am shopping and cooking, knowing that I'm using organic ingredients is peace of mind."
Try starting with simple food swaps
"I don't eat that much meat because it's expensive eating the kind of meat that I feel comfortable eating, and I know about the flip side and intensive pig farming - and it's not good for anyone," says Rosie. "Pork might be cheap, but at what cost? Why not cut out cheap meat for organic vegetables instead, and find new ways to make nutritious meals?
"To me, it's about teaching people about valuing and thinking about and being conscious about ingredients when you're cooking them, but even if you're just flipping to an organic yogurt, or organic eggs - just one thing that you're substituting, that's going to improve the way you're cooking."
Eke out the (organic) meat you do buy to spread the cost
"I try and eat less meat per week than I used to, and then when I do have meat I try and make sure it's really good quality," explains Sara, who acknowledges that organic food is often more expensive. "So, you're not buying seven organic chickens a week so your kids can have chicken every day, you might do it once a week on a Sunday, and then you might have a curry with the leftovers, chicken butties, or put it in a paella, and then you can make a stock with the bones.
"You use every inch of the chicken because it's a really good quality chicken, you can boil up the carcass - would you really want to do that with a chicken that wasn't organically farmed?" Getting the most out of every product is something that comes naturally to Sara: "I come from a very working class background.
"My dad's a farmer himself and my mum always cooked things from scratch, so I come from using good quality meats and using every little bit of the animal you can."
Be aware of the impact of farming on animals and the planet
For Sara, growing up on her dad's farm has shaped her idea of how animals should be treated. "I always loved being involved with the animals and watching my dad bath the cows and watching the calves being born - it was as lovely as you'd imagine growing up on a farm would be," she remembers. "It's quite alarming when you see in America those huge cattle ranches, and they're not on grass.
"I'm hyper aware of the food system and the impact food and cooking has on the environment, and anything I can do to alleviate any of the damage large scale industrial agriculture is inflicting on the world, I'm obviously keen to get involved," says Rosie. "The more I cook and the more I learn about food, the more I'm convinced that using organic ingredients is a positive thing to do."
Sarah Cox is the face of the Organic Trade Board's EU-funded campaign #FeedYourHappy, as part of the Soil Association's Organic September.