Super Market


Friday, 30 November 2012

I hate clothes shopping, loathe shoe shopping and detest Christmas shopping.
But food shopping? I love it. 

At the moment my food shopping is done mostly online which helps prevent me from spending too much and although I visit farm shops for my fruit and veg I do miss walking around the supermarket and seeing all the lovely things there are to take home and cook. Waitrose is my favourite supermarket. Posh and pricey you might say, but I say excellent quality products, helpful, well-informed staff and uncluttered aisles.

From today, however, I have a new favourite supermarket. Whole Foods Market , Cheltenham.
Whole Foods is a Texas based chain of organic supermarkets which now has several stores in the UK. Most are in London but there is also one in Glasgow and as of this month one in Cheltenham. This is lucky for me as Cheltenham is only 3 junctions down the M5 from Worcester - a half hour journey.

If you like good food and enjoy food shopping then you will love Whole Foods, but be warned, if you thought Waitrose was expensive.... well...let's just say in America Whole Foods is sometimes known as Whole Paycheck.

The fruit and vegetables looked absolutely stunning. Much attention has been paid to how the produce is displayed. I was very tempted by almost everything I saw.

I examined the fresh turmeric (the knobbly little tubers next to the yellow carrots), the habanero chillies  the graffiti aubergines,

 the stripy beetroot,

the piles of leafy greens,

and the prepared vegetable mixes.

I nearly bought a large tub of fresh pineapple chunks but decided £4 was a bit much.

I examined the nut butter machines where you can grind your own peanut or almond butters.

I exclaimed over the bowls of spices laid out like some Middle Eastern market. Here you can by as much or as little as you like. Little china scoops are provided along with small plastic bags. I chose the zatar which is sumac, thyme and sesame -two bowls behind the cumin powder.

Next I had a look at the oil cans. Here you can buy a bottle and fill it from the cans and then when it's empty you can bring it back and refill it. You can do the same with beer, cider and wine.

Nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and grains are available to buy in bulk from canisters like these, or bins with scoops. I bought some black beluga lentils.

Self-service antipasti.

Fabulous looking dairy produce. I bought a tub of gorgonzola dolce which was on sale. The extremely helpful and knowledgeable cheese chap gave me some to taste before scooping it out from a large whole cheese and telling me to let it come to room temperature before serving.

I didn't buy any fish but next time I visit I shall take a freezer box and get some of the lovely looking frozen Scottish seafood.

These rolled pork shoulders looked wonderful and I noted they were cheaper then Waitrose. I wanted something quick to cook for supper tonight so I went for steak instead -a rare treat.

Next I bought a bar of Culture Shock chocolate (white chocolate with ginger and chilies) and a few Christmas treats.

I didn't buy cookies from the cookie bar,

or cupcakes, or macarons (they get everywhere),

 or even cookery books,

 but I did buy three Eccles cakes for the children and two cappuccino bars for Charlie and me.

We also came away with local beer and a bargain bottle of wine (£5 -hope it's alright).

I came away from Whole Foods seriously impressed with the look of the place, the quality and choice of the food, but also with the excellence of the staff  who were friendly and informed.
I also came away quite a bit poorer.
I'm dying to go back though. Soon.



Wednesday, 28 November 2012

You may remember this post. I have finally got around to transferring the recipes from my recipe journal onto cards and filing them in my lovely recipe box.

The box is so much better then the journal because it is so flexible. I can make the different categories as big or as small as I please. If I make a mess of a card I can simply start a fresh one. I can write, draw or stick things on them.

As you can see I have written some recipes out very simply, sometimes just as a reminder of ingredient quantities. Some are much more detailed, Some have pages from my recipe journal stuck on them, some have photocopies from the journal or from other books and some are printouts from this blog (I do actually refer to the blog for recipes quite often). I like this mishmash of styles.

When the children leave home it will be an easy matter to photocopy the recipes they want -chocolate fudge pudding for example- so that they can take away their own collection of family favourites.

Now, just let me find the card with the Fork Biscuit recipe........ah, there it is.

Stirring Up Trouble


Sunday, 25 November 2012

A copy of the Book of Common Prayer is an odd thing for a non-Christian to have in their possession. Nonetheless I have a copy, and each year on the 25th Sunday after Trinity I open it to read the collect. For today is Stir-Up Sunday. Traditionally this is the Sunday when we are not only reminded to stir up our wills and bring forth the fruit of good works but also to stir up our Christmas puddings plenteously with dried fruit.

This I have done using a slightly adapted and reduced version of Delia's Christmas pud.

Tradition has it that each member of the family has to give it a stir and make a wish. My family takes a slightly anarchic view of this tradition.

Katie is the least anarchic and gives the pud a good solid stir.

Note the traditional sixpence.

My husband, however, was not in the mood for tradition. 'Look, a bum!' he said in a pleased voice.

'Ooh, I know what I'm going to make!' said Tom,
'Look, you are supposed to be stirring not sculpting' I say.
Fortunately the bowl was not really big enough for Tom's idea to work.
Trust me you don't want to know what it was.

At last I persuaded them to stir properly.

Red, Amber, Lime


Saturday, 24 November 2012




Annie has written a typically thought-provoking post about blogging. Do read it.
I commented that when I blog I upload my photos first and the words just happen around them. This post is supposed to be about lime marmalade but as well as my limey pics I uploaded a picture of the red berries lying on the ground and one of my very last jar of January 2011 marmalade. What did I see but traffic lights.

The marmalade I made here has lasted nearly two years. Charlie has decided he likes granola for breakfast and consequently our average marmalade consumption has declined.

I thought a few jars of lime marmalade would tide us over nicely until Seville orange season in January next year. But now that I've made it and the expected yield of five jars turned out to be ten jars plus a basinful in the fridge I think it may last us until January 2014.

I used the recipe for Lime and Rum Marmalade in Diana Henry's Salt, Sugar, Smoke. I reluctantly decided to leave out the 2 fl oz of white rum. Even a 35cl bottle of Bacardi is £8.50. I had dark rum but I felt that wouldn't look very attractive, besides I am saving it for a pudding that needs to be made tomorrow.*

I'm a very slapdash marmalader. I cannot be bothered to slice the peels really thinly into shreds. Instead I fling it all in the food processor -hence the big pieces of peel. I didn't bother with scraping the membrane and flesh from the peels either -too hard.

 What a shame cooked limes do not retain their lovely limey greenness. Fortunately they do retain their zingy limey flavour, just the thing for your morning toast. I think it will also be delicious stirred into coconut yogurt, used to top coconut creams or to sandwich a coconut cake.

Slapdash Lime Marmalade - adapted from Diana Henry's Salt Sugar Smoke

Makes about 10 450g sized jars

12-14 limes
2 - 2.5kg of caster sugar
3 pints  (about 1.7 l) water

Cut limes in half and juice. Reserve juice and cover the lime halves with water and refrigerate overnight. Presumably this helps soften the skins.

Next day drain lime halves and either shred by hand or throw in a food processor fitted with a slicing blade. Put shredded peels in a preserving pan with the lime juice and the water. Cook very gently for 1½ hours. Cover the pan with a double layer of foil to prevent too much evaporation.

Make sure the peels are really soft -cook for longer if necessary. I didn't find it necessary.
Weigh the water and fruit (easiest on an electric 'add-and-weigh' scale).
Add and equal weight of sugar. Pour it all back in pan. Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar.
Bring to a full rolling boil and boil for 5 mins or as long as necessary to reach setting point. mine took 5 mins.
Pot into sterilised jars. I sterilise jars by washing them and drying them out in a 100 degree oven for about 20 mins.

* Tomorrow is Stir Up Sunday  -your last chance to make your Christmas pudding!

Happy Thanksgiving


Thursday, 22 November 2012

 I am reminded by Lemon Layer Cake that it is Thanksgiving on the other side of the Atlantic. Canadian readers please forgive me for not remembering your Thanksgiving last month.

I am sure you are all far too busy spending time with family and friends and being thankful to be reading blogs today, but I just wanted to say how thankful I am to everyone in North America who reads this blog. You certainly enrich the blogging experience for me enormously.

I would also like to say that my children have been unintentionally celebrating with you by sprinkling dried cranberries on their granola and taking turkey sandwiches to school for lunch.

Enjoy your day of thankfulness and turkey.

Lemon Layer Cake points out that the President pardons a turkey each Thanksgiving. Here is how President Jed Bartlet did it.

What's Not to Like?


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What's not to like about this recipe? 

It's cheap, it's easy, it's fast. 
It's made in one pot, it has loads of veg in it and it's made out of storecupboard ingredients. 
It's an excellent way of using up leftover meat and veg.
Best of all it is infinitely adaptable. It can be vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, meaty or fishy. 

This dish started life as corn creole from Lindsey Bareham's book A Wolf in the Kitchen. It has evolved somewhat but I still follow her suggestion to serve it with grated cheese and slabs of fresh, white bread thickly buttered. 

First of all you need a suitable pan. I use a wide, shallow cast iron pan with a lid. A large frying pan will do and although a lid is desirable you can manage without. You could also use an ordinary flameproof casserole dish.

1) Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil or butter in your pan. I used olive oil. Chop a medium onion (I used some of my veg hash) and add it to the pan and let it soften for a few minutes.

2) Now you can add some spices. Or not, as you like. I added a couple of teaspoons of a creole blend. Smoked paprika is really good, or cayenne, curry spices, curry paste- really it's up to you, whatever you like. I also chucked in a crushed garlic clove at this point. Stir the spices around with the onion for about 5 minutes allowing them to lose their harshness. Don't let them burn though -add a bit more oil if necessary or even a splash of water.

3) Throw in 2 cans of tomatoes. I used chopped, but whole tomatoes are fine, just break them up with a wooden spoon. You could also use an equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes -skin them first.
Stir the spicy onions into the tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes.

4) Now you can really start to customise this dish. I used frozen sweetcorn and just poured it into the tomatoes until it looked enough. Then I let it simmer for 5-10 minutes until heated through.

You don't have to use sweetcorn.

Other options either on their own or in combination are;
~ beans -either tinned or ones you have soaked and cooked. Chickpeas, black beans and red kidney beans are my favourites.
~ vegetables such as courgettes, mushrooms, aubergines*, peppers**, frozen peas or diced cooked squash.
~ white fish fillets, prawns, tuna, leftover roast chicken or pork, cooked sausages, smoked sausage, chorizo, ham, cooked bacon
~ chunks of mozzarella, goat's cheese, halloumi or feta -add cheese just before serving so that it is just beginning to melt.
~ eggs
~ olives are a nice addition with tuna or feta.

*, **
Best to soften these with the onion first.

To cook eggs like this simply crack one egg per person on top of the tomato mixture, put a lid on and simmer for 5 minutes more or less depending how hard you like your eggs (I like mine soft, Charlie likes his hard. I cannot persuade him that he is Just Plain Wrong about this).

I love it with buttered white bread because that's one less thing to cook (flatbreads, chunks of French bread would be perfect too) but you don't have to serve it with bread. Baked potatoes or rice are great too. You could also serve it over pasta or stir cooked pasta into it. And if you aren't a teenage boy you will probably find it filling enough on its own.

I usually put a bowl of grated cheese on the table too, though not if there is already cheese in the dish.

We eat this dish in one form or another every week. It takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. Now if only I could come up with a good name for it..... any suggestions?

Ice, Fire and a Winner


Sunday, 18 November 2012

An icy morning

Followed a fiery evening

 And a winner has been picked.

Bitsy Beans - you have won a 2013 Quince Tree calendar!
Congratulations! Please email me your address at and I will post you your calendar as soon as possible.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered.

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