Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Savvy Shopping

Along with most of the population we’ve been trying to cut down our spending and have so far been quite successful in our new thrifty ways.

Like Robyn says in her Blog carefully planning where to spend your hard earned cash – especially when it comes to regular shopping like food – can easily be controlled with a plan and buying in the right place and at the right time.

It must almost be about 6 months ago now that I swapped the Saturday morning chore of fighting my way round Morrison’s to breezing round the more local Aldi store on a Thursday night on the way home from work. I have not only saved time (the shop takes about 20mins rather than the hour+ we used to spend browsing through Morrisons many aisles) I save petrol as the shop is on my way home, and we save on average around £30 a week on the cost of food.

But, it’s not like I buy less stuff, the great thing about Aldi and other discount supermarkets is the range of products – because they don’t have, for example, a whole aisle dedicated to cans of Tuna,15 different types from 5 different brands, that decision making time is dramatically reduced – I’m not spending ages working out which offer works out better value or if I want lemon and pepper flavoured Tuna, I just need a couple of cans for sandwiches and my only choice is if I have Tuna in Brine or Sunflower oil. Simple.

And whilst not all produce is great, or in stock, our food is supplemented by the local butcher who I visit one lunchtime a week, not only does he do a fantastic range of home made sausages, it works out cheaper, I get out of the office for a walk and I feel good about helping a local business.

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What a lovely lamb.

I probably only eat a full roast dinner two or three times a year, one being Christmas and the other times at special occasions, and yesterday was one such occasion.

My other half’s parents were celebrating their 40th Wedding Anniversary and it was up to us kids to cook; my fella being in charge of meat and his sister doing the veg. After a quick search in the recipe books, Roast Lamb a la Ainsley was the meat of choice, stuffed with a breadcrumb and fresh herb stuffing (rosemary, thyme and sage). lamb

Our expectations were riding high, fresh lamb from the local butcher and herbs from the garden, I couldn’t wait. 2 and a half hours cooking, 30 minutes rest and with proper, proper gravy – scraping all the gooey bits off the bottom of the pan and we even boiled the leg bone to make the stock! The table was set, all 9 of us crammed in and with all the trimmings and plenty of veg it made for the best roast dinner ever.

Some comedy dancing to the complete Abba Gold CD, a film and the happy couple falling straight to sleep on the sofa (too much champers) topped of a great afternoon gastronomic feast.

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It’s now less than a month to go until our first rugby match of the new season and, although its only a friendly, there seems to be no amount of fitness training that can prepare your body up to match fitness other than actually playing a lot of matches (past experience you see).

I do feel much more motivated and prepared this year compared with a lot of previous seasons (having won ‘Most Improved Player for 2007/8’ I feel v proud, but I’ve still got a lot to work on, fitness and stamina being my priority No 1) Its not that I’m an unfit person really, I’ve settled into a good fitness routine, helped ten fold by the other half’s unwaivering new addition to exercise since his knee op, and as a competitive gal I can’t let myself down when he’s off to the gym most nights.  So for the last few months its been:

Monday – Circuits (too many tuck jumps last week though and I was close to vomiting. Urghh. I thank circuits, and ‘Frank Brunos’ in particular for my increasingly defined ‘4pack’ woohoo!)  Tuesdays, he’s at the gym so I do a Fartlek run and then 30mins powerwalk with dog in tow.  Wednesday – Rugby! yey!.  Thursday is pretty much the same as Tuesday.  Friday is sometimes a rest day as is Saturday and Sunday, but I might do a quick run.

But what I struggle with is stamina.  Its frustrating, I’m a fairly decent sprinter (powerhouse thighs means I’ll never be seen in skinny jeans)  but once I’ve used the tank it takes ages to get my breath back and get the lactic acid from the afore mentioned thighs.  So I’ve changed recently from pushing myself to run for more than 15 mins in one go, which I sometimes find boring as well as hard work, I’m just not built for the long distance stuff, to Fartlek runs which involves: sprint x 30 seconds, jog/recover x 10seconds repeated for 10 mins.  I think I’m feeling some improvement but its going to be a long process.

All this exercise means I can scoff loads of yummy grub, I totally agree with CKs mate Rob, as I’m permanently hungry and I’d be humongous if I couldn’t exercise! So its rugby training tonight and as its chucking it down it’s going to be a rather soggy session.  I think I’ll have another biscuit thanks, going to need to keep the energy up!

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Fabulous France

We’ve just returned from a family holiday in Brittany and it was lovely. The weather was good, the food was delicious and the wine flowed freely. We discovered that 1Euro bottles of red are perfectly drinkable, as are the 5 Euro (5litre) barrels of wine which were equally good to wash down masses of bread and coarse pate.

We stayed near a particularly beautiful town called Josselin, complete with picture-postcard castle (Le Chateau de Rohan) canal, cobbled streets and plenty of cafes to sit and watch the world go by. Bastille day was celebrated with an enormous medieval festival the whole town was decorated and everyone but the visiting tourists were dressed in medieval attire.

As this was my first real holiday in France I was determined to make the most of all things French (not just wine and pate) so… food of the region as we were near the coast – Langoustines, Lobster, Oysters. I did eat a lot of Langoustines, they were on every menu and in every supermarket and I loved them, although a bit messy. Although we did find fresh live Lobsters in Vannes they were pricey and I’d rather a professional prepare and cook it, equally I chickened out on the Oysters, they just don’t look like your meant to eat them! I did however, and to my surprise eat a Snail. I wasn’t brave enough to order my own plate but I tried one and it was actually ok, a bit like a mushroom texture and tasted of garlic!

After a week of relaxing and eating its been a hard week coming back to reality and the holiday blues have definitely set in as we’ve munched and drank our way through some of the reminders of France we brough home. Now I want to plan when we can go back!

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Garden Magic

I can’t tell you how excitied I was yesterday when I discovered something miraculous growing in the garden. I like trying to ‘grow my own’ and have had success with most varieties of lettuce and rocket, I’ve tried tomatoes (got about 4 in total…) and the strawberry plants grown from seed have yeilded 1, yes one strawberry. It was very tasty, but still, just the one. So when an old grow bag started to sprout, I thought it was a tomatoe plant coming back to life so I’ve watered it, put it in a more sunny spot and watched its progress without too much hope for any produce. But that all changed yesterday. As I was watering said mystery plant the soil shifted and to my utter surprise, there in the black earth glistened a large yellow mass, a potatoe!

I can only guess that after watching Jamie at Home I must have bunged a potatoe in this used grow bag and completly forgotten about it. Amazingly I have grown spuds without even knowing it! So the bigger ones (4 as you can see) I have picked out but there seems to be plenty of more to come. So fingers crossed that
my careful transplanting into a proper tub has not damaged this mystery plant!

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If there is one food stuff I find hard to resist its pastry. Whether it be delicate and crisp puff or dense crunchy short crust, or a sweet sticky danish, pastry is my weakness.

So with some steak and kidneys (the other half thought Devilled Kidneys would be a Sunday breakfast treat, I was apprehensive but afterwards I admit, I was somewhat impressed!) what better to make than a lovely pie in the new dish complete with Blackbird that older sis bought me for b’day pressie!

Following an Ainsley Harriot recipe for Steak and brown ale pie, after much simmering and stirring, cooling and baking the delicious creation was well worth the wait and looked something like this:

The Blackbird doing his task to perfection, keeping the puff pastry crisp, yet still allowing a little of that lovely gooey stodge underneath where pastry meets the gravy…

And with the bits of pastry left over a strawberry tastic tart was thrown together, super simple:

1. roll out pastry into a sizable square for each portion

2. generously pile strawberries on top

3. Sprinkle with a little sugar

4. bake until gooey and pastry goes golden)

5. Serve with delicious home-made-ice-cream-maker strawberry ice cream. yum!

(I have no portion control, that is a dessert spoon in the bowl!)

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My other half is quite established in the kitchen now when it comes to special dinners, especially anything curry related. Since getting a curry cookbook for Christmas he’s not looked back, from delicious fragrant curry’s from West India to the dry spices of Goa, we’ve really got a taste for the variety of flavours you experience in a curry.

india.gifAs we’re having some friends over in the week he made a Vindaloo at the weekend, and contrary to popular belief (and English stlye curries) a Vindaloo is not meant to be a blow-your-head-off-chili-  stinky-poo-type curry! My own taste buds are quite sensitive to chili hot spices but the combination of vinegar (Vin) and garlic (aloo) is a pleasant and not too long lasting fire on the tongue sensation.

What I’m really looking forward to is the Green Masala that he’s also made – I’ll have to post up the recipe!

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