A week’s worth of shopping….

Some key groceries for a weekly shop

First of all: thank you! Thank you to everyone who emailed, commented, Tweeted, followed, pinned and got in touch after the Observer Food Monthly piece. We were overwhelmed by the amount of debate, discussion and support it received. We’ve found some amazing new blogs, talked to some great people and had a wonderful time. Even the notorious Comment is Free was positive!

So to say thanks properly I thought I’d give you a sneak peek to the bits of the original article that didn’t make the final cut at Food Monthly. Not content with taking over the entire magazine, I did in fact write more than you saw and while I’m thrilled to have had so much published, a little bit did get lost in the edit. A few people asked if I was using organic for my recipes because it didn’t seem right that they came to £20 per head for that many dishes, but in fact there was a lot more food in my basket and I’m going to give you a cut-out and keep guide to see where I bought food for this week and began building a storecupboard for future ones.

I costed out my basket using Sainsbury’s online as I wanted to use a baseline that the largest number of people across the UK could have and an online ‘big four’ supermarket was the best for that. Not everyone can reach an Aldi, Lidl or a proper market, and online shopping removed regional variations. Using a discount retailer, local greengrocer, market or getting reduced products at a supermarket can help you cut the budget. Remember it’s a guideline, not a diktat.

I allowed for a bare minimum of storecupboard items: salt, pepper, one chilli product (powder, hot sauce, Tabasco, your choice), smoked paprika, one dried green herb of your choice, Worcestershire sauce and mustard powder. The fresh herbs and ground ginger mentioned were optional as was the parmesan and olive oil. I didn’t include butter in the basket as it’s an essential to me, nor  did I include milk as the amount you buy depends on your tea and coffee consumption.

We’ve listed everything you need to buy to do the 7 day menu I wrote for OFM, and in the future I’ll be giving you some more ideas for using the store cupboard items you’ve built up from here.

P.S. At the bottom of the post is a version you can print out if you’d like – it’s just the ingredients list in black and white, with space for your own notes. It prints two copies of the list per sheet of A4 paper, so one printout can be used over a couple of weeks.

Fruit and veg

Bananas – Basics Fairtrade  x8 £1.15

Potatoes – white 2.5kg              £1.95

Leeks 1kg                                      £2.59

Beetroot – Vacuum pack            £0.70

Celery – untrimmed                    £0.90

Carrots – loose 1kg                     £0.90

Onions – 1kg bag                         £1.10

Apples – Basics bag                    £0.82

Parsnips – loose x2                    £0.48

Savoy Cabbage                            £0.80

Swede (turnip)                            £0.90

Garlic (2x bulbs)                        £0.46

Mushrooms – sliced 1kg           £2.50

 

Frozen

Garden Peas  – frozen bag 910g      £1.60

White fish fillets – Basics 520g      £2.00
Tinned and dried goods

Butterbeans – 400g tin                         £0.69

Kidney beans – Basics 400g tin         £0.27

Chopped tomatoes – 400g Basics       £0.35

Condensed milk 379g                           £0.99

Lemon juice 250ml                               £0.59

Creamed coconut 200g                       £0.99

Semolina 500g                                     £0.89

Pearl Barley 500g                               £0.55

Porridge Oats 1kg                               £1.29

Popping corn 500g                            £1.09

Rice – Long grain rice 1kg               £1.39

Plain flour – Basics 1.5kg                £0.65

Ryvita 250g                                        £0.99

 

Meat, fish and dairy

Chicken – whole approx. 1.75kg              £5.00

Low fat Natural yoghurt – Basics              £0.65

Eggs – 12 free-range                                     £2.65

Double Cream 600ml                                  £1.68

Total:                                                            £39.95

If you wanted to buy the store cupboard essentials from Sainsbury’s I’ve included what they would cost below:

Store cupboard essentials

Worcestershire sauce 150ml    £1.19

Mustard powder 57g                  £1.35

Olive oil 500ml                           £2.00 (offer price)

Smoked paprika 50g                  £1.19

Ground ginger 32g                     £0.59

Bay leaves 10g                          £0.60

Fresh tarragon 20g                    £0.80

Tabasco sauce 57g                   £1.69

Sea Salt 350g                             £0.55

Black peppercorns 100g           £1.78

Butter – own brand 250g            £1.50

Total:                                                               £12.16

It shocked me when I costed this out. For me, these are the absolute bare basics of a herb, spice and condiments cupboard and with the exception of the fresh tarragon, they’d all last for ages, but they add another 30% onto the cost of your shop just to get some flavour into those fresh foods you’ve bought. You could save some serious cash here by shopping around if you can. Asian grocers or ‘ethnic’ supermarkets will usually have bags of peppercorns, bayleaves and ginger at twice the size and half the price. Bottles of hot sauce will be cheaper than big brand name Tabasco but everyone likes a different heat so it’s hard to advise what to buy. Olive oil often crops up in pound shops or on offer. Smoked paprika is often cheaper in delis in the cute little tins when you look at price by gram. But if you can only get to a supermarket, products like this really add cost to your shopping.

You’ll use nearly all the fresh vegetables in the course of the week, but should have some of the frozen ones left. Other items like the flour, porridge oats, pearl barley, coconut, rice and popping corn will last for ages and form the basis of following weeks’ meals and snacks. I’ll be talking you through the ways the meals came together and how with a bit of planning you don’t have to be tied to a cooker all week but still enjoy your food and your spare time on a budget. In the meantime, what are your number one herbs, spices or flavourings? Could you give up cumin? Is soy sauce essential? Go without garlic?

Click here to get a PDF version of the shopping list

grocery list

Brixton Caldo Verde

I love soup. Warming, nourishing, easy to make and very useful for using up bits and bobs in your fridge, it’s a very useful addition to any cook’s repetoire. Some soups are just a delicious dinner and rarely thought of again, but some are classics that end up defining a nation and becoming famous outside their home. Vichyoisse, gazpacho, tom yum, minestrone, we all know and love them. But one that deserves to be on that roll call is the Portuguese staple caldo verde or ‘green broth’.

Originally published at Brixton Blog…

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A trilogy of fried chicken…

Three gluten free fried chicken recipes

I hear fried chicken is the next ‘junk food’ to get the gourmet treatment and because I live in Brixton, my tolerance for hipster venues is plummeting, I decided it was time to conquer my fried chicken demons and learn how to do it at home where the whole thing would take less time than queuing up in Market Row. I also decided to set myself the challenge of making it all gluten free as well…

I’m not gluten or wheat sensitive, but for some reason three different people have had conversations with me recently about fried chicken coatings that happen to be gluten free, so inspired by their enthusiasm, I thought I’d steal their ideas and do a fried chicken crunch off, testing each version against each other. All three were good. All three were easy. One was a clear winner.

I standardised a bit. Each recipe does 4 pieces of chicken. All the chicken was free range and was bone in and skin on thighs. I marinaded them in yoghurt loosened with lemon juice to save you all hearing my obsessive rant about why you can’t get proper buttermilk in England again. This would be brilliant marinaded overnight, but a couple of hours will do nicely. About 20 minutes before you need them, drain the thighs in a sieve so they aren’t too wet. Then turn attention to the coatings.

Potato fried chicken: (first piece from the front)

This is basically going a bit 70s and using dehydrated instant mash flakes as your topping. You need the cheap ones from a Basics range so that you don’t accidentally end up with potato paste over chicken skin. It’s dead simple. Put 1/2 cup or about 50g of flakes in a shallow dish and add the seasoning of your choice. I went with thyme, black pepper and paprika. Then dredge your chicken well each side without shaking too much coating off and shallow fry for 10 minutes, turning gently or spooning hot oil over the other side to firm it up before turning. Finish off for 10 minutes in the oven at 180℃. Or simply cook in the oven the whole time without adding any extra oi at 200℃. It won’t be as golden, but it’s quick, easy and crunchy at the same.

Rice flour and cornflour fried chicken: (middle piece)

Slightly more complicated than the first recipe, this has three ingredients instead of one. Mix 1/4 cup of rice flour and 1/4 cup or 25g of each in a dish and add your choice of seasoning. I used Old Bay and cayenne. Then add 4 tablespoons of the yoghurt/buttermilk mix and with your fingertips, rub together until you get what looks like slightly damp breadcrumbs. You don’t want it sticky or too clumpy so keep rubbing til it’s right. Then coat the chicken on each side making sure there are no lumpy bits and shallow fry as above. Or again, oven cook the same way.

Egg white batter fried chicken: (furthest from the front)

A little bit Chinese in style, this one uses egg whites and cornflour beaten together to make a batter. I used 2 egg whites (from the approximately 9000 leftover from my ice cream making) and 1/4 cup cornflour whisked together. I’d run out of seasoning ideas, but some garlic powder might have been good here. Your batter needs to be thick, not liquidy and move quickly or it’ll solidify into something like cement.  Coat the chicken well and then fry. This one needs oil, not the oven. I ended up with a light puffy batter on each side and an uncooked seam from shallow frying. I basted it with hot oil to rid me of this, but it might have been easier to deep fry it. Rest it in a warm oven for 10 minutes after cooking through.

All the chicken was incredibly juicy and tender from its lactic acid bath. Each one had a good contrast between the coating and the meat, but my winner was the potato coating. The rice/corn flour one had a floury squeaky mouthfeel that cloyed slightly, while the batter one was a bit greasy as it absorbed a lot of oil in comparison to the others and both lost their crunch quickly on the plate, becoming a bit gluey, while the potato flakes held up well after cooking and had the most interest to me. It would also have worked well as an oven dish and would be good with fish instead.

I liked all of these better than my usual wheat flour recipe which required marinading, egging and coating and then double dipping to get a good crunch on. The gluten free ones were all very simple and it pleased me the simplest one of all won out. I served my chicken with some roasted plaintain and chilli rubbed corn on the cob for a carb fest, but some slaw would cut through it all nicely and add some colour to the plate. Serve with a refreshing beer and you’ll be frying tonight without having to leave the house…

 

Blackened corn chowder with deep fried bacon

Blackened corn chowder & deep fried bacon

I adore sweetcorn in soup. I love those corn soups thickened with egg in Chinese restaurants and every year when the cobs are in season I make the divine chicken and sweetcorn soup from the first Leon cookbook, all sweet with corn and sticky with marinaded chicken. But this year I had branched out a bit and been using the first ears for salsa. I’d roasted them on the barbecue til smoky and tossed them with scallion and avocado and lots of lime and watched my dinner guests not scrap over the last spoonful.

Making the most of my glowing coals last weekend, I did some sweet potatoes on the embers and charred as much corn as I had in the house, setting it all aside for a less sunny day when I wanted the flavour of summer. It didn’t take long and by Wednesday I needed to be reminded it was August and turned my attention to the leftovers and immediately thought of a summer soup…

Bacon and corn are natural bedfellows, but I wanted this soup to be easily meat free if you baulk at battered bacon or don’t want to use chicken stock, so the bacon tops it and the stock can be vegetable based. I’d top it with avocado in this case and add some hot sauce to the soup.

Blackened corn chowder with battered bacon (serves two)

  • 2 ears sweetcorn
  • 2 orange fleshed sweet potatoes
  • 2 scallions
  • 200ml stock
  • 100 ml milk
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 50g rice flour (or all self raising if you don’t have rice flour)
  • 150ml ice cold sparkling water
  • pinch cayenne
  • milk to cover
  • oil for frying

First blacken your corn. The best way to do this is roast them over the barbecue, but you could parboil the ears and then pass through a gas flame or under a smoking hot grill until charred in places. Leave to cool until you can handle the corn and then strip the kernels off with a sharp knife.

If you are using vegetable stock, chop the ears in half and simmer in with your veg to make a super corn-infused stock for the soup.

While that’s doing, cut your bacon rashers in half across the way so you have twice the number of pieces and then cover them with a bit of milk. This will help the batter stick to the bacon and not just slide off in the hot oil.

Chop your scallion and sweat in a bit of oil. If the sweet potato is raw, chop it small and sweat too. Then add in the corn and just cover the veg with stock (you may need less than the amount stated) and simmer until everything is tender. Then take a third of the soup out and blend the remaining, adding the milk as you do. Add the chunky third back in and warm the soup gently.

Put your oil on to heat and make your batter by combining the two flours and the water and cayenne to make a thick, but not solid batter. The rice flour and sparkling water will make the batter very light and puffy, making sure the rashers cook quickly and without becoming shatteringly crisp. Lift the rashers out of the milk and into the batter and then into the oil. The batter puffs and spits slightly but a minute each side should do it. Drain on kitchen roll.

Serve bowls of warm soup with two rashers of bacon on top. The soup is sweet with the veg and the salty slightly spicy bacon cuts through it beautifully. Everything tastes so summery and the bacon is amazing. Cooked til tender enough to split the rasher with a spoon’s edge and crunchy with batter, you’ll want your bacon deep fried every time, not just when the sweetcorn is in season!

 

West African Inspired Mussels and Chips…

 

West African inspired mussels and chips

Much and all as I love summer, the months without an ‘R’ in curb my ability to eat shellfish as much as I’d like. So thank goodness for the humble mussel which can be eaten all year round. I love them in the summer as a light simple supper that doesn’t need much standing over a hot stove (normally because of the high temperature outside, but this year so it doesn’t cut into my watching TV under a blanket time…)

The French style is most common with mussels and although I love it, I wanted something a bit fresher and punchier.  Some fat scarlet tomatoes from O Talho caught my eye on the way back from Dagon’s and I’d just picked up some picture perfect red chillis from the Wing Tai Asian Supermarket. But as well as the warmth from the capsicums, I wanted some tingle and my mind went to the pod of alligator pepper a friend had gifted me after we shopped in the Village one Saturday.

Alligator pepper pod

Highly prized in West Africa, especially Nigeria where the Yoruba incorporate it into naming ceremonies for babies, this pepper comes in a dry pod that looks like an alligator’s back and has a warm bite of pepper mixed with a slight hint of cardamom. I’ve mainly seen recipes for it involving fish and tomatoes so I knew it was likely to work with my mussels. I have no idea how authentic this might be though…

West African Inspired Mussels and Chips: serves 2 comfortably

  • 1kg bag mussels
  • 1/2 pod alligator pepper
  • 2 banana shallots or small onion
  • two handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red chilli or 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 150ml water
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 4 sweet potatoes

First clean your mussels well. Pull the beards from them and discard any that are already open and that don’t close when tapped or that are broken. Leave them to soak in cold water to clean out any grit while you turn your attention elsewhere.

Heat the oven to 200℃ and then peel your sweet potatoes. I used orange fleshed ones from the supermarket. Cut them into chips, making sure that they are all roughly the same size and thickness so they cook evenly. Toss in a light coating of oil and then cook. I used a mesh tray like this which cuts the cooking time and washing up, but you are using an oven tray, they’ll take about 25 minutes.

About ten minutes before the chips are ready, finely dice your shallot and cook in a small amount of oil on a moderate heat until softened but not coloured. If using the chilli, cut finely and add to the shallot. Keep the seeds in if you want more heat. Then take the alligator pepper pod and scoop the seeds out and grind them in a pestle and mortar before adding to the shallot and chilli to cook out slightly. Cut your tomatoes in half and add to the pan. You don’t need any extra seasoning.

When the tomatoes start to collapse slightly round the edges, add in the cleaned wet mussels to the pan. Pour the water on top and put the lid on and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until the mussels have opened and the tomatoes are thickening the juices. Take off the heat and leave the lid on while you dish up the sweet potato fries on a separate plate. Then serve the steaming hot mussels in bowls with a good amount of the tomato rich liquor and then dig in.

The best way to eat mussels is to use the empty shell to pick the meat out of the next. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened and enjoy each flavoursome mouthful as the warmth of the chilli and alligator pepper builds a tingle on your lips and the pile of shells grows. Best eaten with a ice cold beer, a roll of kitchen paper and some non judgemental friends to hand!

 

This post first appeared over at Brixton Blog celebrating all our lovely local shops.