I imagine the manager of our local Lidl, when the early morning delivery arrives, as a kind of Alan Arkin-like figure, just this side of hysteria, gobbling Diazepams like they're Smarties, as the truck door opens to reveal a bewildering mix of moose steaks, scuba gear, whole lobsters, car batteries, sauerkraut and bicycle repair kits. What the fuck have those nutters sent me this time?!?! Because, as I'm sure you all know, Lidl is bat-shit crazy.
I was in there the other week, buying a wedge of 24 month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano for £14.45/kg (which is a few quid cheaper than I can find elsewhere) and, while there, also picked up a kilo bag of frozen Alaskan pollock for £3.99. Which equalled (at least in the bag I bought) eleven fillets. Pollock is what the recipe term 'or use any firm white-fleshed fish' was invented for, a great substitute for cod. I bought it, initially, to use in this stew; but it makes for an excellent fish cake - especially if you poach it with a few aromatics. I've used bay, peppercorns, parsley stalks and vinegar here, but use whatever is handy.
The other night I made a dill and mustard sauce to go with this, because I can get a bunch of dill from Khan's for 69p. Tonight, though, I'm nestling the fish cakes in a bowl of this lentil stew.
Support your local butchers. For the sake of the community, and your taste buds too. - Tom Parker Bowles
How do you measure the well-being of your local area? Certainly not by economic factors alone: my manor, Peckham, may have high levels of poverty and unemployment but by God it is gloriously, vibrantly alive. After 6pm, when many other high streets across the land have shut up shop, the Rye Lane area south of the train station is abuzz. Because of the fantastic variety of shops - and not only those selling food. If the number of nail salons per capita were an indicator (and I'm not sure it shouldn't be) we'd be top of the wellbeing league table.
Do you know of the Five Ways to Well-being project? It identified these simple activities that individuals can do in their everyday lives to improve and maintain their well-being: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.
And one of the most important ways we can connect with our community, thinks I, is by using and supporting our local, independent shops. However convenient supermarkets may be, you can't connect with the soulless buggers.
So more power to John Penny, the wholesale butchers, and their Meat Crusade - a campaign to champion local butchers across Britain. Put simply: use them or lose them, people.
And, for when you do, below are ten recipes utilising some of the cheaper cuts of meat.
There are those who think that one tin of tomatoes is much like any other and that there's no need, therefore, to pay any more than the 31p or so that you'll get a can for in a supermarket's budget range. I am not one of those people. There's a difference between something being expensive and something being value for money. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of the humble tin of tomatoes. And especially so when you can get a tin of D.O.P. certified Pomodoro S. Marzano dell'Agro Sarnese-Nocerino beauties from Tesco for 50p a shot.
I love it when this happens: it's the end of the week; dinner's sorted but you haven't got a scooby what to make for lunch and can't be arsed (or don't have the dosh) to make a trip to the shops. But a quick sort-out of the fridge reveals a bowl of leftover buttery mash, a bit of ham (not enough to make a sandwich), a plastic pot with three olives in it, a tiny piece of pecorino and two spring onions and a handful of mixed leaves in the salad drawer. The result? A surprisingly delicious plate of food.
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014