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.
Weep though I may at the huddled, sorrowful image of the few stallholders who comprise the Peckham Farmer's Market, the fruit and veg stall there has some fine produce: the other Sunday I picked up a big bag of lovely chard, the thinking man's spinach. A few paces away along the High Street you can find United Meats whence came a small halal chicken.The sourdough is from the fabulous local bakery Brick House.
I got the idea for the chicken from this recipe by Maria Elia. The low oven temperature keeps the flesh succulent and avoids too much burning of the marinade, although you do sacrifice a little crispiness of skin.
The spatchcocking bit, if you haven't done it before, is easy-peasy, as you can see here.
If you're serving this for one or two people, use the leftover chicken in a salad and/or in a sandwich such as this or this one.
Only a very short time ago, it seemed like the only food event round these parts was bumping into another poor soul at what is officially The World's Most Pathetic Farmer's Market (every Sunday morning outside the library).
No longer. It's now all kicking off here in Peckham food-wise. Just last weekend, for example, no less a personage than Jay Rayner gave Peckham Refreshment Rooms a stonking review; I'll leave it to you to decide whether the fact that (according to Time Out) the "hipness quota really cranks up in the evening, attracting Peckham’s edgy [edgy?] art scene/boho crowd" is a plus or a minus.
If such a crowd exists, you may find their presence difficult to reconcile with Vice's considered opinion that Peckham is now "Dalston without the cunts", but these Jamesian social distinctions are, sadly, beyond my grasp. The last time I was 'edgy' was when I was off my tits on billy whizz at a Toots and The Maytals' gig in the eighties.
But back to the food: this weekend we've got the MUNCH food festival happening in Holly Grove Park (that's the tiny strip of green running along the side of Peckham Rye station):
treme, pronounced treh-MAY, or TREH-may, or tree-mee, or...
Have you seen Treme? It's co-created by David Simon, the man behind The Wire, and quite a few of the actors from there appear in Treme as well. There's a fourth season due later this year.
This was quite the nicest Sunday lunch I've made myself in a very long time. I'm not normally one to fuss over presentation, but that looks a bit flippin' Masterchef-ish, don't you think? I don't know what came over me.
We all have our favourite ingredients. Take a gander at the recipe archive and you'll see I use thyme quite a lot, love sherry vinegar, and am rather partial to the odd splash of Henderson's Relish. Well now you can add hot pepper jelly to the list. Specifically Jules & Sharpie's. Sainsbury's sell it at £1.99 for 220g. Ocado sell it as well, at £3.49 for the larger size of 300g. They (Jules & Sharpie that is) also have a section on their site where you can enter your postcode to find your nearest stockist. Any road, I've been using it to enliven many a sandwich/toastie but yesterday had the frankly inspired idea to use it in the gravy for this recipe, rather than the dollop of redcurrant jelly I'd have normally used. It made for a luscious jus. Yes, I did just write jus.
Wood pigeons are, bless the little buggers, available all year round. And if you are delicate of nature and have not tried game before, they are a perfect introduction - just gamey enough, but not overpoweringly so. It's a piece of piss to remove the breasts, but you can, of course, ask your butcher to do it for you.
This recipe might seem ever so slightly fiddly, but it's all dead simple and you can do the majority of it well in advance.
It's times like this that I really wish I could take a better photograph - because this looked, as well as tasted, absolutely gorgeous. The peerless Soper's are selling wild Irish trout at the moment for £9.95/kg. Hard to resist. The fish I bought cost £5.12 and produced two nice sized fillets.
Fresh garlic is now in the shops. If you're unfamiliar with new season garlic, a whole head shared between two might seem like a lot, but it's not - it is much milder than the dried variety, especially after roasting.
Panzanella is normally a rough and ready affair, pungent with sharp and rustic flavours. But for this dish I've come over all elegant, omitting the capers and onion, adding the sweetness of roasted pepper, and chopping the ingredients into tiny dice.
I'd like to emphasise that you need really good olive oil for this - the best you can afford. Otherwise I'd suggest making the mash with potatoes, butter and milk , and frying the trout in butter instead of oil.
I can't tell you what a buzz it is to be back in the kitchen and rattlin' those pots and pans again. This would make a great brunch, although I had it for my tea this evening.
I bought one of those Bury Black Pudding Co. packets of four slices from the supermarket for £1.25 - ideal for this recipe.
SHORTLISTED FOR FOOD BLOG OF THE YEAR 2014