Saturday, 31 March 2012

Some things are sooooo difficult to get hold of!

If there’s one thing this years lent challenge has taught me it’s that some things are really difficult to buy when you can’t use supermarkets. Prime example? Teabags. There are a couple of local delicatessens that sell the nice teapigs teabags – but I would see them as being more of a treat than something that can be drunk on a regular basis (in case you were wondering, I drink a lot of tea).  I’ve resorted to buying a batch from the internet where there are a number of different websites selling Clipper tea and such.  You can even buy it on Amazon!

The other particularly tricky item is cooking oil. Again, there are numerous specialists around selling premium extra virgin olive oil, even extra virgin organic rapeseed oil (where did that come from?!), but if you’re looking for a good all round vegetable oil or olive oil, its really difficult to come by. I am though reliably informed there is a good shop in Cheltenham that can provide, but at this point in time I don’t drive and I’m not going to get the train over to Cheltenham for a bottle of oil!

Perhaps the most annoying is pasta. Unless you have a good Italian deli or similar neat by, reasonably priced, good quality dried pasta is really difficult to come by.  I recently went to Cornwall for the weekend and came across a Rick Stein deli.  Brilliant!...I thought. Rick will provide. But alas…he didn’t. Pasta was available…but at £5.20 for 500g…? No thanks.  I decided the best thing to do was to get hold of some ‘tipo’ 00 flour and make my own. And I must say…it’s really good. It takes more time to make, and it more effort – but the end product is kind of worth it. A pasta machine isn’t essential but makes things so much easier. In fact, it’s inspired me to make my own ravioli next week. But I would say it’s been really rather annoying as there are times, particularly at the end of a working day, when quick and easy is required…and when it comes to pasta…FAIL!

Friday, 16 March 2012

A vegetarian dish to convert the carnivore

I’m finding that having a vegetable box means I’m eating a lot for vegetarian meals.  This one came about from looking at what I had left and in the cupboard and I have to say it has a very good chance of becoming a regular on my dinner list! Crusty white bread to mop up the delicious sauce is obligatory.

Spicy Tomato and Vegetable Pasta
Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
6 x handfuls penne pasta
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small courgette, cut in 4 lengthways and then cut into half cm pieces
2 handfuls purple sprouting broccoli
1 400g tin cherry tomatoes (or chopped tomatoes work almost as well)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
Large pinch of sugar
1 tbsp crème fraiche
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan to a medium/low heat, add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the courgette and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, oregano, chilli and sugar.  Season to taste. Stir to combine, bring to the boil, put the lid on and reduce the heat to low. Slowly simmer for half and hour (the intention being to create a jammy sumptuous sauce).
2. When the sauce has been cooking for half an hour, cook the penne according to packet instructions.
3. When the pasta has 5 minutes left to cook, add the purple sprouting broccoli to the sauce. Cover and continue cooking.
4. Just before serving, add the crème fraiche to the sauce and stir through. Combine the sauce with the cooked pasta.
5. Spoon on to hot plates and grate over the parmesan cheese.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The ultimate conundrum…

So, I’ve given up chain food stores for lent.  Two weeks in and I have to say it’s going rather well!  The first dilemma was where to buy beer?!  I hadn’t really factored this in when I cam e up with the idea.

Luckily for me, a new micro-brewery has recently opened in Gloucester. The Gloucester Brewery began brewing in the autumn of last year and so far has three rather nice beers to offer; Gloucester Gold, Mariner and Dockside Dark (are you getting the theme here?). And I have to say – very good job indeed.

The brewery is located in Gloucester Docks, next door to Coots café. At the moment you kind of had to hunt them out but I’m assured the planning application for signage has been submitted. At the moment they are only open at weekends but I have to say it is well worth a visit to pick up a few bottles of the special stuff.

Even more exciting, the brewery is in the process of creating a special summer beer. They’re asking for members of the public to think of a name…winner takes a firkin of ale! (just to confirm, that’s a whole 72 pints!). Any suggestions can be emailed via their website and must be submitted by 15th March. Chin chin!