This Sunday we had a Christmas drinks party which was a great success and underpinned my resolve to avoid the Supermarket. I did have to spend a good deal of time in the kitchen but the sense of achievement made it all worthwhile.
The finger food was as follows: Stuffed eggs, miniature sausage rolls, coronation chicken on sticks, chicken satay on sticks, prawns with Marie Rose dip, bruschetta of goats cheese and oven baked tomatoes, sun dried tomato and mushroom quiche, cheese straws, humus with cruditees and tortilla chips, cheese board with French white and wholemeal walnut bread rolls, olives of various descriptions, chocolate fountain with fresh and dried fruit and marshmallows. To drink we had mulled wine (Deliaï¿½s recipe from her Christmas book which is my Bible at Christmas http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/mulled-wine,907,RC.html ), red wine, white wine, beer, home made lemon squash and home pressed apple juice.
Even though I say it myself, the food was good and well received. There was a fair amount of comment from the guests about the fact that I donï¿½t use the supermarket and made everything myself but I failed to convert anyone to the lifestyle; I must say I didn’t try too hard, it was a party not a seminar. Maybe the food spoke for itself. Certainly the bruschetta, the coronation chicken and the quiche were lovely and the recipes follow. You can of course buy your bread from a shop but I have enjoyed making different breads so much in my machine that I made a double batch of French bread dough and formed it into a couple of baguette sized loaves for the bruschetta and a few rolls for the cheese board and baked them myself.
Talking of the lifestyle, I continue to find it very enjoyable. I have now got to know my local shopkeepers and very muck like being greeted with pleasure and recognition. The poor folk trying to scratch a living in the High Street shops need and appreciate every customer, which makes shopping there a much more pleasant experience than my former practise of rushing shopping, thrust at me by an oblivious sales ‘assistant’, into my bags while eavesdropping on her discussion with her colleague at the next till or, in the case of my local Tesco, moaning about the management.
It is quite possible to do a one stop shop if that’s what you want to do but I prefer two weekly visits, one for meat and cupboard ingredients and the other to the market for the cheese, olives, fish and top up vegetables. The main vegetables and the butter, milk, cream and eggs are delivered by a local organic distributor. It is not possible to get all the vegetables available at the supermarket, for example there is no melon at the moment but then the stuff in the supermarket has probably been picked green and ripened on its journey half way round the world to get to us. It has very little flavour so why not enjoy more seasonal fruit and appreciate the melons in the summer. Mmm sweet, ripe, juicy Cantaloupe melons eaten in the French summer sunshine; try one and you’ll never buy a British supermarket melon again.
In my town centre car park we have free parking for the first hour and I am usually back in the car after about 40 minutes. In the supermarket I would have been an hour and I would still have forgotten something and had to go back later in the week. I can also find additional services like the Post Office and the bank and get a bit of exercise and fresh air.
One other effect of my new lifestyle is that I am hardly producing any rubbish. The recycling boxes contain about half what they did, I have had a few plastic bags from the butcher and the fishmonger but not carrier bags and the rubbish bin is hardly full. I don’t know what went into it before really.
I have been lent a book called ‘Shopped’ by Joanna Blytheman http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007158041/harpercollins-21. I was astonished to read in her introduction that she has made exactly the same decision as I, to support the independent shops and that I am just dancing to her tune; never mind. I shall read her book with interest and report any comments in this blog. So far a statistic has leapt out at me. I didn’t understand how it was calculated, I still don’t exactly and I can’t find the source material but she says, and I have seen it on the web in many places, that Â£10 spent in a local food initiative, such as farmers market or veg box scheme, is worth Â£25 to the local economy but the same amount spent in a supermarket benefits the local economy to the tune of Â£14. Having searched around a bit I found that this figure – however it is calculated is a result of something called the multiplier effect. The Â£25 is generated because the money is turned over several times within the local community rather than benefitting communities elsewhere such as abroad or in other regions. One particular web page summarises this and the economic impact of supermarkets, quite well http://www.racetothetop.org/indicators/module4/#_ednref15.
This is not how the experts do it but it worked pretty well for the party.
Pre-heat the oven to hot
Slice the baguette into thinnish slices, just under a centimetre thick.
Pour some olive oil onto a side plate, about half a centimetre deep.
Dip each side of each slice quickly into the oil on the plate, topping up the oil as necessary. Place the slices on kitchen towell to absorb the excess oil.
Peel a clove of garlic and slice it in half. Wipe one side of each slice of bread with the garlic.
Lay the bread on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 5 ï¿½ 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool on more kitchen paper.
When cool these can be stored in an airtight container until needed.
To Build a Canape
Goats’ cheese – the kind in a role shape with a washed rind
Oven baked tomatoes (see above) cut into small pieces to top the bruschetta
Lay the bruschetta on a baking tray.
Top with a piece of goats’ cheese and a piece of tomato
bake in a hot oven for 6 minutes
Make sure the tomato is not too hot before serving.
Mushroom and sun dried tomato quicheI used a loose bottomed tin with a fluted edge measuring 25cm diameter by 3 cm deep.Ingredients
Short crust pastry made with 8 oz flour 2 oz lard and 2 oz butter
About 6 oz mushrooms
A jar of sun dried tomatoes drained and sliced
5 eggs beaten
A mug of milk
About one and a half mugs full of mature Cheddar
Line the flan ring and bake blind for 10 minutes.
Brush the inside of the pastry case with beaten egg and leave to dry and cool in the flan ring.
When cool, fill with the quartered mushrooms and the sun dried tomatoes, sprinkle over the cheese.
Combine the milk and the eggs and pour over the filling until it is about half a centimetre from the top.
Bake in a hot oven until set and slightly brown on top.
Cool and slice into bite sized pieces, these will be a slightly strange shape round the edge but who cares?
I warmed them through before serving but had to let them get back to room temperature to serve them as they were too floppy to pick up otherwise.
Coronation Chicken Bites2 large chicken breasts
1 wine glass of port
4 heaped tbsps mayonnaise
4 heaped tbsps yoghurt
Juice of one lime
1 level tsp vindaloo paste
1 tbsp either quince paste, smooth mango chutney or apricot jam
Cut the chicken breast into bite sized pieces and put into a polythene bag with the port to marinate over night.
The following day bake the pieces (they will be pink but don’t worry) in a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes, to cook but not go rubbery.
Combine all the other ingredients and taste. Adjust as needed. When the chicken is cool, fold it into the dressing.
Serve with cocktail sticks stuck into the chicken bits so that people can take one and sweep up a bit of extra dressing at the same time.