Saturday, 12 March 2016

Countryside Cookery Basics - Shopping

In my first Countryside Cookery Basic post I am going to give you some top tips and ideas for buying your groceries:-

Use Click & Collect - I absolutely love the supermarkets click & collect service.  It is free and saves so much time especially if you have young children (or even older children) who love to add items to your shopping trolley when you're not looking!
This is an online service and you log onto your favourite supermarket - I use Asda but the same principles apply to the other supermarkets.  The lower end supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl do not offer this service.
Once logged on select the items you wish to buy - this is a great budget tool as at the of your shop you can see what you have spent.  If you have gone over budget go back through your trolley and maybe remove any non essential items.
Select the time slot which is convenient for you to collect.
Simply turn up at your chosen supermarket between the times arrange and collect your shopping.

A great tool if shopping on a budget and a great time saver - no more walking up and down every aisle being tempted to buy items you don't need!

Your first shop will take more time as you will have to find all the items you like, however, you can then save this as a shopping list to use another time.  I have a few lists saved such as a small mid week shop, large weekly shop and children s party shop for all the foods I like to buy when hosting a children s party.  You can also go into previous orders and simply add this to your trolley and then add or remove items as required.

Buying meat - the cheaper cuts of meat are just as tasty as the more expensive cuts.  Here are a couple of examples:-
Chicken thighs are far cheaper than chicken breasts and even tastier.
Pork belly is a cheaper cut but if cooked slowly is absolutely gorgeous.
Beef stewing steak if cooked slowly for a long period of time can be beautifully tender.
Beef brisket makes a really good roast joint but must be cooked slowly - a great alternative to an expensive cut of beef.

Always check the price per KG and if possible substitute your meat if an alternative is on special offer.  Could you use turkey instead of chicken?  Could you use a different cut of meat?
Sometimes it is cheaper to buy larger packs - if you intend freezing some do not freeze large packs of meat - you will never use it!  Freeze in sandwich bags in portion sizes suitable for your family.

TOP TIP Remember to label the sandwich bags with the contents and date frozen.

Ask your butcher what special offers they have and what are the cheaper cuts of meat - they can also offer you cooking advice!

If you can ask your butcher if you can buy half a lamb or half a pig - this is a really cost effective way to buy meat but you must have the freezer space to store it.  Ensure you freeze in portions suitable for your family.  Ask your butcher the source of the meat - it should be local and reared outside.  If not buying from a butcher check the labels - good sources of meat are:-
Pasture/ Grass fed
Free range
Outdoor bred/ reared.

I rear my own pigs and this is just some of the meat and sausages I get.


Pork chops & Belly Joints
Pork Leg joints & ribs

Although this meat maybe more expensive than the intensively reared factory produced meat why not buy less but of a higher quality.

Do not be tempted to buy ready marinated meats, stuffed roasting joints or bread crumbed chicken etc - this is an expensive way to buy meat and it is so much better to marinate the meat yourself or stuff your own roasting joint or make your own bread crumb coating.
Generally this ready to cook meat also contains more sugars, salts & preservatives.

Why not try some offal - this is generally cheaper than a cut of meat.  There are loads of ways of cooking offal - maybe add kidneys to a stew, have some liver & onions or how about make your own faggots.

During the winter months it is game season so ask your butcher if you can get pheasant, partridge, rabbit etc.  Some local farm shops will also stock this at reasonable prices.  if you can contact a local shooting syndicate they may be prepared to put you in touch with a game keeper who can supply you with some birds.

Buying Fruit & Vegetables.
Buy Fruit & Vegetables which are in season and british where possible.
Fruit & vegetables which are in season and local are more reasonably priced and taste so much better. If fruit (especially soft fruit such as raspberries & strawberries) is imported from other countries it is generally not ripe when picked and then ripened on its journey making it fairly tasteless when it arrive on the supermarket shelves!
I love the fact I eat strawberries during June & July and will then wait until next year to have them again - I really look forward to it.
A really good way of buying fruit & vegetables is a veg box scheme from a local farm.  This means you can locally produced seasonal vegetables delivered to your door.  Many of these schemes also include recipe cards with ideas for using the vegetables.
Check out my blog post on wonky & ugly vegetables for some inspiration.

Try to eat a good variety of fruit and vegetables.  Different coloured fruits & vegetables will contain more vitamins and nutrients and will also look more exciting on your plate.  Your plate of food will not look very excited if the colours are bland.

TOP TIP - at the end of the week do not throw away any unused wilting vegetables - these can be frozen, made into soup or used in a stock.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Gorgeous Homemade Breads

Stilton Bread - Delicious!

Who loves the smell and taste of fresh baked bread? My family certainly do!  This bread is top quality, delicious, fresh and can be made for a lot less than the cost of a speciality bread in a bakery.

Whenever I prepare a buffet I love to make a selection of breads using bread dough made in the bread maker. When my guests arrive they can smell the aroma of fresh baked bread - gorgeous! 

Here is how I do it and it is so simple!

Select the white bread dough function on your bread maker.

Once the dough is made roll it out into a rectangle shape about half - one centimetre in depth.

Garlic Butter spread over the bread dough

Cover with the toppings of your choice - here are a few ideas:-

  • Garlic - simply add crushed garlic to butter and spread over the bread dough
  • Olives - roughly chop olives and sprinkle over the dough
  • Garlic and cheese - spread garlic butter and grated cheddar cheese over the bread dough
  • Stilton - sprinkle crumbled stilton over the bread dough
  • Ham & cheese - sprinkle chopped ham and grated cheddar over the bread dough.
  • Ham & Mustard - spread mustard and then sprinkle chopped ham over the bread dough

Bread dough rolled up - cut into segments

Once you have added your toppings roll the dough up.
Cut into segments about 2 inches long.
Place the segments upright in a well buttered ovenproof dish.

Olive bread dough ready to rise

Stilton Bread dough once risen

Cover with oiled cling film (loosely as the bread will rise)
Leave in a warm place to proof (rise)
About about 30 - 45 minutes the bread will be risen - the longer you leave it the better as this will make the bread really light and airy.
Once well risen bake in a pre heated oven (180 degrees) for 20 -30 minutes until browned on top.
I like to remove from the dish to serve.
Serve whilst still warm!



Why not try different flavours?

TOP TIP - this is also great to take on a picnic as an alternative to sandwiches.

TOP TIP - remember to calculate how long this will take to ensure it is ready on time.  In my bread maker it takes 2 hours 20 minutes for the bread dough, then 40ish minutes for proofing and 30 minutes for baking - a total of about 3 and half hours!