No.1 British Free Range Pork Ribeye Steak again…

Having enjoyed the pack of No.1 British Free Range Pork Ribeye Steak from Waitrose on our barbecue the other day decided I would get another pack to cook.

This time though I followed the instructions.

They said…

Remove bag from box. Place the bag in simmering water for 15 minutes, remove from bag and pan fry on a medium heat for 6-8 minutes using butter to baste.

Now it may just have been that pack, but I think it might have  been the way I cooked it. It wasn’t as good as the first time we had it. It was not as tender and lacked flavour compared to the barbecued version I had done.

Not sure I will make the effort to get it again, especially after the special offer period is over; it’s currently 20% off.

No.1 British Free Range Pork Ribeye Steak

I had seen this pack in Waitrose a few times now and was intrigued.

British pork ribeye steak with sage leaves and thyme sprigs. Free range pork ribeye steak, tender, succulent and full of flavour, from pigs sired by pedigree Hampshire boars, a breed renowned for excellent meat. All our pigs are reared to higher welfare standards by British farmers who share our values

I was planning a barbecue with a mix of meats, so decided I would add this pork steak to the mix.

In the box was a sealed plastic pack containing the pork. I cut it open and was pleasantly surprised to find two steaks in the pack.

I then read the instructions on the back of the box…

Ah…

It said…

Remove bag from box. Place the bag in simmering water for 15 minutes, remove from bag and pan fry on a medium heat for 6-8 minutes using butter to baste.

Well I didn’t do that!

Anyhow I cooked the steaks on the barbecue and they cooked well and were very tasty.

The story behind those green boxes

As we leave Christmas behind, I am reminded of the visit I made to Waitrose just after Christmas to get some coffee and milk. As I looked down the aisles I noticed amongst the shelves lots of large green boxes.

For many of us, planning our Christmas meals, we order main courses, sides, party dishes and desserts from our favourite supermarket and then as the big day approaches, we try to get through the crowds to pick up our orders. Often these orders come in plain boxes, and in the case of Waitrose green coloured boxes.

The reality is that not everyone comes and collects their orders. I also suspect sometimes people pick up their boxes, having only paid a deposit and leave the one or two they don’t want before leaving the store. What is the story behind those forgotten or left behind green boxes? We may never know, but it did get me thinking about what those stories could be?

Was the order placed and then personal circumstances changed so the order was never picked up. Was it something drastic and awful? A sudden admission to hospital, redundancy, something worse! The meal might not have been cancelled, just reduced in size and numbers. They didn’t need as many joints of meat as they ordered, that boneless stuffed leg of lamb gets left on the shelf.

Maybe it was less dramatic, maybe that unexpected invite meant that a massive festive feast was no longer needed. The need to cook a large meal disappears, the order is ignored.

Could it have even been forgotten, maybe an order was placed elsewhere and a solitary green box was ordered and then forgotten.

Amongst the green boxes on the shelves was a vegan party pack comprising red onion bhajis, crisp sweet potato nibbles, and some dips. Was this ordered and then left behind? Were the vegan friends that were originally invited over for Christmas drinks and nibbles now unable to attend? Had the daughter broken up with the vegan boyfriend? We will never know for sure.

In a large green box was a large shin of beef. A huge joint that required extensive time, five plus hours, in the oven to cook. Maybe this isn’t what they thought it was, maybe they thought it was a pre-cooked beef shin that had been slow cooked and only needed heating up in the oven.

I know that sometimes when I have picked up an order, what I get is not what I expected and I feel a little disappointed. I can quite easily imagine ordering an expensive green box, looking inside, thinking, that is not what I was expecting, and leaving it in the store.

What are the stories behind the green boxes, we may never know.

Pork Shoulder Kebab

When I was last in Waitrose I saw in their barbecue range a Mexican inspired pork king kebab

Outdoor-bred British pork (shoulder) is seasoned with a spicy Al Pastor rub which blends chipotle and ancho chilli, black pepper, cumin, clove and cinnamon. Finished with a sticky pineapple, chilli and oregano glaze. 

I did quite like the sound of this, but then I saw the price of £9.50 (£11.88 per kg). Well this put me off slightly and I did think it might me a little too spicy for some.

So I decided to have a go at making it myself. I got some pork shoulder from Aldi, which was £3.19 (£4.56 per kg). This I cut into strips and then rubbed with some pepper and garlic seasoning, and some salt.

I then threaded the strips onto skewers. I used two skewers so that the pork was like a flat slab.

This I then chargrilled on my griddle pan.

Once the pork was cooked, I let it rest and then I sliced the pork off the skewer.

It was rather good.

Roasting Chantenay Carrots

For our Christmas lunch I roasted some Chantenay carrots. This was a pack of different coloured carrots from Waitrose, I cleaned and peeled them before coating them in herbs and olive oil and roasting in the oven.

They were tender and full of flavour, certainly would do these again.

Short supply or high demand?

On a recent shopping visit to Sainsburys I was disappointed with the number of empty shelves and lack of produce.

I was annoyed that quite a bit of gluten free produce wasn’t available.

It must be happening a lot as they had some specially printed shelf fillers.

Sainsburys put down the problem to “high demand”, so it’s the fault of the customer, panic buying and all that.

However the problem isn’t unique to Sainsburys and on Twitter there are photos of empty shelves in Tesco. I have also had issues with buying some gluten free produce at Asda.

Not everyone though thinks it is down to high demand, as seen on this sign in Waitrose that I saw yesterday. No shelf fillers, but a sign indicating that the lack of choice was down to “country-side supply issues”.

We know there are logistics issues down to a lack of HGV drivers, and combine that with Covid-19, Brexit supply issues we are approaching a perfect storm.

When we had the panic buying in March 2020, the retail industry assured us that supply wasn’t a problem and that if we only bought what we needed then they could supply everyone. The challenge we face now is that if there is an increase in panic buying now, the situation will only exacerbate as we have supply and logistics issues. The lack of pasta and toilet paper we experienced back then could become a lack of a much wider range of products.

It’s all quite worrying.

Probably the most authentic paella I have cooked

I cook paella quite a bit, though I have been told what I cook usually isn’t paella, but a rice dish!

This time I wasn’t even trying, however the end result was rather good. I admit I cheated slightly and used a Waitrose Paella Paste jar, but I think I got the cooking right as the taste and texture was reminiscent of the excellent paella I had from Riceminster last week.

It was towards the end of the month, so the fridge needed restocking and there wasn’t too much in the cupboards. I had decided to cook some cod croquettes, salmon and serve it with rice. However we didn’t have any plain (well basmati) rice left, but I did have some paella rice. I also had a jar of Waitrose Paella Paste.

I quite like the jar and when I have used it in the past it has worked well, never quite authentic, but still tasty.

As I said there wasn’t too much in the fridge, so in a large frying pan, I cooked some smoked bacon (pancetta) and a chopped red onion. I would usually use some peppers and mushrooms, but there was none in the fridge. I did check to see if I had a tin of beans I could use, but though I had tinned lentils and kidney beans, there was nothing else.

Once the onions were softened, I added the paella rice and stirred the rice around until mixed in with the onions and bacon. I then added the Waitrose Paella Paste and stirred that in.

I then added chicken stock, made using a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot, covering all the rice. I then stirred and then left alone. Well not quite, as I added some frozen peas about 10 minutes later.

I once got “told off” for stirring my paella, so now I just as advised leave it to cook.

I think what I did this time however, was not to add further stock and just let the paella cook turning down the heat slightly as the stock reduced. I did think I should add more stock, but left it alone.

I served it up and I did like how it came out. I had mine with cod croquettes and salad.

paella

As for the taste and texture it was very similar to the paella I had from the Temple Quay market from Riceminster and those I have had in Spain. I think this was one of the best paella dishes I have cooked, certainly one of the most authentic tasting.

Homemade Gluten Free Pizza

I have made my own gluten free pizza dough, but I was intrigued when I found the Davina Steel Pizza Base Mix in my local branch of Waitrose. I had tried their Focaccia mix and we had enjoyed eating that.

The process of using the mix is rather interesting in that you stir the mix, with yeast and water, into a batter and then “cook” the bases in a dry frying pan. Basically you spread the batter into the frying pan, cook on the hob, before removing. You then add your tomato base, cheese and toppings, before finishing off in a hot oven.

I was really impressed with the end result, these looked and tasted like pizza. I personally think the bases are better than others we have bought, both mixes and ready made bases.

Seafood Platter

For New Year’s Eve we decided to have a fish and seafood platter. It was an opportunity to cook and eat some great food. However one problem, as you may recall New Year’s Eve is not only part of Christmas, it’s also a Monday. As a result it was virtually impossible to find any fresh fish or seafood. Generally the fishing fleets don’t go out at weekends and I suspect that they certainly wouldn’t go out over a weekend during the festive season. As a result we went with frozen seafood, not my first choice, but with what we wanted it was better than nothing.

We got some frozen king prawns, scallops and squid from Sainsbury’s as part of their Taste the Difference range. One of the key things to do when using frozen seafood is to defrost and defrost safely. If you cook frozen seafood from frozen, generally what happens is that you overcook it and it becomes very rubbery. You need to take care when defrosting to avoid food poisoning. The best way to defost is in the fridge, but this takes time. If you do defrost at room temperature, make sure you move the seafood to the fridge once it has defrosted.

The prawns I cooked on my griddle, whilst the scallops were cooked very quickly on a hot flat frying pan, as were the squid rings.

scallops, prawns and squid rings

The scallops were perfect and I was really pleased with how I cooked them. They were browned on each side, but were only just done on the inside. As a result they were melt in the mouth tender, and full of flavour. The prawns were very good, and served with some lemon were delicious. I was less impressed with the squid rings. In the past when I have cooked squid, I have bought frozen whole squid from Tesco and cut it into pieces of squid. I much prefer using this way of preparing squid, usually scoring one side to ensure even cooking and browing of the edges. The squid from Sainsbury’s comes ready sliced into rings. It cooked fine, but it lacked the depth of flavour I have had in the past with squid from Tesco. Why didn’t I get my squid from Tesco, well they’ve seemed to have stopped selling it.

Alongside this plate of seafood I also grilled some giant tiger prawns in their shells. These were placed under a really hot grill, after they were fully defrosted and brushed with some olive oil. The main reason for these prawns is twofold, one is the visual impact, secondly was flavour. They were delicious, though of course were quite messy to peel.

Taste the Difference Whole Giant King Tiger Prawns

We also had some dressed crab, these were small crab shells filled with a crab pate and white crab meat. They looked really nice, but lacked the depth of flavour I would liked to have. This was served with some fresh crusty bread.

Dressed Crab


Another successful dish was some clams. I got a pack of frozen Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company which I mananged to buy at Waitrose.

Big and Juicy clams from the Big Prawn Company

Again the key was to ensue they were properly defrosted before cooking, well they’re cooked already, all they really needed was heating up. I did this in a pan with some freshly chopped garlic and parsley. I thought they were delicious and very good value at £3.29. I think they would also work with linguine if wanted pasta and seafood.

We also cooked some salmon, this was roasted in the oven with a little olive oil.

Overall this was a delicious meal, we served it with some fresh salad and I also made a paella.

British Beef Steak with a Peppercorn Sauce

The other day I posted a blog post about a steak with a peppercorn sauce. One of the reasons I cooked that dish was because a few days earlier we had eaten the Waitrose Easy To Cook version.

The Waitrose version says

British beef steaks with a creamy smooth peppercorn sauce made with roast shallots, brandy and pink peppercorns.

That did sound quite nice when I read the packet and at £4.49 wasn’t a bad price either.

Having cooked the steak according to the instructions I served it with some sautéed mushrooms, steamed vegetables and oven roasted tomatoes on the vine.

The instructions were quite simple, cook the steak, remove from the pan, add the sauce and pour the sauce over the steak.

So what were they like?

Well it certainly wasn’t horrible, it did taste okay.

However at £4.49 you can’t expect the steak to be top quality sirloin, fillet or ribeye, and it wasn’t. It was quite a tough piece of rump I think, maybe even a cheaper cut of steak! The sauce should have had a real kick with the shallots, brandy and peppercorns… but alas it was bland and lacked any depth of flavour.

I always like the ideas behind much of the food and dishes I buy at Waitrose, but looking back over the blog I realise I don’t really enjoy them. Time to rethink my shopping habits.

Oh the tomatoes were fantastic by the way, very simple, take some fresh tomatoes, dribble some olive oil on them, roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Delicious.